SACRAMENTO (KPIX) — While a nationwide movement calling for police reform was at one point being echoed by Governor Gavin Newsom, it seems California’s move towards substantial reform has lost steam at the state capitol.
From banning chokeholds and the use of tear gas on protesters to requiring officers to report other abusive officers, California lawmakers are now considering a range of police reform bills. But despite widespread support, the efforts are not getting very far.
“Many people want to go to the extreme of defunding the police department,” said California Senator Steven Bradford of Gardena. “No, we’re not advocating for that. We believe law enforcement is needed.”
Bradford does not want to defund police, but he does want to see reform. He has authored one of more than a dozen such bills now being considered in Sacramento.
“SB731, which is the police decertification bill,” Bradford explains. “We are one of only five states in the nation that doesn’t have a decertification process.”
But despite the momentum behind such reforms, many of these reform bills are expected to die when the legislative session ends at the end
of the month.
“Internally, you have police unions that are not necessarily for reform,” said civil rights attorney John Burris. “In some cities they are totally against it.”
Burris says piecemeal reform has too many opponents and too many limitations. He suggests moving the conversation forward will take something on a larger scale.
“I think that would be the most important thing, to develop national standards,” explained Burris. “At the same time, policing is local. And so you have to be able to get the national standards to have buy-in at the local level.”
That is the next hope among reform advocates. The Biden-Harris team has promised to look at a national tracking system for police officers. Many think that is the kind of change that is needed.
“I think we do need to look at police reform on a national level,” said Senator Bradford. “These one-offs in each state are useful, but not until we make this a national issue just like this pandemic. We lead the world in police shootings of unarmed civilians. We should want to change that image.”
Another challenge in Sacramento is the stack of crises; The pandemic and the accompanying impact of COVID-19 on the economy, and now a series of destructive fires. The legislative session ends on August 31st.