Police Transparency Bill Sails Through California Senate
Aiming to pry open law enforcement records, California lawmakers on Wednesday passed a measure that would improve public access to information about officers guilty of wrongdoing and those involved in police shootings.
Proponents coined Senate Bill 1421 as a transparency measure that would uncloak details about officers who shoot suspects, falsify evidence or commit sexual assault. The proposal comes amid heightened public angst regarding recent fatal police shootings in California.
California has some of the strictest laws protecting law enforcement personnel records and prohibits police departments from sharing disciplinary records of officers who are guilty of or have been accused of serious misconduct.
The American Civil Liberties Union sponsored the bill, calling it a “long overdue” update to California’s outdated police transparency laws. The group noted 27 other states already make some form of officer records available to the public.
“For years, California law has shrouded police misconduct and use of force in unnecessary secrecy, leaving communities desperate for answers about what really happened in police shootings and completely in the dark about cases of serious police misconduct,” said ACLU of California policy director Peter Bibring in a statement.
The Democratic-controlled state Senate cleared the bill in a 25-11 vote, with one Republican voting in favor. The measure must be approved by the Assembly and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown before becoming law.
Republican state Sen. John Moorlach agreed with proponents that the public needs better access to police records. He speculated journalists or investigators may have been able to identify the recently arrested former cop accused of being the Golden State Killer had they been allowed to view his personnel records.
The suspect in the high-profile murder case, Joseph James DeAngelo, was fired by the Auburn Police Department in the 1970s after being charged with shoplifting dog repellent and a hammer from a Sacramento hardware store. DeAngelo’s minor crimes occurred during a stretch of brutal rapes and murders in the Sacramento area.
“We need more disclosure, colleagues,” Moorlach said on the Senate floor. “This code of silence has gone on for too long.”
In a fiery testimony, state Sen. Steven Bradford said the bill is needed to expose law enforcement’s “bad actors.” The Los Angeles Democrat and California Legislative Black Caucus member said officers should be treated the same as other professions.
“For some reason there is a double standard, there is a blue code,” Bradford said. “Not until we open ourselves up, remove the blinders of our biases and realize that [officers] are human beings and they should be held to the same accountability as everybody else, will we ever really make our community safer.”
The bill by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would allow access to records of officers involved in serious use-of-force investigations such as fatal shootings and those guilty of sexual assault and tampering with evidence. It has been amended to allow law enforcement to delay the release of records when there is still an active investigation or if there is a clear danger to an officer.
The names of officers cleared of misconduct would still be protected under SB 1421.
Skinner said she is open to discussing further changes to her bill with law enforcement as it moves through the Assembly.
Opponents contend peace officers have a unique and dangerous job and that their personnel records should remain closed. The California State Sheriffs’ Association, California Association of Highway Patrolmen and the Association of Deputy District Attorneys oppose the bill, according to the bill’s legislative analysis.
Republican state Sen. Jeff Stone said SB 1421 would invade officers’ privacy and open them up to false allegations.
“This will ultimately only lead to unnecessary accusations, attacks potentially on police officers and a general degradation of law enforcement response to criminal activity,” Stone said.
Also on Wednesday, the state Senate passed Senate Bill 1449, the rape kit testing legislation introduced by state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino. Leyva’s bill would require California law enforcement agencies and forensic laboratories to test and analyze newly collected rape kit evidence in a timely manner. In order to prevent a backlog, newly collected rape kits would be required to be submitted within 20 days and tested no later than 120 days after receipt.
Backlogs of untested rape kits came to light in a 2014 state audit which found that fewer than half of rape kits are tested and analyzed. But some police departments have questioned whether testing all rape kits is a good use of limited resources.
The Department of Justice recommends all rape kits should be submitted to crime labs for DNA analysis.
While SB 1449 made its way through the state Senate last week, a proposed funding mechanism to allocate $2 million from the state’s general fund to help law enforcement comply with the requirement was removed.
Brown has historically vetoed bills without funding mechanisms written into them.
CNS reporter Bianca Bruno contributed to this report.
State Senate Passes Land Use Impacting SB 828 With Amendments, Requires Cities To Identify 125% And Make Available For Multi-Family Housing At Least 100% Of SCAG-Dictated Regional Housing Need, Sends Bill To Assembly
City of LB opposed initial version of bill; Sen. Lara advanced it to Senate floor with “yes” vote in Committee he chairs, and voted “yes” on Senate floor but flipped his vote to “no” when Dems had sufficient votes to pass it; Sen. Nguyen votes “no”
The state Senate has voted (May 30) to advance to the Assembly SB 828, a highly impactful land use element-affecting bill by State Senator Scott Wiener (D, SF) that as amended could require cities to to identify 125% and make available for multi-family housing at least 100% of the city’s regionally-determined housing need (RHNA), a figure decided locally by the Southern CA Ass’n of Governments/SCAG.) The bill also adds a number of other Sacramento mandates, including preventing cities from using a lack of housing actually produced to justify lowering their updated SCAG RHNA numbers..
The bill’s text as amended is here The state Senate’s floor analysis is here.
SB 828, if approved in the Assembly, would amplify the effects of Senator Wiener’s SB 35 (enacted in 2017 without City of LB opposition) which now requires cities that fall short of producing housing units sufficient to meet SCAG-decided RHNA housing numbers to “streamline” approval of developer-desired housing projects (clerk-type approval, eliminated local minimum parking requirements, erased a number of previous CEQA-grounds for public appeals.)
A day before the Senate floor vote on SB 828, state Senator Ricardo Lara (LB-Huntington Park) [who’d voted for SB 35] voted to advance SB 828 to the Senate floor from the Senate Appropriations Committee he chairs [indicating the bill had support from Dem majority leadership.] Lara also answered “aye” (yes”) on the Senate floor roll call vote…but prior to the vote become final switched his vote to “no” when it became clear the bill had sufficient votes to pass. Senator Janet Nguyen (R, SE LB-west OC) [who voted “yes” on SB 35] voted “no” on SB 828.
The final Senate floor vote was 23-10 (Ayes: Atkins, Beall, Cannella, Dodd, Gaines, Galgiani, Hernandez, Hertzberg, Hill, Hueso, Leyva, McGuire, Mitchell, Monning, Moorlach, Pan, Portantino, Roth, Skinner, Stone, Vidak, Wieckowski, Wiener; Noes:Anderson, Bates, Berryhill, Fuller, Glazer, Lara, Morrell, Nguyen, Nielsen, Wilk; No Votes Recorded: Allen, Bradford, De León, Jackson, Newman, Stern)
SB 828 as amended now heads to the Assembly and contains the following Land Use impacting provisions:
1) Requires a city’s or county’s inventory of land suitable for residential development to meet 125% of its RHNA [“Regional Housing Needed Assessment”] requirement.
2) Requires a city or county, if its inventory is not sufficient to meet 125% of its RHNA requirement, to identify zoning and other actions it will take to accommodate the unmet portion, which must be made available for multifamily housing within the jurisdiction’s existing urban service boundary.
3) Revises the data COGs [regional “Councils of Governments”] must provide to HCD [Sac’to Housing Community Development” agency] as follows:
- a) Specifies that the vacancy rate for a healthy housing market shall be between 5-8% for both rental and owner housing.
b) Adds a requirement to provide data on cost burdened households, as specified, as well as on household income growth.
4) Requires HCD, in determining the RHNA, to grant allowances to adjust for overcrowding, vacancy rates, and housing cost burden based on the region’s existing and projected households.
5) Prohibits COGs from using prior underproduction of housing, or stable population numbers, in a city or county as justification for a determination or reduction in a city’s or county’s share of the RHNA. 6) Requires the final allocation plan to assign additional weight, particularly for low- and very low-income categories, to jurisdictions
As previously reported by LBREPORT.com, SB 828 advanced without any public discussion by the LB City Council or the Council’s Mayor-chosen “State Legislation Committee” (Austin, Mungo, Gonzalez) but on April 23, City Manager Pat West sent a letter of opposition stating that the City of Long Beach “strongly opposes” SB 828 [in its then-form, prior to amendments.] “While Long Beach understands the need to address the housing crisis in California, we believe there are more nuanced opportunities at the local level to meet neighborhood needs,” Mr. West’s letter said and continued:
Through responsible local land use management, Long Beach has been able to cultivate a unique and diverse urban fabric. This includes quality public parks, state of the art private developments, sustainable transportation infrastructure, affordable housing, market rate housing and other components to cities that are unique to each city across the great state of California.
The City has conscientiously worked with the private sector to facilitate housing. Over the past ten years, 1,778 new affordable units have been built, 2,093 existing units have been preserved, and 367 units have been rehabilitated. Long Beach has also supported 335 first-time homebuyers with silent second mortgages. With that said, developers build housing — cities facilitate housing developments through the provision of public service such as public infrastructure and public safety services.
Long Beach recognizes that California’s housing market is financially challenging for many individuals and families in our State. However the problem will not be solved by simply mandating cities [to] accommodate housing developments at 200 percent of a city’s RHNA [Regional Housing Needs Assessment.] [Caveat: amended version of SB 828 reduced this requirement to 100%].
Given these reasons, the City of Long Beach strongly opposes SB 828 (Wiener),
It’s not immediately clear if the May amendments to SB 828 will cause LB city management, or the City Council, to change the City’s current opposition stance to SB 828.
The state Senate’s floor analysis lists SB 828’s supporters/opponents as follows:
SUPPORT: (Verified 5/25/18) Bay Area Council (co-source) Silicon Valley Leadership Group (co-source) Bridge Housing California Alliance for Retired Americans California Apartment Association California Asian Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce California Building Industry Association California Business Properties Association California Chamber of Commerce California Community Builders California YIMBY City of Oakland Fiona Ma, Board of Equalization District 2 Half Moon Bay Brewing Company Heller Manus Architects HKS Architects Inn at Mavericks Mavericks Event Center McKinsey & Company Non Profit Housing Association of Northern California North Bay Leadership Council Pacific Standard Postmates San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association San Francisco Housing Action Coalition San Mateo County Economic Development Association Sand Hill Property Company Silicon Valley Community Foundation Sustainable Silicon Valley SV Angel The Two Hundred TMG Partners
OPPOSITION: (Verified 5/25/18) American Planning Association, California Chapter California Association of Councils of Governments Citizen Marin SB 828 Page 10 Cities of Long Beach, Mill Valley, Redondo Beach, San Bernardino, San Marcos, and San Rafael Coalition for San Francisco Neighborhoods Coalition to Preserve L.A. Coalition to Save Ocean Beach/Friends of Sutro Heights Park Cow Hollow Association Dolores Heights Improvement Club Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council Livable California Lone Mountain Civic Association Marin County Council of Mayors and Councilmembers Marina Community Association Mission Economic Development Company Preserve L.A. SF Ocean Edge Spaulding Square Neighborhood Association Historic Preservation Overlay Zone Stand Up for San Francisco Sunset Residents for Sensible Planning Sustainable Tamalmonte Town of Corte Madera United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles 36 individuals.
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