Is pendulum swinging back on police issues?

June 25, 2012

By Steven Greenhut

SACRAMENTO — It’s dangerous to read too much into some small signs of sanity at the state Capitol, but the deaths in recent days of two obnoxious police-secrecy bills reminds us that there are, indeed, some limits to the groveling that California legislators will accept to earn the favor of law-enforcement unions.

The fate of these bills — along with some protests and other actions taking place across the state — might also be a sign that the state’s residents are ready for a wider debate about some core civil liberties, something in short supply since the 9/11 attacks encouraged Americans to put their security above their freedoms.

Democratic and Republican politicians depend on the support of the uniformed unions and fear being labeled as soft-on-crime, which means that these special-interest groups get pretty much whatever they demand. There’s a reason those six-figure pensions are so common. But the problem goes well beyond pension spiking and other financial issues.

Last week, the Senate Governance and Finance Committee killed Assembly Bill 2299, which would have allowed police officers, correctional officers, prosecutors and judges to keep their names off public property records. Approved by the Assembly 68-0, the bill was based on the unproven notion that criminals look up the home addresses of public safety officials and then attack them — even supporters couldn’t come up with examples of this having happened.

Had it passed, the bill would have undermined the public property record system and would have been an open door for real estate scams.

The legislators who voted for this bill knew better, but they weren’t about to stand up to these unions. Yet sanity did prevail.

Emergency calls

It also prevailed with AB 1275, which would have banned the media from getting copies of transcripts and tapes of 911 emergency calls.

AB 1275, also killed in a Senate committee, was a reaction to the release of an emergency call earlier this year involving actress Demi Moore and was supposedly designed to spare citizens embarrassment. But the real result would have been protecting law enforcement officials from scrutiny over their handling of emergency situations.

In the past, these bills would have moved forward with little scrutiny, but this police-union overreach grabbed wider attention and sparked the dismay of newspaper editorial boards across California.

We all know that secrecy is a petri dish for misbehavior, yet the unions continue to push bills that shield their members from oversight. It’s already very difficult to learn what actually happened in many cases of police use of deadly force, thanks to the Peace Officers Bill of Rights in the state Government Code and other special protections.

Consider the following headlines: “Surge seen in shootings of Sacramento deputies” and “Killings of police in L.A. County jump sharply.” Everyone in the state would be well-aware of this data. The Capitol rightly would be awash in proposals to protect officers from the carnage.

Those headlines are close to accurate, except one word was changed in each.

The actual headlines are (from the Sacramento Bee): “Surge seen in shootings by Sacramento County deputies,” and (from the Los Angeles Times), “Killings by police in L.A. County jump sharply.

There’s a trend here.

Police have broad latitude to use deadly force. Thanks to the Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights and the state Supreme Court’s Copley Press vs. San Diego decision in 2006, the public and media have virtually no access to allegations of wrongdoing or investigations against police officers. We see only what police agencies want us to see, and only through the civil litigation process do crucial details emerge. But lawsuits are no panacea given that agencies often provide financial compensation in exchange for nondisclosure.

Force issues

In Sacramento, complacent official attitudes toward police use-of-force issues may contribute to the problem. District Attorney Jan Scully halted all investigations of police-involved shootings, a shocking dereliction of duty that she blames on budget cuts, but is a sop to police unions.

Increasing numbers of officer-involved shootings may be statistical anomalies, but the pattern is spread across various jurisdictions.

“The high number of killings last year underscores a pronounced jump in the overall number of occasions in which officers fired their weapons at suspects,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

While most shootings appear justified (especially given the wide latitude given officers), there is no trend justifying the increase.

“The rise in killings by police is all the more notable because it occurred at a time when the overall number of homicides in the area had fallen to historic lows,” the Times said. “With 612 people killed in the county last year, nearly 1 in every 10 such deaths occurred at the hands of law enforcement officers.”

It’s about time for a public debate about these numbers and about the degree to which extreme protections for officials may have led to an increased willingness to use deadly force. In many cases, the victims were unarmed.

Outside review

In Anaheim, the city announced that all officer-involved shootings will be subject to outside review. A daily vigil held by family members of several people killed by the city’s police has kept pressure on the city. In the June 5 election, Fullerton residents recalled three councilmen who they believed were complicit in protecting officers involved in the death of Kelly Thomas, an unarmed homeless man — during an arrest in July 2011 that was captured in horrifying detail on video.

In recent days, Rodney King — the victim of an infamous beating by Los Angeles police that led to 1992 Los Angeles riots — was found dead in the pool at his home.

The riots led to some police reforms but also hardened attitudes by the public. The 9/11 attacks and continued pushing of the envelope by police unions impelled the pendulum further in the law-and-order direction. Maybe now it will swing back a bit in the other direction.

When even the union-dominated California Senate says enough is enough, there, indeed, may be reason for optimism.

Steven Greenhut is vice president of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity; write to him at [email protected]


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  1. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 24 June, 2012, 20:48

    Our property recording system would NEVER have worked with what was proposed.

    The PUBLIC recording system is the only way property records can be maintained.

    Even if the bill passed it would have completely shut down our property recording system.

    Reply this comment
  2. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 24 June, 2012, 20:50

    Police have broad latitude to use deadly force. Thanks to the Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights and the state Supreme Court’s Copley Press vs. San Diego decision in 2006, the public and media have virtually no access to allegations of wrongdoing or investigations against police officers. We see only what police agencies want us to see, and only through the civil litigation process do crucial details emerge.
    Federal lawsuits will get you all the info you need, the GED Cop bill of rights doesn’t apply there, no state laws do.

    Reply this comment
  3. Donkey
    Donkey 24 June, 2012, 21:46

    Steven you have done a nice job of pointing out the self-serving nature of the LE RAGWUS. Hiding behind layers of bureaucracy the investigations done for officer involved shootings are nothing more than choreographed charades that always clear the killers.

    The murder of Ashley MacDonald, An 18 year old girl, by Officers Parker and Randle of the HBPD in the middle of Sunview Park is an example of a charade investigation, sactioned every step of the way by connected insiders of LE. Shot at 21 times and hit 15, she was hit in the back 5 times while lying on the ground. T-Rack, head prosecutor of the Orange County DA’s office, found no wrong doing by either of these two cowards. The head investigator for the DA’s office, David Brent, arrested some months later for punching his girlfriend at the Oceanview High School parking lot, is the type of people these charade investigations employ to “get at the truth” of these killings.

    The murder of Ashley was absurd, the investigation was even more so. LE has to hide its face from the public to keep from being exposed as the muderous cowards they have become. 😉

    Reply this comment
  4. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 24 June, 2012, 23:28

    Slow down….they are watching!!

    Reply this comment
  5. Donkey
    Donkey 25 June, 2012, 06:49

    No UH, it is us that are watching and understanding.

    You seem to not understand that these unseemly outbursts and dubious arguments are simply metaphors for the frustration with a government that is not listening to them and, where the LE RAGWUS even seem contemptuous of them. To some extent this is the inevitable outcome of laws crafted in back room deals and voted in the middle of the night by RAGWUS lackies that don’t even know what is in it. And then you see many crucial decisions affecting American’s lives devolve on unelected Bureaucrats, Boards and Commissions.

    Only “true believers” can rationalize that this is all the product of evil “vested interests”(The RAGWUS) peddling “lies” rather than understanding that the RAGWUS cabal sees us all as blind men, certain that the part we grasp defines the elephant. You can strike a match but you will have no fire without ample tinder. I am not worried UH, the RAGWUS is starting this fire and people like myself are going to be available to put it out!!

    Reply this comment
  6. Donkey
    Donkey 25 June, 2012, 07:24

    The RAGWUS is evil! The LE RAGWUS even more so. When even one American’s rights are usurped by the malicious machinations of an overweening government run by the RAGWUS then that puts the rights of every American in jeopardy. The RAGWUS is using its power, derived from our tax dollars, to enslave the private sector citizens. The truth is thatas of now we are enslaved to their obscene pay, benefits, perks, and pensions right now, if we choose to stay in California. How long until the LE RAGWUS demands of their politicl lackies a law exacting a penalty tax for those attempting to flee the state! 🙂

    Reply this comment
  7. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 25 June, 2012, 07:49

    Donk, you’re on a roll…..even Teddy’s sock puppet can’t respond 😉

    Reply this comment
  8. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 25 June, 2012, 08:15

    When your in your warm comfy middle class crib and hear the sliding glass door open violently downstairs….call some of your drucken goose stepping militia “boys” to save your life!

    Reply this comment
  9. Donkey
    Donkey 25 June, 2012, 09:12

    As opposed to calling your “goose stepping” GED LE RAGWUS buddies UH? The type of people that claim to be do firghtened by teenage girls that they have to gun them down in the middle of a park?

    No, I would choose to save my own life. I still shoot a steady 365 at the shootig range and my MMA background still gives me an advantage. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  10. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 25 June, 2012, 09:13

    Donk-you just knocked teddy into next week 😉 he will never recover.

    Reply this comment
  11. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 25 June, 2012, 12:49

    You both laugh at your own jokes…..a sign….they will come for you! Soon.

    Reply this comment
  12. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 25 June, 2012, 16:15

    See Donk…. lame come back from the Teddy sock puppet 😉 Will never recover 🙂

    Reply this comment
  13. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 25 June, 2012, 16:59

    Delusional thought. Another sign.

    WONDER DONKEY….the police keep crime down. Three Strikes is working well too.

    Reply this comment
  14. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 25 June, 2012, 17:05

    BOOM!! Next week 😉

    Reply this comment
  15. Donkey
    Donkey 25 June, 2012, 19:23

    No UH, the police have little bearing on the amount of crime in a city, county, or state. It is the citizens that determine the real crime in a in these entities. It is the LE RAGWUS politicians that determine what a crime will be, and this is why we have the American Gulag in the land of the “free” and home of the brave. Like Frank Zappa says “American laws are badly written and randomly enforced.” I am not sure when he said thsi if he was aware of the wretched LE RAGWUS hiding behind the curtain, pulling all the strings. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  16. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 25 June, 2012, 19:29

    Does anyone out there belive this stuff?

    Reply this comment
  17. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 25 June, 2012, 19:34

    Teddy is out for the 10 count Donk 🙂

    Reply this comment
  18. Donkey
    Donkey 25 June, 2012, 19:50

    UH wrote: “Does anyone out there belive this stuff?”

    Only people with a brain UH!! 😉

    Reply this comment
  19. Donkey
    Donkey 25 June, 2012, 19:54

    Rex @ 17. Like many of the RAGWUS feeders, UH is unable to see that the whole mess his cabal has created is going to fall right out from under his feet quicker than a person can blink. The math will not sustain his Wonderland Fantasy. 🙂

    Reply this comment
  20. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 25 June, 2012, 22:20

    agreed Donk

    Reply this comment
  21. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 25 June, 2012, 23:44

    You two need re-education camp.

    Reply this comment
  22. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 25 June, 2012, 23:49

    Teddy- You three (you and your 2 sock puppets Queeg and Uhaul!!) need ecconomics camp 🙂


    Reply this comment
  23. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 26 June, 2012, 15:50

    Sorry clowns — I have been enjoying a vacation. Greeny’s article and the psycho dull normal posse comments are typical.

    Type on trolls !!!!

    Reply this comment
  24. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 26 June, 2012, 23:05

    Teddy, where did you and Beelz go during your Time Out????

    Reply this comment
  25. Ted Steele, The Decider
    Ted Steele, The Decider 27 June, 2012, 09:08

    I wonder where beezyboob went? But I have been here litle buddy– you see I don’t engage in hate race speak like he does.

    Reply this comment
  26. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 27 June, 2012, 23:34

    Ted Steele, The Decider says:
    June 27, 2012 at 9:08 am
    I wonder where beezyboob went? But I have been here litle buddy– you see I don’t engage in hate race speak like he does.


    Queeg says:
    June 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm
    Give Teddy some respect. He says litle but it’s powerful!



    Notice how you misspelled the same word (litle) under your sock puppet account 🙂 Man, I love busting you Teddy Steals!

    Reply this comment
  27. Nancy Lewis
    Nancy Lewis 29 June, 2012, 08:28

    Look up the web site Jury and Judge Mueller in Federal Court in Sacramento found CHP Officers guilty of wrongful death, excessive use of force, battery! It was proven by several witness’s that these 2 CHP Michael Walling and Steve Coffman and Sheriff Gariman lied in federal court and was proven that Joey was murdered. Coverup! They made a mistake and thought Joey was a street racer shot him outside his truck in the leg and then shot him 24 more times to coverup! CHP is not above the law! What is the liability to have these two still on the streets, making things happen and collecting large amounts of overtime! Judge Mueller made a ruling that the achohol content could not be used at this trial. Because there was evidence that CHP can alter the findings. Witness after witness in federal court proved that this was murder. But yet DA’s in our wonderful town of Stockton coverup their wrong doings. How can our children trust that our law inforcement is there to protect and serve? Just pray that these two officers don’t make things happen for overtime and pull over your son. God bless Judge Mueller and the jury.

    Reply this comment
  28. grooviefan
    grooviefan 20 August, 2012, 04:45

    it will be the 6th annivsary of ashley’s murder this saturday. and parker and randle still walk this earth. how can a young woman be shot 17 times in the back, and people will say she charged the PD ?? liars.

    Reply this comment

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