In these times of increasing complaints against members of the law enforcement (LE) community, California is taking further measure to increase transparency, and help pluck out the “bad apples” within the that community through the passage of SB 2 late last year. This change in the law comes, perhaps, in large part in response to the number of stories of law enforcement gangs we’ve seen of late, with officers systematically taking advantage of their positions of authority.  While these gangs have been reported to be primarily located in the Greater LA area, such gangs have also been identified in Northern California.
As part of holding law enforcement accountable, those who have felt wronged by law enforcement have long been eligible to file a civil lawsuit for damages under the “Tom Bane Civil Rights Act, which states that if a LE member, “whether or not acting under color of law,” interferes or attempts “to interfere, by threats, intimidation, or coercion, with the exercise or enjoyment of any rights secured by …[the law]” those injured are “authorized to bring a civil action for equitable relief and a civil penalty.”
That said, “public employees are not liable for injury caused by their instituting or prosecuting any judicial or administrative proceeding within the scope of their employment, even if they act maliciously and without probable cause.” Further, there is also a lot of protection, shielding LE departments from such claims. For example, under the Government Claims Act, unless a statute provides otherwise, “a public entity is not liable for injury, whether such injury arises out of an act or omission of the public entity or a public employee.... However, a public entity is liable for injury proximately caused by an act or omission of an employee within the scope of their employment if the act or omission would otherwise have given rise to a cause of action against that employee.
So what can be done when bad officers are polluting the officer pool? Let’s go after LE Officers’ ability to actually be qualified to perform their jobs!
Even prior to this change in law created via SB 2, both the Penal and Government Code required certain minimum training and moral character requirements for peace officers, and established some disqualifying factors for employment as a peace officer, such as having a felony conviction on their record. A large portion of this “minimum training” involved training and certification through the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST,) which develops training courses and curriculum, and establishes a professional certificate program that awards different levels of certification based on training, education, experience, and other relevant prerequisites. While POST was allowed to cancel a certificate that was awarded in error or fraudulently obtained, it was prohibited from canceling or revoking a properly-issued certificate.
…So it was hard to sue law enforcement, and even harder to get an officer fired.
Out here in the civilian world, one of the problems many in the community faced in trying to seek justice following an encounter with an out of control LE officer involved trying to get the personnel records and other such records of potential misconduct as such records were considered confidential.
In recognition of the need for more serious measures through which to hold law enforcement accountable, SB 2 now (1) requires POST to adopt a definition of “serious misconduct” to serve as the criteria to be considered for ineligibility for—or revocation of—certification, (2) grants POST the power to investigate and determine the fitness of any person to serve as a peace officer, and to audit any law enforcement agency that employs peace officers without cause at any timeby (3) creating and empowering a new division to investigate and prosecute proceedings to take action against a peace officer’s certification. To lay the groundwork for what will be deemed “serious misconduct” the bill sets out a number of criteria which will automatically be included:
Further, the bill eliminated specified immunity provisions for peace and custodial officers, or public entities employing peace or custodial officers sued under the Tom Bane Civil Rights Act.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly in this era of desired transparency, the bill made it so all records related to the revocation of a peace officer’s certification are public and requires that records of an investigation be retained for 30 years.
With any luck, the passage and adoption of this change in law will help keep the credibility of law enforcement above reproach, and keep us all safer as a result.
 See “Los Angeles Deputy Says Colleagues are Part of Violent Gang” Dazio, NBC, August ,4 2020, available at: https://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/gang-los-angeles-county-sheriffs-deputies-executioners-compton/2407924/, [as of April 21, 2021].), _“In L.A. County, Gangs Wear Badges” Cheney-Rice, New York Magazine, September 4, 2020, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/09/l-a-county-sheriffs-department-has-a-gang-problem.html, [as of April 21, 2021,] and “Los Angeles Sheriff's deputies say gangs targeting "young Latinos" operate within department” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/los-angeles-sheriffs-deputies-gangs-young-latinos/, [as of April 21, 2021].
 “Vallejo Police Launch Independent Probe Into ‘Badge Bending' Allegations,” NBC Bay Area, July 31, 2020, available at: https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/north-bay/vallejo-police-launch-independent-probe-into-badge-bending-allegations/2336588/, [as of April 21, 2021].
 Civil Code Section 52.1.
 (Government Code Section 821.6.)
 Government Code Section 814 et seq.)
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