Along with the rest of the country, CHW’s Public Safety Liability Defense Practice is closely monitoring recent developments and proposals for police reform. These issues affect our public agency clients, and we will continue to update our readers here, via our newsletter and via bulletin editions of the newsletter.

At the state level, Governor Newsom announced last week that he directed the state’s police standards office to stop training on the controversial carotid restraint hold. Though his action does not ban the practice, he also announced support for AB 1196 to be introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Compton) to do just that. Police departments statewide have since imposed moratoria on the practice, including San Diego, Santa Ana, Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Sacramento.

Also last week, California Democratic leaders — led by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), along with Assemblymembers Dr. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) — announced they will pursue legislation to set standards for law enforcement use of rubber bullets, or Kinetic Impact Projectiles (KIPs). They seek to eliminate the use of rubber bullets “to suppress freedom of assembly, peaceful protest, or to facilitate curfews and disperse people demonstrating.”

At the federal level, congressional Democrats announced this week their police reform bill, the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. Proposed by Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif), House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), and Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.), the bill would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases. It also seeks to lower the bar for criminal prosecution of police officers by allowing charges not only for intentional, but also for reckless, misconduct. It emphasizes independent state and local investigations of police misconduct, as well as “pattern and practice” investigations by state attorneys general and the Department of Justice in lieu of internal investigations by police agencies themselves. A National Police Misconduct Registry would also maintain public records of officers’ violations to prevent officers from changing employers to avoid accountability. Finally, it would mandate racial bias training, require officers to intervene to restrain a colleague acting outside the law, and make lynching a federal hate crime. The bill does not promote decreasing police budgets; however, it also does not promote additional funding for police departments to implement these reforms.

Despite all this activity, the Supreme Court has — for the fourth week in a row — declined to grant review on pending petitions for certiorari (review) of the qualified immunity defense to civil damages claims against government officials for civil rights violations, which include alleged police abuse. In each of those weeks, SCOTUS has reviewed, but deferred to another day, nine pending petitions on this subject. CHW’s recent Bulletin on the subject details this issue. We will see what SCOTUS news next week brings and, as always, we will keep you updated!