LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Fatal police shootings of unarmed people will now be investigated by the state, according to new guidelines released by California Attorney General Rob Bonta.
The new guidelines are being welcomed by civil rights advocates, calling it a major change that will make investigations of controversial shootings more transparent. But there are doubts that the new guidelines will work justly in reality.READ MORE: Coronavirus Hospitalizations Continue To Rise In Los Angeles County
Before he was appointed attorney general earlier this year, Rob Congressman co-authored a new state law known as AB1506, which required for the first time that all incidents of officer-involved shootings resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian to be investigated.
Up until now, officer-involved shootings that became deadly have been handled primarily by local law enforcement and county district attorneys. Critics say that process has been problematic because the investigating agencies are too close and personal with the subjects of their investigations.
“What we saw with AB1506 is a very well-meaning, I’m sure, legislator say, ‘what can we do to make it more just?’” Melina Abdullah, a professor who co-founded Black Lives Matter Los Angeles. “And it was recognizing that the DA relies on policing units in virtually every other case, and so they’re usually in bed together to a degree. What we really need is independent investigations.”
Claremont-McKenna College professor of politics, Jack Pitney, says both state and local law enforcement will proceed cautiously at first.
“Controversy is inevitable. Officer-involved shootings are inherently fraught with high emotion, controversy,” he said. “And this pits local police departments and district attorney offices in potential conflict with the state.”READ MORE: TikTok Star Anthony Barajas Dies After Corona Movie Theater Shooting
The union that represents LAPD officers released a statement that reads in part:
“Officer-involved shootings currently go through a transparent and exhaustive investigative process…It is absolutely critical that this new process be grounded in evidence, based on the law, and not swayed by political pressure to ensure a fair process for everyone.”
Could the new guidelines end up being a source of tension between state investigators and local police? Bonta was guarded.
“I’m not going to predetermine anything,” he said. “And I will say that we are moving forward with these investigations consistent with our obligation under the law, and we’re doing it with collaborative spirit.”
Noted Los Angeles civil rights attorney Connie Rice is firmly in favor of the new law.
“I think what this bill will do is it will take the local relationships that kind of make it hard to go after officers who should be gone after criminally – makes it hard to do,” Rice said. “You know, Prosecutors need police officers to testify in their cases. And even with the local prosecutors that are assigned to prosecute local cops – guess who their investigators are? They come from the departments. Same departments.”MORE NEWS: Bacteria At Some Beaches Near Dockweiler Continues To Exceed State Standards
The law is not retroactive, and goes into effect this month.