OAKLAND (CBS SF) — State Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday morning announced the initial guidelines and protocols for the state Department of Justice to investigate all fatal officer-involved shootings of unarmed civilians in California.
The passage of California Assembly Bill 1506 (AB 1506) last year called for the formal establishment of California Police Shooting Investigation Teams (CaPSIT) to investigate qualifying incidents. Bonta — then serving as a member of the California State Assembly — co-authored the bill. It was signed into law last September and went into effect on July 1, 2021.READ MORE: COVID Surge: Santa Clara County To Require Its 22,000 Workers To Be Vaccinated
In the past, such officer-involved shootings involving deadly force have been primarily handled by local law enforcement and county district attorneys. According to a release by Attorney General Bonta’s office, the new program outlines the best practices for investigations based on funding allocated in the state budget.
“One of the most important tasks ahead for public safety and our society is building and maintaining trust between our communities and law enforcement,” Bonta said in the release. “Impartial, fair investigations and independent reviews of officer-involved shootings are one essential component for achieving that trust.”
Bonta went on to say that the new protocols would strengthen California’s mechanisms for accountability and transparency in investigations of officer-involved shootings.
“These cases are never going to be easy, but the California Department of Justice will follow the facts and seek to ensure every Californian is afforded equal justice under the law,” Bonta added.
The California Department of Justice will investigate and review for potential criminal liability all deadly officer-involved incidents covered under the new law. As part of the law’s requirements, the California Department of Justice will make its determinations regarding potential criminal prosecutions of such incidents public — either through a written report explaining a decision not to seek criminal prosecution or by the filing of criminal charges.READ MORE: Pedestrian Dies After Getting Hit By Car In San Jose
The Attorney General’s Office said that based on historical data, it is estimated that there will be approximately 40 to 50 officer-involved shootings each year requiring the involvement of the California Department of Justice.
As part of the effort to strengthen public trust in and understanding of the process, Bonta announced the release of new information regarding the law’s implementation, including a law enforcement bulletin on AB 1506 definitions and notification requirements, the Criminal Law Division’s AB 1506 protocols, the full investigation procedural guidelines for CaPSIT, protocols for outreach and services for impacted family members and the California Department of Justice’s communications policy for incidents that qualify under AB 1506.
The documentation is aimed at providing both law enforcement and the public with a clear picture of new roles and expectations of the California Department of Justice in relation to deadly incidents covered by AB 1506.
Attorney General Bonta also formally launched CaPSIT in order to ensure incidents shall be investigated thoroughly, independently and in a timely manner. According to the AG’s release, the new teams are geographically and strategically located across California in accordance with historical patterns in officer-involved shootings in the state. One team will cover Southern California and the second will cover Northern California.
“When a critical incident occurs that may qualify under the parameters established by AB 1506, CaPSIT will, upon notification by local law enforcement, immediately deploy to the incident scene,” the release from the Attorney General’s Office read. “CaPSIT will work in coordination with local responding agencies throughout the investigation of the officer-involved shooting, and members of CaPSIT will serve as concurrent, independent special agent investigators of these critical incidents.”
After the initial investigation of an incident is completed, the case will be turned over to the California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section within the Criminal Law Division for review. Any administrative or civil investigations as well as investigations into collateral offenses that may have occurred at the time of the officer-involved shooting will be the sole responsibility of the local law enforcement agency or agencies.MORE NEWS: PG&E to Face Criminal Charges Over Deadly Zogg Fire in Shasta County
More information regarding the California Department of Justice’s new role under AB 1506 and any cases that fall under the law’s purview is available online at California Attorney General’s website.