Independent Review Unit for Police-Involved Shootings Proposed by California Lawmakers

06.06.18

California State Capitol building. (Photo: Steve Shupe, Creative Commons)

By Jazmine Justice-Young

On May 24th, Assembly Budget Subcommittee 5 on Public Safety took crucial steps in addressing California’s increasing number of police shootings. Many supporters of the proposed changes feel that this legislation was a long time coming.

Between the 2016 shooting death of Joseph Mann and the 2018 killing of Stephon Clark, advocates for law enforcement practice reform have been disappointed by the little success for legislation to rein in the police.

Despite California’s liberal reputation and the public’s demand for more accountability for police shootings, law enforcement groups make it extremely difficult to pass bills concerning to police shootings, misconduct, and even body cameras, lawmakers say.

“The public has to become outraged with the people they elect that won’t fight for what is right,” Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) said in March.

And the public has. The pressure is on Sacramento incumbent District Attorney Anne Schubert in her campaign against challenger Noah Phillips, who claims he can do what she won’t: prosecute police officers.

According to the City of Sacramento’s website, when an officer-involved shooting occurs, the police department’s Homicide and Internal Affairs Units respond to the scene and conduct an “internal investigation” into the shooting. These units are given oversight by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s office and the City of Sacramento’s Office of Public Safety Accountability. After the investigation is completed, the case is sent to the district attorney, who determines if the officer’s actions were unlawful.

Since Anne Schubert took office in 2015, Black Lives Matter Sacramento counted 22 people killed in Sacramento County by law enforcement and 0 charges filed. The DA claimed each shooting was justified.

AB 284, authored by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), will allow officer-involved shootings to undergo an independent review, supposedly free from the influence of the District Attorney and the police department.

“Continued incidents of officer-involved shootings of civilians have caused a growing public skepticism of law enforcement and a conflict of interest for local district attorneys investigating officers,” said Assemblymember McCarty. “Today’s action will help build public trust and confidence in these investigations by allowing an independent review of these incidents by professionals within the California Department of Justice. Taxpayers and the families of those killed by law enforcement deserve nothing less.”

Laws requiring independent investigations of officer-involved shootings are currently in place in the states like Wisconsin and New York.

Read the original version of Jazmine Justice-Young’s piece at Access Sacramento.

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