Monday, May 20, 2024

Newsom Proposes Rolling Back Police Transparency to Balance Budget

Newsom now wants to get rid of that transparency element...

(Headline USA) California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed an end to public disclosure of investigations of abusive and corrupt police officers, handing the responsibility instead to local agencies in an effort to help cover an estimated $31.5 billion budget deficit.

The proposal has prompted strong criticism from a coalition of criminal justice and press freedom groups, which spent years pushing for the disclosure rules that were part of a law Newsom signed in 2021.

The law allows the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to investigate and decertify police officers for misconduct, such as use of excessive force, sexual assault and dishonesty.

It requires the commission to make public the records of decertification cases.

Newsom now wants to get rid of that transparency element. The commission says the public could still get the records from police departments.

The coalition of more than 20 groups opposing the new proposal, including the American Civil Liberties Union, also accused the Democratic governor of abusing the budget process to push through his proposal introduced in April.

Carmen-Nicole Cox, director of government affairs for ACLU California Action, said Newsom’s proposal should have gone through the traditional legislative process, instead of being put into the budget.

Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford, who authored the 2021 landmark bill, declined to comment on the proposed change.

The governor’s office referred questions to the commission, whose spokesperson said the proposed change is a cost-saving measure that would still allow the public to access information on decertification cases from local police departments.

California is facing a nearly $32 billion budget deficit this year and the proposal is one of many of Newsom’s cost-cutting measures.

Neither the governor’s office nor the commission shared how much money the state could save under the proposal.

According to a May budget request, the commission estimated it will handle up to 3,500 decertification cases each year. That’s about 4% of all officers in California. The commission, which has suspended or decertified 44 police officers so far this year, requested an additional $6 million to handle the large number of complaints.

“Because of the substantial fiscal implications, as well as the need to urgently implement these cost-saving measures into law, the budget process is the most appropriate avenue for this,” commission spokesperson Meagan Poulos said in a statement.

The state Legislature passed its own version of the state budget Thursday to meet its deadline without including Newsom’s proposed change to the decertification process. Legislative leaders and the governor’s office will continue negotiations to finalize the budget by the end of the month.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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