Assemblymember Chris Holden’s police reform legislation, AB 1022, passed in the Senate Public Safety Committee Friday with a 5-1 vote. The bill establishes clear guidelines for police responsibility and accountability when witnessing excessive force by another member of law enforcement.
“Americans across the nation demand more accountability in our criminal justice system,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “It’s going to take sustained, thoughtful reform like Assembly Bill 1022 to help answer the call. At the California Department of Justice, we’re committed to partnering with our legislators and stakeholders across the state to help get the job done. I commend Assemblymember Holden and his colleagues for getting this bill through the Senate Public Safety Committee. It’s time for important policies like a peace officer’s duty to intervene to be more than just recommendations. We’re ready for them to be the law of the land.”
California law requires police officers to intercede when present and observing another officer using force that is beyond that which is necessary, but there are no universal measures used to determine that an officer has in fact interceded. In the case of George Floyd, a lawyer for one of the accused junior officers argued that there was intervention because the junior officer asked the supervising officer if they should turn Floyd on his side.
“We were outraged when we watched the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer from a knee to the neck,” said Holden. “Equally disturbing, was the lack of intervention from the police officers who witnessed a clear use of excessive force.”
AB 1022 provides a selection of techniques to establish that an officer has in fact attempted to intercede. The bill also expands on current law to disqualify a person from being a police officer if they used excessive force that resulted in great bodily injury or death or to have failed to intercede in that incident.
If the bill becomes law, police officers would be required to intercede when witnessing excessive force under the updated guidelines and report the incident in real time to dispatch or the watch commander. Failure to intercede by a police officer would make them an accessory to any crime committed by an offending officer. Retaliation against officers that report violations of law or regulation of another officer to a supervisor would be prohibited.
“From Rodney King in 1991 to Stephon Clark in 2018, California has a bad a history with excessive use of force by police officers,” continued Holden. “With protection from the law, this legislation compels police officers to do the right thing.”