SACRAMENTO – Today, Senate Bill 2, authored by Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego), was approved on a vote of 49-21 on the Assembly Floor. Also known as the Kenneth Ross Jr. Police Decertification Act of 2021, SB 2 aims to increase accountability for law enforcement officers that commit serious misconduct and illegally violate a person’s civil rights.
“SB 2 is a detailed and fair approach that fills a major gap in California’s public safety law,” said Senator Bradford. “Through many long discussions with stakeholders and law enforcement we have arrived at a final version of the bill that affords ample due process for officers and necessary community representation. California is often a national trend setter, but when it comes to the decertification of bad officers we are woefully behind. So much so that we are one of only four remaining states without a decertification process. This bill ensures that officers who break the public trust are held accountable for their actions and not allowed to simply move to another department. I’m proud to have worked with the Let Us Live Coalition to get this passed in the name of Kenneth Ross Jr., and the many families who have had their family members taken by cops who have abused their power.”
SB 2 creates a statewide decertification process to revoke the certification of a peace officer following the conviction of serious crimes or termination from employment due to misconduct. Additionally, SB 2 will strengthen the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act to prevent law enforcement abuses and other civil rights violations. For example, recently, two former Torrance city police officers were charged with conspiracy and vandalism. These officers left the department last year, but without a strong decertification process they will be able to be hired by another department and continue their racist and hateful misconduct. This is just one of many instances where a lack of accountability will lead to future abuses.
“This bill establishes a process that is effective in ridding departments of bad officers, protecting officers who do their job well— all while being workable for the POST Commission,” continued Senator Bradford. “There is no better time than now to create a strong police decertification system in California and restore the faith and confidence of communities in those that protect them.”
SB 2 is a priority of the CA Legislative Black Caucus and is sponsored by a coalition of community organizations including: Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of California, Anti-Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, California Families United 4 Justice, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, PolicyLink, STOP Coalition, and Youth Justice Coalition.
“My son, Kenneth Ross Jr., was stolen from me, from his son and from his family by a cop that already shot three other people. SB 2 was named in his honor because no mother should have to live with the kind of pain that I live with every day,” said Fouzia Almarou, mother of Kenneth Ross, Jr. who was killed by police in 2018. “I believe cops who shoot people shouldn’t be in our communities, and this bill gives us the ability to decertify cops when they abuse their power to harm us. Today’s vote helps my son’s legacy to live on and helps to protect my other children, my grandson and our community from police who harm our communities.”
“California has always had an obligation to keep communities safe, but for too long has neglected its responsibility to protect us from cops who come into our communities and cause harm,” said Michelle Monterossa, sister of Sean Monterossa who was killed by a Vallejo police officer last year. “While SB 2 can’t give my brother true justice, it is a moment for celebration because this bill will finally give California the power to take cops who engage in racist, abusive and often deadly acts of violence against our people off the streets.”
Senator Bradford is Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety and represents the Los Angeles County communities of Carson, Compton, Gardena, Harbor City, Hawthorne, Inglewood, Lawndale, Lennox, San Pedro, Torrance, Watts, Willowbrook, and Wilmington.
Within Senate Bill 2, it states:
The bill would eliminate certain immunity provisions for peace officers and custodial officers, or public entities employing peace officers or custodial officers sued under the act.
This bill would prohibit a person who has been convicted of a felony, as specified, from regaining eligibility for peace officer employment based upon any later order of the court setting aside, vacating, withdrawing, expunging or otherwise dismissing or reversing the conviction, unless the court finds the person to be factually innocent of the crime for which they were convicted at the time of entry of the order. The bill would disqualify a person from being employed as a peace officer if that person has been convicted of, or has been adjudicated in an administrative, military, or civil judicial process as having committed, a violation of certain specified crimes against public justice, including the falsification of records, bribery, or perjury. The bill would also disqualify any person who has been certified as a peace officer by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training and has surrendered that certification or had that certification revoked by the commission, or has been denied certification. The bill would disqualify any person previously employed in law enforcement in any state or United States territory or by the federal government, whose name is listed in the national decertification index, or any other database designated by the federal government, or who engaged in serious misconduct that would have resulted in their certification being revoked in this state. The bill would require a law enforcement agency employing certain peace officers to employ only individuals with a current, valid certification or pending certification.
This bill would require the Department of Justice to provide the commission with necessary disqualifying felony and misdemeanor conviction data for all persons known by the department to be current or former peace officers, as specified. The bill would grant the commission the power to investigate and determine the fitness of any person to serve as a peace officer in the state. The bill would direct the commission to issue or deny certification, which includes a basic certificate or proof of eligibility, to a peace officer in accordance with specified criteria. The bill would require the commission to issue a proof of eligibility or basic certificate, as specified, to certain persons employed as a peace officer on January 1, 2022, who do not otherwise possess a certificate. The bill would declare certificates or proof of eligibility awarded by the commission to be property of the commission and would authorize the commission to suspend or revoke a proof of eligibility or certificate on specified grounds, including the use of excessive force, sexual assault, making a false arrest, or participating in a law enforcement gang, as defined.
The bill would make all records related to the revocation of a peace officer’s certification public and would require that records of an investigation be retained for 30 years.
The bill would require an agency employing peace officers to report to the commission the employment, appointment, or separation from employment of a peace officer, any complaint, charge, allegation, or investigation into the conduct of a peace officer that could render the officer subject to suspension or revocation, findings by civil oversight entities, and civil judgements that could affect the officer’s certification.
In case of a separation from employment or appointment, the bill would require each agency to execute an affidavit-of-separation form adopted by the commission describing the reason for separation. The bill would require the affidavit to be signed under penalty of perjury. By creating a new crime, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The bill would require the board to report annually on the activities of the division, board, and commission, relating to the certification program, including the number of applications for certification, the events reported, the number of investigations conducted, and the number of certificates surrendered or revoked.