Police anger over new law could shake CA Dem coalition

Sacramento_CapitolCalifornia’s Democratic Party has dominated the state Legislature so thoroughly since Republican Gov. Pete Wilson left office in 1999 that it may be difficult to imagine the party fracturing and losing its control in Sacramento. But given the tensions between its biggest sources of funds — public employee unions — and its most reliable voting blocs — Latinos and African Americans — it seems within the realm of possibility.

The tension has been on broad display in recent days as law enforcement unions and police chiefs react angrily to a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown that is driven by the assumption that officers routinely act in racially biased ways:

For civil rights activists, Brown’s action was a big step toward protecting minorities from racial profiling.


For many in law enforcement, the measure creates a massive new bureaucratic headache that will do little to illuminate the question of whether police treat minority groups fairly.


“It’s a terrible piece of legislation,” said Lt. Steve James, president of the Long Beach Police Officers Assn. and the national trustee for the California Fraternal Order of Police.


Written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, in response to fatal police shootings of unarmed black men and other people of color, the legislation will require officers to collect data on anyone they stop, including “perceived” race and ethnicity, the reason for the encounter and whether arrests were made.

That’s from the Los Angeles Times’ account of the uproar over the new law. It is certain to be contentious going forward, especially given the likelihood that some departments will simply ignore it and say they don’t have the resources to spare.

Vergara suit based on claims of poor treatment of minorities

A potential for an even bigger rupture lies with the Vergara v. California lawsuit. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled in 2014 that five state laws protecting veteran teachers’ rights were unconstitutional because they had the net effect of funneling the most troubled teachers to poor minority communities. Treu said this amounted to a de facto segregated school system but stayed his decision pending an appeal.

The deadline for filing “friend of the court” briefs in the appeal was Sept. 16, and the prominence of those who chose to do so reflects the high stakes in the case:

Parties filing in support of the two teacher unions, the California Association of Teachers and California Federation of Teachers, and the state, which are all co-defendants, were Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, Equal Justice Society, Education Law Center, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Advancing Justice-LA, according to a press release from CTA. …


Joining a list of education chiefs from around the nation, student groups, business organizations and others who filed briefs supporting the student plaintiffs was [Arnold] Schwarzenegger and [Pete] Wilson, who wrote, “At stake in this case is not only the future of California’s students, but also the future of California,” said the former California governors, both Republicans. “As students who learn from grossly ineffective teachers face lifelong setbacks, by extension, California’s future economic and social success is similarly impacted.”

That’s from L.A. School Report. What’s noteworthy is the absence of Latino groups either supporting or opposing Treu’s ruling, even though its most sweeping findings were largely based on the treatment of Latino students in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Former state Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, has been an outspoken critic of how public education works in California. She has long asserted that Latino state lawmakers are scared of taking on the CTA and the CFT, especially if they hope to end up in leadership positions. Whether that’s true or not, few Latino politicians beyond Romero and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have taken on the unions.

Black lawmaker leading Democratic critic of teachers unions

weberInstead, the most prominent Democratic critic of teachers unions is the same African American lawmaker who wrote the police profiling bill. Weber introduced a measure this spring that would have required teacher evaluations to include student performance. It was quickly killed in committee, prompting Weber to sharply criticize her fellow Democrats and their union backers.

A Los Angeles Times poll earlier this year showed support for the sort of changes sought by Weber and other reforms, in particular having teacher layoffs be determined by classroom performance, not seniority.

Weber and the California Legislative Black Caucus have also expressed concerns about the implementation of 2013’s Local Control Funding Formula, a state law championed by Gov. Jerry Brown that was supposed to directly help struggling students by providing them with more resources and attention. A January Legislative Analyst’s Office report looked at 50 California school districts, including the 11 largest, and found none had adequate safeguards in place to prevent LCFF dollars from going to teacher compensation or other uses.

The appeals trial in the Vergara case is expected to begin later this year with oral arguments. Plaintiffs have said they expect the appellate ruling by January.

Chris Reed

Chris Reed

Chris Reed is a regular contributor to Cal Watchdog. Reed is an editorial writer for U-T San Diego. Before joining the U-T in July 2005, he was the opinion-page columns editor and wrote the featured weekly Unspin column for The Orange County Register. Reed was on the national board of the Association of Opinion Page Editors from 2003-2005. From 2000 to 2005, Reed made more than 100 appearances as a featured news analyst on Los Angeles-area National Public Radio affiliate KPCC-FM. From 1990 to 1998, Reed was an editor, metro columnist and film critic at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario. Reed has a political science degree from the University of Hawaii (Hilo campus), where he edited the student newspaper, the Vulcan News, his senior year. He is on Twitter: @chrisreed99.

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