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Civil Rights Groups Strategize as Police Accountability Bill is Gutted to Research

File photo a civilian watch group, held a public forum in San Francisco.

File photo a civilian watch group, held a public forum in San Francisco.

By Manny Otiko | California Black Media

Civil rights groups took to a conference call to strategize on how to breathe life into AB 284, a law that would have forced all police shootings to be investigated by independent prosecutors assigned by the California Attorney General’s office.
AB 284 was introduced by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) earlier this year. But sources on the call suggested that McCarty has done little to advance the bill and criticized concessions he made to make it a five million dollar research bill, a day before many people were getting ready to celebrate the Fourth of July.

One of the main arguments for AB 284 is that local district attorneys, who are assigned to prosecute police shootings, are too close to the cases and reluctant to charge officers. This is one of the reasons why prosecutors often fail to win convictions if the cases are even brought to trial. Philando Castile, a Minnesota motorist, was gunned down by a police officer while he was carrying a licensed weapon. But prosecutors failed to win a conviction, even though the incident was captured on tape and broadcast on Facebook Live.

However, California has its own share of questionable police shootings, such as Alfred Olango, an unarmed black man shot dead by El Cajon police, Oscar Grant shot by a Bart transit officer in Oakland and Joseph Mann, a mentally ill unarmed man, shot 16 times by Sacramento police. According to the Guardian, last year the Los Angeles Police Department recorded the highest number of police shootings in the nation.

AB 284 is supported by several organizations such as the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network (NAN) and Sacramento NAACP. In May, Sharpton held a press conference at the State Capitol alongside the Rev K.W. Tulloss, NAN western regional director, and the Rev. Shane Harris, San Diego president of NAN, to urge legislators to pass AB 284.

Sharpton said although California claimed to be a progressive state, it leads the nation in police shootings.

“California has this image of progressivism but is not up to par with other states in the union, like New York, like Wisconsin, who have made toward a special prosecutor,” said Sharpton. He also pointed out that district attorneys often depend on the support of police unions during local elections.

AB 284 was opposed by several law enforcement organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police and the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association. The Police Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) dismissed AB 284 as a “waste of taxpayers dollars.”

Civil rights groups are expected to speak at the hearing room 3191 and hold a press conference after the hearing Tuesday, July 11, on the West steps of the Capitol.

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