By Antonio R. Harvey | Observer Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO – The same day the guilty verdict in the George Floyd murder case came down, several members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) outlined legislation that would radically reform policing in California. 

The proposed reforms include statewide decertification of cops guilty of serious misconduct, the requirement that cops intercede when they see other cops using excessive force, increasing the minimum age to become a cop from 18 to 25,  and the use of social workers instead of cops to help defuse some situations.

At a news conference to discuss the incidents of police brutality currently gripping the nation and California, the CLBC explained their 2021 plans for “Social, Economic and Educational Justice.”

“We don’t want to be here today but we must be here. We must stand up for justice and accountability in our state and across our nation,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento). “More importantly, here in California, we’re on a quest for justice in our police system. We know that last year we came on with some bold measures. But the reality is that we did not have the courage to step up and go far enough.” 

McCarty and CLBC colleague Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), Sen. Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson), and Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) met on the south steps of the state Capitol preparing for the then-upcoming results of the trial.

Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber joined them when they listed their legislative gameplan.

Bradford’s Senate Bill (SB) 2, the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021, would create a statewide process to revoke the certification of a law enforcement officer that has committed serious misconduct. If passed, it also will strengthen the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act to prevent law enforcement abuses and other civil rights violations. 

Holden’s Assembly Bill (AB) 26 establishes clear guidelines for police accountability and responsibility while demonstrating a duty to intercede and report when witnessing excessive force by another member of law enforcement.

AB 26 specifically incorporates additional measures used to establish a peace officer’s “duty to intercede,” and provides certain outcomes for failure to intercede.

Jones-Sawyer’s AB 89, “Peace Officers Education and Age Conditions for Employment (PEACE) Act,” increases the minimum qualifying age for peace officers from 18 to 25. AB 89’s language simplifies that persons under 25 years of age may also qualify if the individual has a bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited college or university.

Kamlager’s AB 118, “C.R.I.S.E.S Act Pilot Program” requires the Office of Emergency Services to establish rules and regulations for the administration of a five-year pilot of an emergency response program.

AB 118 clearly proposes that communities rely on social workers to intervene in some public safety incidents instead of police officers.

The legislation was first introduced in 2020 as AB 2054, but it died in committee.

“There may be calls about a crisis. There may be calls about an emergency, but they are not calls intended to initiate death,” Kamlager said during the news conference. “They are not calls for lethal force. They are calls for issuing de-escalation and resolution.”

McCarty said he was working on three additional police reform bills, including making public settlements paid out in cases of excessive use of force. He said Sacramento city and county combined paid $30 million last year to settle misconduct cases.

McCarty also is working on legislation that would prevent police departments from disposing of pertinent information in police-involved shootings and have mental health professionals present during police calls. 

“We want to break down the barriers to allow public safety to be done in a more safe and just way,” McCarty said of his and CLBC’s bills. 

Rogue ex-cop Derek Chauvin was convicted of three counts, including homicide and manslaughter, for pinning his knee on the neck of Floyd for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25, 2020.

“The hard truth is that if George Floyd looked like me, he’d still be alive today,” Gov. Gavin Newsom remarked in an April 20 written statement. “No conviction can repair the harm done to George Floyd and his family, but today’s verdict provides some accountability as we work to root out the racial injustice that haunts our society.”

CLBC held its news conference the morning of April 20, but the verdict arrived by 2:05 p.m., Pacific Standard Time. Hennepin County (Minnesota) Judge Peter Cahill took less than three minutes to tell Chauvin he was guilty of three charges before the bailiff escorted the former officer, in handcuffs, out of the courtroom.

“I’m overwhelmed to tears over this verdict: Guilty. #GeorgeFloyd did not have to die that day,” Sen. Steven Bradford, chair of CLBC, tweeted. “His family is still healing from this trauma. We must continue to fight for justice in this country, for all of us!”

Cahill also said Chauvin’s sentencing is expected in eight weeks.

The jury consisted of six Black or multiracial people along with six White individuals. Chauvin’s bail was revoked and he was taken into custody. The most serious charge carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison praised the “bouquet of humanity” — the witnesses who took cell phone video of Chauvin’s inhumane action and helped seal the ex-cop’s fate.

“This has to end. We need true justice,” Ellison said of police brutality in America. “That’s not one case that is a social transformation that says no one is beneath the law and no one is above it. This verdict reminds us that we must make enduring, systemic societal change.”