George Floyd protest stops at Mission Station on Saturday, 5-30-20. Photo by Julian Mark

Gov. Gavin Newsom today solidified a victory for police reform advocates by signing into law several Senate and Assembly bills aiming to increase police accountability and limit unnecessary uses of force. 

Both senate bills focus on preventing police with a history of misconduct from being rehired by a different jurisdiction. They include SB 2 — a hotly contested bill, which will allow for police certification to be revoked after serious misconduct — and SB 16, which will increase transparency of police misconduct records. 

“Today marks another step toward healing and justice for all,” Newsom said. “Too many lives have been lost due to racial profiling and excessive use of force. We cannot change what is past, but we can build accountability, root out racial injustice and fight systemic racism.” 

The sisters of San Francisco’s Sean Monterrosa, who was killed by Vallejo police in 2020, celebrated the signing of today’s legislation. 

“Our state is finally making real steps toward accountability and transparency in policing,” read a statement posted on Instagram today by Ashley and Michelle Minterrosa. “Our family and every family who has suffered at the hands of police deserves nothing less.” 

California is now the 47th state to enforce a process to decertify police, leaving only Hawaii, Rhode Island, and New Jersey without such a process at a state level. 

Now, if a police officer has their certification revoked in California, SB 2 would make those records public and ensure the investigatory records be retained for 30 years. 

“​​By building trust today, we are ensuring officer and community safety for tomorrow,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Trust generates safety and safety generates trust. It will take sustained work by all of us to get the job done, but this is a monumental step forward on the path toward justice.”

Under SB 2, an officer’s certification can be suspended or revoked for serious misconduct like use of excessive force, sexual assault, bias and dishonesty. Without certification, a former police officer would no longer be employable. Officers who have been decertified in another state would also be ineligible to serve as a police officer in California. 

A new system within the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) will require civilian involvement to investigate police misconduct and potentially recommend decertification. 

To do this, a new division will review law enforcement agencies’ own investigations and conduct its own investigations into serious misconduct. Then, an advisory board of nine appointed members will publicly review the findings and decide whether the officer’s certification should be suspended or revoked. The board’s recommendation will then be presented to the Commission. 

Most members will be appointed by the governor, while two members will be chosen by the Senate Rules Committee and the Speaker of the Assembly. 

SB 2 also outlines specifications on who can serve on the advisory board, and calls for four members of the public who have worked in police accountability issues. Two of the nine seats are to give “strong consideration” to members of the public who have been impacted by police violence. 

The bill, which failed to pass in its previous iteration in 2020, had faced opposition from groups who said that the division and the advisory board could be biased against police. 

SB 16, which was introduced in December 2020 by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), allows for increased transparency into police misconduct records by establishing a record of such misconduct, and requiring hiring agencies in other jurisdictions to review that record. 

“By signing these bills, Governor Newsom has ensured that police who commit serious misconduct will no longer have the privilege of wearing a badge,” Skinner said today, “And that we, the public, have the right to know when officers use excessive force or engage in racist or biased behavior.”

A few years ago, Skinner led the front on SB 1421, which made police officer personnel records available as public records for the first time.

SB 16 “builds upon [SB] 1421,” Skinner said before the San Francisco Police Commission earlier this month after the bill passed the Assembly. “What it does is it adds a few new categories of records so officers who have … sustained complaints about biased and discriminatory behavior … Now, we would be able to access those records.” 

Other bills signed by the governor increase the minimum age to become a police officer from 18 to 21, prohibit the use of techniques that could risk positional asphyxia, and regulate the acquisition and use of military equipment. 

Below is a full list of the bills Gov. Newsom signed today: 

  • AB 26: Peace officers: use of force 
  • AB 48: Law enforcement: use of force
  • AB 89: Peace officers: minimum age qualifications
  • AB 481: Funding, acquisition, and use of military equipment
  • AB 490: Prohibit authorization of techniques that risk positional asphyxia
  • AB 958: Peace officers: law enforcement gangs
  • SB 2: Peace officers: certification  
  • SB 16: Peace officers: release of record

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REPORTER. Eleni is our reporter focused on policing in San Francisco. She first moved to the city on a whim over eight years ago, and the Mission has become her home. Follow her on Twitter @miss_elenius.

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  1. Does anyone know why Newsom has not yet signed AB-603 – Law enforcement settlements and judgments: reporting? It was enrolled September 9 and sent to him on September 13. That bill would require municipalities to annually post on their internet websites specified information relating to settlements and judgments resulting from allegations of improper police conduct. It seems to be an important accountability measure.