Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a bill to return Bruce’s Beach to Anthony Bruce, the great-great grandson of Charles and Willa Bruce, on Sept. 30, 2021. Photo courtesy Governor’s Press Office

(CALMATTERS) – Better late than never.

That was the message undergirding a stack of criminal and racial justice bills Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law on Thursday, a year after many of them failed to make it out of the Democratic-controlled state Legislature. California now has a process to decertify police officers for serious misconduct — previously, it was just one of four states lacking that capability. But the law is a watered-down version of an earlier proposal, underscoring the might of the state’s powerful police unions — three dozen of which opposed the bill even after it was weakened.

“Many times it’s said, ‘Black and brown people hate the police.’ We don’t hate the police. We fear the police. This will help establish trust.”

State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Gardena Democrat and the bill’s author

“We urge Senator Bradford and the legislature to focus on reducing the rise in shootings, homicides and robberies each of our cities are grappling with.”

The Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose police unions

Among the other key bills Newsom signed: one to expand public access to police records, one to raise officers’ minimum age from 18 to 21 and another to limit police use of rubber bullets and similar weapons at protests.

But he still hasn’t decided the fate of other contentious criminal justice proposals, including one to end mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses and one to limit California’s gang enhancement law. The two bills are part of a package of reforms recommended by an obscure committee that could eventually result in the resentencing and release of thousands of incarcerated Californians — and prevent others from being sent to prison in the first place.

What is this obscure committee, and why is it so influential? CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons has the details. And for CalMatters’ College Journalism Network, Meghan Bobrowsky takes a look at a California college’s first-in-the-nation program bringing professors and students into prisons to learn alongside incarcerated people — who also have the opportunity to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Newsom signed another monumental bill Thursday that returns Bruce’s Beach — a former resort for Black residents seized by Manhattan Beach city officials in 1924 — to descendants of the original couple who purchased the land.

“It is never too late to address the injustices of the past. … This is an example of what real reparations can look like.”

Bradford, a member of California’s reparations task force