California police chiefs call for weeding out bad officers
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s police chiefs on Thursday endorsed a plan to more aggressively weed out bad officers who break the law or have a history of complaints.
The California Police Chiefs Association also called for periodic checks to make sure officers are mentally stable, part of a package of reforms they offered after weeks of protests over the slayings of black people by police.
“In a major step forward for California, we are calling for the de-certification of officers by (an) independent and impartial authority outside of the deploying agency,” said Los Alamitos Chief Eric Nunez, the organization’s president.
Officers could lose their training certifications, after due process hearings, if they are convicted of any felonies or certain misdemeanors or have “a history of egregious misconduct” with repeated and sustained complaints or policy violations, the chiefs said.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday backed a similar idea.
Brian Marvel, president of the rank-and-file Peace Officers Research Association of California, said his organization is happy to work with supporters on the details, which he said should include having law enforcement professionals on the hearing board and an appeals process.
The chiefs also supported having Becerra’s office investigate deadly force incidents, but only at the request of local officials.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento, said that with the chiefs joining nearly 50 state lawmakers and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris in backing his long-stalled independent investigations bill, “this is the time to pass a law that will bring accountability and greater transparency to this issue.”
The chiefs also said that prospective and current officers should be subject to improved psychological assessments, and officers should undergo “mandatory health and wellness checks to ensure the continued stability and safety of officers.”
They also supported ending the use of a controversial carotid hold that cuts off blood to the brain and restricting the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to control demonstrations.
Nine state lawmakers on Wednesday introduced placeholder legislation intended to set standards for law enforcement’s use of rubber bullets and other less lethal projectiles.
Four protesters filed what is intended to be a class-action federal lawsuit against Sacramento police on Thursday alleging that they were among demonstrators injured by rubber bullets. They want a ban on police use of the projectiles against demonstrators. Similar lawsuits have been filed elsewhere, including Los Angeles.
The moves come after weeks of demonstrations in which some officers and departments repeatedly used tear gas, rubber bullets and batons on protesters. The protests were largely peaceful but sometimes included violence directed at the police after George Floyd died last month after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.
The organization representing 332 police chiefs formally condemned “all acts of excessive force and racially biased policing.”
Members also called for a more cooperative approach that will help community members “develop trust in our agencies,” said Seaside Chief Abdul Pridgen, the association’s vice president and a black man with nearly three decades in law enforcement.
“We need to be active and empathetic listeners, not just when we agree but more importantly when we see things differently,” he said.
The chiefs also called for a nationwide use-of-force policy modeled after a new California law, echoing three of the state’s largest police officer unions. The chiefs and the unions also touted another new state law requiring increased training in things like deescalating violence, confronting implicit and racial bias, and increasing cultural and community awareness.
Association representatives did not address other proposals like stripping funding from police departments or setting up new agencies to handle what are now police duties that don’t amount to a crime.
But Nunez acknowledged critics who say more resources should be devoted to things like education, housing, jobs and treatment instead of incarceration.
“We understand that police reform, in and of itself, will not resolve the social, economic and racial divides in our country” he said, calling for “a holistic approach” to reforms.