Lead Story West Edition

Protesters seek legislation to reduce law enforcement violence

LEIMERT PARK — Local civil rights leaders promised to take their fight from demonstration to legislation as protesters shut down Crenshaw and Martin Luther King Jr. boulevards for five minutes April 30 while honoring the memory of Freddie Gray and other victims of police brutality.

Gray, 25, died April 19 after sustaining a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody in Baltimore. Baltimore erupted in riots leading to city curfews being imposed after Gray’s death. Many cities across the country planned marches and rallies to stand in solidarity with Baltimore.

“The most important goal we have right now in this struggle is to go from demonstration to legislation,” civil rights activist Najee Ali said in an interview. “We want stricter policies that will hold California police departments more accountable.

“There is a culture of police violence and abuse that must be stopped,” Ali added. “Right now, there are several new bills headed for a legislative committee that could help deter police abuse in California.”

“To end police abuse, you must start with police chiefs who can oftentimes act as quiet enablers to police misconduct,” a local retired police chief said ay the rally.

“In order to avoid these types of unwanted interactions with police, the public must immediately comply with the officer’s request if stopped, for any reason. Comply first, take the officer’s name and then report the incident,” he added.

A series of new bills have already been introduced in the state Legislature to hold local law enforcement agencies more accountable in use-of-force or officer-involved shooting cases.

The first bill, Senate Bill 227, authored by state Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City, would prohibit a grand jury from inquiring into an offense or misconduct that involves a shooting or use of excessive force by a peace officer that led to the death of a person being detained or arrested by the peace officer.

Assembly Bill 86, authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarthy, D-Sacramento, would require an independent investigation of peace officer-involved shootings and other uses of force resulting in death. The department also would have to prepare and submit a written report to the attorney general and district attorney and law enforcement agency. The attorney general also would be required to post the written report on the department’s website.

Assembly Bill 71, authored by Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, D-Chino, would create a statewide database of statistics on all officer-involved shootings that result in the injury or death of an individual or a peace officer. Currently, there is not a national or statewide database.

Senate Bill 11, authored by state Sen. Jim Beall and Mitchell, requires increased training of law enforcement officers to recognize, de-escalate, and refer persons with mental illness or intellectual disability who are in crisis.

Assembly Bill 953, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, would revise the definition of “racial profiling” and prohibit law enforcement officers from engaging in that practice. The bill would also require the attorney general to establish the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board to improve diversity and racial sensitivity in law enforcement.

Assembly Bill 619, also introduced by Weber, would require law enforcement agencies to report to the attorney general within 10 days when a person dies while in custody or in a local or state correctional facility.

The report would include all facts in the possession of the agency concerning the death. The law also would make the written report a public record under the California Public Records Act, and thus open to public inspection pursuant to the act.

The bill would additionally require the attorney general to annually provide to the Legislature a report summarizing the and would require the attorney general to make those reports available to the public on the Department of Justice’s website.

The Rev. K.W. Tulloss of the National Action Network Los Angeles chapter helped to organize the April 30 rally.

“There needs to be absolute transparency to hold responsible parties accountable,” Tulloss said. “The police are not capable of policing themselves.”

Michael Brown Sr., the father of the teen who was killed by police in Ferguson last year was the special guest speaker at the rally. Brown spoke briefly to the crowd, stating “All lives matter.”

“One of the most important things we did at the march was to collect signatures in support of the bills that we want to present to the California Legislature,” Ali said. “Hopefully, these bills will make it to Governor Brown’s desk and he will sign each one into law.”

Ali called police violence a national crisis and said the local rally and similar protests throughout the country were serving to apply pressure on elected officials nationwide to take action.

He said that the charges filed against six Baltimore police officers in connection with Gray’s death was a sign that the demonstrations across the country were having an effect.

“Marches and rallies do work,” he said.