Police Abuse

California Lawmakers Try Again To Create a System To Decertify Bad Cops

Union resistance shut down last year’s effort.


After legislation was shut down by law enforcement unions last year, a California lawmaker is trying again to establish a legal process to decertify bad cops and get them off the force.

California is one of only four states (New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Hawaii being the other three) that does not have an official system to strip officers found guilty of misconduct of their badges, meaning that even when a cop gets fired for bad behavior, he or she can just go to another city and get rehired onto another force.

Massachusetts used to be in the same boat, but lawmakers passed a law that took effect this year to create a decertification process. In California, state Sen. Steven Bradford (D–Gardena) introduced similar legislation that died right at the finish line last September as resistance from police unions prevented it from passing.

According to Courthouse News Service, Bradford has made changes to his bill to address some due process concerns that law enforcement representatives had, and now it's back as S.B. 2. Within California's existing Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, it will create the Peace Officers Standards Accountability Division. The division will have the power to investigate police and decertify them if they've broken the law or engaged in serious misconduct like filing false reports, destroying or concealing evidence, tampering with their body cameras, abusing their police powers, and a host of other inappropriate behaviors.

Bradford's new bill still keeps one of the sticking points from last year's bill: This new commission will only have two people on it with police backgrounds. The remaining six members of the commission cannot be current or former officers. So while police representatives will have a voice on the commission, they'll be outnumbered by civilians, including two who themselves were either victims of police abuse or relatives of a victim. Last year, representatives from police unions complained that this meant the board would be "inherently biased against officers," but that part seems to be staying.

Also in S.B. 2 is a reform, but not a complete elimination, of the state's civil qualified immunity regulations. Qualified immunity rules often shield law enforcement officers from being held financially responsible when they violate somebody's rights. It's a terrible policy, essentially giving permission to police to violate rights and get away with it. In the last two years of police reform activism, we've been seeing increasing efforts to eliminate it.

S.B. 2 unfortunately does not eliminate qualified immunity in the state, but it does make it easier for victims of police abuse to make a case against them. Currently, California's regulations require that anybody attempting to sue a police officer for violating his or her rights prove that the officer had a "specific intent" to do so. That means reckless and irresponsible behavior by an officer could still be protected if the cop didn't actually intend to cause harm to others. Conversely, S.B. 2 allows for "deliberate indifference or reckless disregard" to be sufficient to bring about a lawsuit.

Both reforms would significantly make it easier in California to hold law enforcement officers responsible for misconduct. Let's see if lawmakers will be able to get it past the state's powerful police unions this year.

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  1. If the bad cops are decertified, who exactly do they think is going to hunt down the anti-maskers, insurrectionists, and internet trolls? Come on, man. You need dirty men, for dirty work. Guy with Cheetos on his shirt is not just going to surrender himself to authorities.

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  2. Sorry but public employee unions rule the Democratic party in CA. Democratic leaders will be spewing plenty of BLM reform rhetoric but the real change required – making bad cops accountable – won’t be made because of union opposition.

  3. If you can’t do this in a single-party state, where can you do it?

    1. Nowhere. Why? Because nobody in government, on either side of the aisle, wants true police reform. At the end of the day, somebody has to be around that can be relied upon to fuck up the dissidents and undesirables at a moment’s notice. That person is never going to be a good guy.

  4. Net effect will be the police won’t bother dealing with anything other than capital crimes because why bother.

    You are on your own in the democrat left wing state.

    1. Actually, that’s pretty much where we are in many larger cities in CA.

      A lot of police work now is reduced to them sending you forms to fill out or, you doing so online providing the information.

      They claim lack of manpower. But the reality is, if it isn’t going to get their blood pumping, they aren’t going to bother. Why should they when their union guaranteed employment until retirement at 90% of a six figure salary is laying a short time in front of them. Just take it easy and make it to age 55 and move upstate to live the good life on that public pension that includes health care for you and your spouse for life.

  5. How about ban all public Secor unions

    1. But, but, but, they put their lives on the line every day.

      Besides, ask any woman you know: Those fireman are so cute in their uniforms.

      And, they’re all heroes. Just ask them.

  6. Let’s see if lawmakers will be able to get it past the state’s powerful police unions this year.

    Only when politicians care more about their constituents than their campaign contributors will anything be done.

    1. Nailed it.

      You won’t find any elected local pol that wasn’t supported by the police, fire and other public employee unions in their jurisdiction. Those unions run the cities and counties in CA these days. There is no getting around it.

  7. There are two things that are primary in preventing the decertification of cops, 1) politicians and 2) police unions. But this is also the reason that bad teachers also are not decertified. But in case with the teachers it is 1) politicians and 2)teachers unions both state and national. In both of these cases the politicians huge contributions form these unions which the politicians then see that the police (unions for police) and teachers (unions for teachers) receive very lucrative contracts. So as long as the politicians have anything to do with these contracts there will never be any reform.

  8. It should be possible to get rid of bad teachers, cops, bureaucrats, etc.

    The commission should have 3 cops (or former cops) on it, who not only understand the job, but can give more weight to a decision one way or the other. Or make the commission 9 people, with 4 cops. Strong enough to save a cop who makes a mistake, weak enough to not be able to save a bad cop.

    1. That assumes that any cop would rule against a fellow cop. Not too many Serpicos out there.

      1. I’ve known at least one, high ranking local officer that went against his union. They publicly attacked his wife who ran for council on a platform of renegotiating police and fire union pensions in a city that had declared bankruptcy.

        I’m surprised they didn’t kill him. There is as much loyalty to the union in police ranks as the oath of Omerta in the mob.

  9. What a quandary for Democrats, having to act like they’re taking action against a public service union, and yet doing nothing of any substance against the union.

  10. By all means let’s get yet ANOTHER activist lead hatchet group to go after what they call, “ bad cops” .
    To prove how even handed this concept is, I suggest an amendment to this bill that REMOVES from elected or appointed office ANYONE accused / found guilty of any form of public crime, financial impropriety, or allegation of misconduct .
    When passed , this law would basically empty Sacramento or any other government related institution.
    No bad cops: good idea
    No hypocritical politicians and petty tyrant bureaucrats, EVEN BETTER

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