Police Abuse

Calif. Lawmaker Thinks Police Aren't Protected Enough from Misconduct Claims

Bill would increase the evidence threshold to find that an officer has lied.

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Lying
Flynt / Dreamstime.com

California is always a useful reminder that both parties are adept at kowtowing to law enforcement representatives in order to protect their own interests over those of the public.

It's not a law-and-order Jeff Sessions-style Republican trying to make it harder for discipline officers for lying under a new proposed state law in California. It's Democratic, Los Angeles-based Assemblyman Miguel Santiago.

Santiago's bill, AB 1298, would alter the procedures for police disciplinary hearings under state law. During administrative proceedings for police misconduct it would increase the evidentiary threshold to find that a police officer made a false statement. It would increase the threshold from a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not) to "clear and convincing" evidence (pretty damned sure) to determine that the officer made a false statement.

Yes, this is a still a lower threshold for criminal conviction, but these are not criminal cases. These are disciplinary proceedings and civil matters. The Los Angeles Times notes that this higher threshold is similar to what is required by the courts in order to get a restraining order or to lose custody of one's children.

So, clearly, this law would have the net impact of decreasing the likelihood that an officer is found to have been lying. It is being pushed by the Los Angeles Police Protective League. Their spokesman says it's to protect all those good cops from being punished for mistakes. From the Los Angeles Times:

"The result of being found guilty of a false statement is so horrible, you're going to get fired no matter how many medals you have," said Gary Ingemunson, independent counsel for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which is the bill's principal backer.

Ingemunson said the bill would shield officers who were disciplined because they didn't remember making statements or were being unfairly targeted by management.

"Does this make it harder to fire bad cops? My answer to that is this makes it harder to fire good cops," he said.

That's an interesting assertion to say the least, given that California law significantly shields police officers from public disclosures of their disciplinary records, so it's kind of hard to prove his claim. The actual state law that oversees police discipline specifically says that police officers may not be punished solely because that officer's name shows up on any sort of list or record of police who have engaged in misconduct.

In fact, at the same time this law is being pitched, the union that represents Los Angeles County deputies is suing in order to keep the sheriff's office from informing prosecutors of the names of deputies who have been found to have engaged in professional misconduct.

In addition, and not mentioned in the Times story, Santiago's bill would also forbid witness testimony for police disciplinary hearings to be provided by telephone or "any other electronic means." That sounds like a recipe either for passive-aggressive witness intimidation or an environment where a witness cannot make time or is otherwise physically unable to attend a hearing and therefore will not have claims considered.

The Times notes that civil liberties groups aren't the only ones concerned about the implications of Santiago's bill. Representatives for sheriffs across the state complained in a hearing for the bill that their communities are attacking them for not dealing with problem officers. This legislation will make it harder.

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  1. Christ, what an asshole.

  2. I don’t know from where the myth that the left is better on civil liberties originated. I don’t know if it’s ever been true, but it’s certainly not now. Police are the enforcement arm of central planning and they’re the mechanism for collecting many of the funds to make government schemes happen.

    It’s a fine line Democrats have to walk, between making sure voters feel the party is their savior against institutional racism and that their public policy enforcers have ample opportunity to interact with the cash cow known as the average citizen.

    1. The Republicans have left a lot of room above themselves on civil liberties for Democrats to occupy. A “better than Republicans, but still bad” type of space.

      Democrats’ general record on civil rights is an example, I think, of the inherent cowardice (or maybe limit) of elected politicians: Democrats are willing to champion certain things, like gay rights, that don’t have a clear voting history going against it. Championing a crackdown on police misconduct though leaves a politician wide open to accusations of “being weak on law and order,” which can be a death sentence in many elections.

    2. At this point, mainstream politicians of all stripes are pretty generally terrible on civil liberties.

      I think they have been better at times, but that could have been just a pragmatic stance when people were still trying to silence and blacklist communists and their ilk.

    3. A fine line indeed. The most progressive Democrats (those likely to be say, vocal BLM supporters) have an overarching philosophy that requires a large, powerful domestic army to enforce their vision.

    4. Historically speaking, Democrats have been the worst at Civil Liberties by and large.

      Regardless of the past, they’re both terrible today. The United States sacrificed freedom on the altar of safety years ago. It’s the new normal.

  3. Shields up! All hands to battle stations!

  4. I guess my first question is “How many California cops get fired for making false statements every year?” Is this something they stay awake nights worrying about?

  5. It’s Democratic, Los Angeles-based Assemblyman Miguel Santiago.

    To be fair, is California so Democratic that he might be a Republican law-and-order type guy, but checks ‘D’ on his form so he can keep his job?

  6. In California we like our cops mean and lawless. Swing first, ask questions later.

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