By Gabriela Gutierrez
Police misconduct is nothing new and is still an issue that affects predominantly people of color, including but not limited to Hispanics or Latino people and Black people.
Several new bills currently making their way through Legislature have the power to change the way citizens and peace officers coexist by updating the Penal Code.
The most impactful bill of the group is Senate Bill 2, which goes into serious detail about the importance of holding those in authority accountable.
The bill, introduced by Senators Steven Bradford and Toni Atkins, also goes over the disproportionate deaths that the Black and Latino communities suffer, as compared to the White community, at the hands of peace officers.
The bill states that “In 2017, 172 Californians were killed by the police, and our state’s police departments have some of the highest rates of killings in the nation. Of the unarmed people California police killed, three out of four were people of color. Black and Latino families and communities of color are disproportionately vulnerable to police violence, creating generations of individual and community trauma.”
The bill also takes into account the many privileges police officers may receive when they are accused of abusing their powers.
The senate enforcing the bill says “The bill would eliminate certain immunity provisions for peace officers and custodial officers, or public entities employing peace officers or custodial officers sued under the act.”
The wrongful death of Breonna Taylor last year in Kentucky, is a testament to that privilege as none of the three officers involved were charged in her death.
California, which has remained a state without the legal ability to decertify its peace officers, is about to cross that bridge. If the bill passes the Legislature, California will establish the Peace Officers Standards Accountability Advisory Board.
The board will consist of nine members with individual forms of qualifications.
One of the members will be a current or retired peace officer with expansive knowledge and experience at a command rank.
Six members will be members of the public with two, who according to Senate Bill 2, “have been subject to wrongful use of force likely to cause death or serious bodily injury by a peace officer, or who are surviving family members of a person killed by the wrongful use of deadly force by a peace officer, appointed by the Governor.”
The disproportion between people of color and White people is undeniable, especially now that everyone has a smartphone to share anything and everything with virtually the entire world.
Assembly Bill 931, introduced by assembly member Carlos Villapudua, is another bill aiming to reform the way peace officers conduct themselves.
The bill, if passed, will require other peace officers to intervene if any fellow officers are abusing their power.
The bill says, “President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing found that teaching police peer intervention has a powerful influence on encouraging and supporting officers to intervene and prevent their colleagues from committing acts of serious misconduct and criminal behavior.”
Although the bills won’t take effect until the next two years, they are evidence of the urgency in reforming the system that is meant to protect and serve its people.