Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, has introduced a pair of bills that would expand the public’s access to police records and reform the response system for 911 calls concerning noncrimes such as mental health and homelessness.
Senate Bill 776 would offer the public access to records documenting a law enforcement officer’s past use of force incidents, wrongful arrests and searches and biased or discriminatory actions.
According to Skinner’s office, SB 776 would also levy a civil penalty of $1,000 per day against law enforcement agencies that slow-walk public records requests and mandate that they can only charge for the cost of document duplication, not editing or redacting.
“Californians have the right to know who is patrolling our streets and who is given the authority to enforce our laws,” Skinner said in a news release. “We must not settle for officers who abuse authority in any way.”
The other bill, Senate Bill 773, would reform the state’s 911 system to send paramedics, mental health counselors and other nonlaw enforcement officers to nonviolent and noncriminal situations.
The city of Eugene, Oregon, implemented a similar program in 1989 to handle the city’s mental health 911 calls. According to Skinner’s office, Eugene’s Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets program handled roughly 24,000 of the city’s 133,000 911 calls last year and needed police backup on only 150 calls.
Skinner framed both bills as building on her Senate Bill 1421, which went into effect in January 2019 and made certain police use-of-force and misconduct records available to the public for the first time in roughly 40 years.
“It’s time to reimagine policing and how we respond to community needs,” Skinner said.
Both bills are currently being considered by the state Assembly’s Rules Committee.