June 23, 2020
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COUNTY STEPS UP ON LAW ENFORCEMENT REFORMS
SAN JOSE – The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors today voted unanimously (5-0) on County Supervisor Joe Simitian’s package of reforms related to policing, use of force, and emergency response policies in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota (see attachment).
Santa Clara County Public Defender Molly O’Neal, in a letter of support for Simitian’s proposals, called them, “…an aggressive but sensible formula for reform…” And the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Santa Clara County called the proposals, “…timely, appropriate, and needed.”
“The details of George Floyd’s killing are by now known to us all. Indeed, they seem all too familiar. Because they are,” said Simitian. “What we have just witnessed is and should be deeply disturbing to every American. It is inherently inconsistent with our nation’s stated aspiration to provide equal justice under the law. And there can be no argument that the pain of such behavior weighs most heavily on communities of color.”
Simitian’s reforms consist of three parts: a set of reforms commonly known as “8 Can’t Wait,” a set of additional “more ambitious” reforms, and a review of existing County policies to ensure compliance with rapidly developing state law on the use of force, including deadly force, by California law enforcement officials.
8 Can’t Wait
Following the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, a group called Campaign Zero conducted a study entitled “Examining the Role of Use of Force Policies in Ending Police Violence.” Based on that study, they published a series of eight policy reforms they now call “8 Can’t Wait.” Campaign Zero argues that these eight proposals are data-driven and shown to reduce the incidence and severity of officer-involved violence.
The Board is moving forward with urging the Sheriff’s Department to immediately review its use of force policies and adapt them to be consistent with the “8 Can’t Wait” reforms:
· Requiring officers to intervene to stop another officer from using excessive force;
· Restricting or prohibiting the use of chokeholds, strangleholds, carotid restraints, and other approaches that cut off a suspect’s air supply or blood flow;
· Requiring officers to de-escalate situations to the greatest extent possible before using force, and to train officers specifically in de-escalation and violence reduction strategies;
· Updating use of force policies to more clearly represent the maximum level of force allowable in response to specific types of conduct;
· Requiring officers to give a clear verbal warning before using deadly force;
· Prohibiting officers from shooting at moving vehicles unless an individual in the vehicle poses a direct deadly threat by means other than the vehicle;
· Requiring officers to exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before resorting to deadly force; and,
· Requiring comprehensive reporting of both all uses of force and all threats of force.
In addition to the above “8 Can’t Wait” reforms, County law enforcement officials should consider policies:
· Prohibiting the hiring of enforcement and correctional officers with a history of excessive force or serious misconduct complaints (including lateral transfers);
· Making a public list of all lethal and less-lethal armaments currently owned by County departments;
· Limiting the acquisition of “military-style” weaponry and equipment;
· Banning or limiting the use of tear gas and rubber bullets as a crowd control technique; and,
· Restructuring County emergency response to ensure that the County employees best trained and suited to handle a given situation are able to do so.
Compliance with State Law
The County will also be assessing its various policies to ensure compliance with state law, including two newly passed pieces of legislation:
· Senate Bill 230 by State Senator Anna Caballero regarding use of force; and,
· Assembly Bill 392 by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber regarding deadly force.
Following the 2014 death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Simitian talked to social justice advocates, community members, academics, and law enforcement. These conversations led him to push for body-worn cameras, implicit bias training, and civilian oversight to protect the public against potential police misconduct. All are now in place.
“Body-worn cameras and implicit bias trainings are now in place. OIR Group, who was selected to head the Office of Correction and Law Enforcement Monitoring (OCLEM), has a work plan they’re now moving forward on to provide the oversight,” said Simitian. “Taken together, these are all important tools, but, there are systemic changes that are going to be required if we’re ever going to get to the place we need to be.”