Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hancock, Quirk lead public safety hearing on police and community trust

Assemblymember Bill Quirk
STATE LEGISLATURE | The public safety committee chairs of State Legislature, both representing the East Bay, said testimony Tuesday in Sacramento suggests scant information exists on the use of force by police officers in California, In addition, there is no accepted number of civilians killed by law enforcement each year in the state.

“We learned there are essentially no records of police use of force” said Hayward Assemblymember Quirk. “We have no records on the racial aspects of this. We have nothing.”

The day-long Joint Public Safety Committee on Law Enforcement and Community Trust featured expert testimony on compiling and building trust toward police with data and investigating police misconduct, among other topics.

State Sen. Loni Hancock
Quirk, the chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, said the hearing’s intent was to compile a set of facts on policing in the state and determine best practices for possible future legislation.

Quirk questioned whether the number of those killed in officer-involved shootings, often cited as around 400 each year, is actually somewhere around 1,000. "That's one thousand too many," he said."

State Sen. Loni Hancock said the panoply of differing standards and regulations among police departments across the state makes data on police abuse and race impossible to decipher. It may also warrant legislation to correct, she said.

Lawmakers in the East Bay and the entire state have participated in similar community forums over the past few months to deal with concerns over police brutality that were highlighted last fall in Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, N.Y.

Hancock chairs the State Senate Public Safety Committee and represents Oakland, Berkeley--communities were numerous protests have brought the issue to the forefront in the Bay Area.

“I've become convinced that unless we can build strong positive partnerships between police officers and the neighborhoods in which they work, we will not have true public safety,” said Hancock. “We will not have communities in which every person feels protected by the police, not afraid of the police.”

“Black lives matter. Police lives matter. All lives matter,” said Quirk during his opening statement. But, later in the hearing, some criticized the joint committee for the perception some of their comments toward law enforcement officials were too reverential, at one point, police were referred to as the “good guys.”

Later, Quirk told Alice Huffman, a state representative from the NAACP who offered testimony Tuesday afternoon, that it may be too late in the legislative calendar to offer a bill on the subject of police reform this year, but he welcomed their ideas, nonetheless. “If we can’t get to it this year, over the summer and fall, we can work on it,” said Quirk.

Huffman, added there is much interest in the capitol for such legislation.

Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) agreed and questioned whether the Legislature will have to the courage to pass meaningful police reforms this session. Weber then appeared to rebut Quirk’s comments.

“We can say the bills are coming late. But where there’s a will, there’s always a way,” said Weber. “I’m not going to hide behind deadlines and things like that because I know everybody’s got all these spot bills and everything and they can do a whole lot of magic with it, if they chose to.”


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