Watch CBS News

Bill to Strip Badges from 'Bad Officers' Fails to Pass in State Legislature

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF/AP) -- A bill that would allow "bad officers" to be permanently stripped of their badges failed to pass the California Legislature on Monday as state lawmakers could not muster enough support to pass one of the year's top policing reform bills.

The measure would have created a way to decertify officers found to have committed serious misconduct. The bill got a late boost from celebrity Kim Kardashian West, who tweeted that the measure is needed so officers are held accountable if they break the law.

But the bill could not overcome vehement objections from law enforcement organizations that the proposed system is biased and lacks basic due process protections. Five states currently have no way of decertifying poor police officers — California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The bill failed despite the extraordinary momentum created by months of anger and nationwide protests following the death in May of George Floyd while he was being detained by Minneapolis police. Protests again have flared over the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

"Of all the reforms, this is the one that would have caused, I think, a major culture change within policing in California," Former police auditor and retired judge Ladoris Cordell said.

Cordell the failure of SB 731 is not unexpected. Despite the wave of protests in the streets and an online campaign backed with celebrity power the reform bill was stopped by traditional resistance.

"The decertification piece," Cordell said. "There was tremendous pushback from the unions."

"It's a process," says retired Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan. "But what I would say is that this should not be the end of it."

Jordan says unions opposed the bill, but do support decertification, in some form, and he expects that will happen.

"They should take some more time, do some more analysis, meet with the parties," Jordan says. "There are a lot of good ideas. I don't think there's a single police chief that I know of, current or past, who wants a troubled officer on the team."

"It's a gargantuan task," California State Senator Steven Bradford of Gardena told KPIX last week. "It's disappointing in light of all that we have seen in this country, not only over the last three or four months."

Bradford was already disappointed when his bill was hanging in the balance at the end of the legislative session. It never came up for a vote Monday night.

"It is a setback," Cordell says for police reform advocates. "This is a serious setback, but it can be overcome."

But other proposals did pass the Legislature on the final day of the 2020 session. Lawmakers approved a bill that would ban police officers from using choke holds and carotid holds. A choke hold applies pressure to a person's windpipe while a carotid hold applies pressure to a person's carotid artery, which slows the flow of blood to the brain. Gov. Gavin Newsom has pledged to sign that bill.

Lawmakers also approved a bill to require the state Attorney General to investigate every time police kill an unarmed civilian.

"We have too much distrust with the police policing themselves," said Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, who authored the bill.

The Legislature separately sent another Bradford bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom that would require youths under 18 to consult with an attorney before they could waive their Miranda rights. Current law has that protection for youths through age 15.

Bradford said the bill "helps build trust in law enforcement and our criminal justice system, something we badly need right now."

Journalists would be cleared to go behind police lines during California protests and demonstrations under other legislation on its way to the governor. The legislation would also prohibit police officers from "intentionally assaulting, interfering with, or obstructing" or citing a member of the press.

Lawmakers also gave final approval to a bill that would make it clear that supervisors have the power to create oversight boards and inspectors general with subpoena powers over independently elected county sheriffs.

They sent Newsom a bill barring law enforcement officers in most cases from wearing camouflage uniforms or those similar to military uniforms. Democrat Sen. Bob Archuleta said civilians might confuse police with members of the National Guard during protests.

But lawmakers failed to pass a bill that would have made public disciplinary records against police officers accused of racist or discriminatory actions, or those who have a history of wrongful arrests or searches, among others. That bill passed the Assembly, but the state Senate did not vote on it before the deadline at midnight on Monday.

The Senate was delayed by more than an hour over a procedural spat between Democrats who control the chamber and Republicans, most of whom were forced to vote remotely after one tested positive for the coronavirus and possibly exposed his colleagues. Wary of running out of time, Democrats voted earlier in the night to limit debate on bills. Republicans were furious, invoking their own parliamentary maneuver to further delay consideration of non-controversial bills.

Lawmakers from both sides eventually resolved their dispute after a lengthy delay.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.