(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) — California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a wide-sweeping set of police reform laws Thursday, including one that would prevent an officer from being employed by another police department after being convicted of misconduct.
The new legislation also raises the minimum age to become a law enforcement officer from 18 to 21; sets limits on the use of rubber bullets and tear gas to protect protesters; and establishes new accountability measures.
The legislation, SB2, also known as the “Kenneth Ross Jr. initiative,” will decertify law enforcement officers after conviction for misconduct or serious crimes and prevents them from moving to other departments. Officers can be decertified for excessive force, sexual assault, demonstration of bias and dishonesty.
The bill was named after 25-year-old Kenneth Ross Jr. who was fatally shot by Gardena Police Department Officer Michael Robbins in April 2018 while running away from police in Rowley Park, local Los Angeles ABC station KABC reported. The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office determined that the officer “acted lawfully in self-defense” because he believed Ross was an active shooter.
“I’ve lived here 52 years. I knew every officer by first name. When I heard about this shooting I did not know who this officer was and the reason why is because he transferred from Orange County after being involved in three questionable shootings there,” Assemblyman Steven Bradford, a Democrat representing Gardena, said at the signing ceremony.
Bradford said the legislation would end the “wash, rinse, repeat cycle” where an officer can commit a crime and leave a department and get hired by another agency.
The new law means California will join 46 other states that have decertification processes for officers due to bad conduct, Bradford said.
The bill-signing ceremony took place at Rowley Park in Ross’ memory where his mother, Fouzia Almarou, spoke.
“He was the love of my life. I’ll never see Kenneth again. This bill means a lot because it’ll stop police from attacking, targeting and being racist towards Black and brown people,” Almarou said.
Newsom also signed the George Floyd Bill, which requires officers to intervene when witnessing another officer using excessive force and report the incident in real time. Those who don’t could be disciplined in the same way as the cop who used excessive force.
Assemblymember Chris Holden, a Democrat representing Pasadena, authored the bill.
“Derek Chauvin was charged for killing of George Floyd, but justice for George Floyd doesn’t rest in Chauvin’s conviction alone – there were three additional officers who simply stood by and watched him die,” Holden said in a statement.
Another bill, AB490, bans officers from using restraints that can cause position asphyxiation, which occurs when a person is restrained and cannot breathe.
“While many of us witnessed the untimely death of George Floyd last year, Angelo Quinto a native veteran from Northern California also lost his life at the hands of law enforcement when [they] used similar restraints,” Assemblymember Reggie Jones Sawyer, a Democrat representing south Los Angeles, said.
“The new law will not hinder law enforcement from utilizing restraints they might need to use in dangerous situations … but it will place a limit on those restraints as to not keep someone from breathing and the result be an unnecessary death,” he added.
Last year, Newsom signed legislation banning police chokeholds in wake of Floyd’s death in Minneapolis where officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes.
Assemblymember Sawyer also thanked the governor for signing the PEACE Act, which raises the minimum age of officers from 18 to 21.
The act will also have experts from community colleges and community advocates develop a framework for officers to receive a higher education that’ll include psychology, history, ethnic studies, law and emotional intelligence.
“This framework will equip officers with the skills necessary for de-escalation while also guaranteeing they develop an understanding of the history of communities from diverse backgrounds and cultures,” Sawyer said.
Another bill regulates the use of rubber bullets and tear gas at protests. It bans officers from “indiscriminately firing these weapons into a crowd or aiming them at the head, neck or other vital organs,” bill author Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a Democrat representing San Diego, said in a release.
Newsom touted the reforms as “another step toward healing and justice for all.”
“Too many lives have been lost due to racial profiling and excessive use of force. We cannot change what is past, but we can build accountability, root out racial injustice and fight systemic racism. We are all indebted to the families who have persevered through their grief to continue this fight and work toward a more just future,” he said in a statement.
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