Deadly Uses of Force: Most California Police Departments Don’t Review Officer Cases

LAPD information technology bureau officer Jim Stover demonstrates the use of the body camera during a media event displaying the new body cameras to be used by the Los Angeles Police Department in Los Angeles, California August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Al Seib/Pool
LAPD information technology bureau officer Jim Stover demonstrates the use of the body camera during a media event displaying the new body cameras to be used by the Los Angeles Police Department in Los Angeles, California August 31, 2015. REUTERS/Al Seib/Pool

Senate Bill 1421, a California state law passed in late 2018 has opened internal investigation documents, California police departments policy issues have come to light. Many California police agencies do not review how officers under their employ acted or broke department rules and policies.

KQED and the Bay Area News Group analyzed records on officers’ use of deadly force released by 122 agencies statewide, and found that 10% failed to internally investigate incidents that occurred between 2014 and 2018. The incidents included 16 fatal shootings, three deaths following fights with officers, and nine nonfatal events.

A new law that has been approved by Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate Bill 230, is now mandating state policing agencies to review all instances when a police officer discharges a firearm and initiate new policies that would require the policing agency to analyze any case where an officer used force in the line of duty. The law goes into effect Jan. 1, but most of its requirements aren’t effective until 2021.

In response to the new findings, Ronald Lawrence, President of the California Police Chiefs Association, was quoted by KQED News as saying that he and other police leaders don’t even have a good idea of what most agencies are doing right now.

“The truth of the matter is we don’t know,” he said.

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