SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A California law that gives peace officers certain protections is getting new scrutiny following the controversial shooting death of Stephon Clark.
The CA Peace Officers Bill of Rights was passed into law in the late 1970s. California is one of more than a dozen states that have such a law.
“We’re not saying get rid of the bill of rights, but there are some things that need to be changed or deleted,” said Greater Sacramento’s NAACP Chapter president, Betty Williams.
As protests and rally’s continue in the fight for justice for Stephon Clark’s death, community leaders are demanding change.
“It gives them too much wiggle room to be found innocent in cases they shouldn’t be,” said Williams
The bill of rights exists to make sure criminal and administrative investigations on officers are done fairly, and that their constitutional rights are protected.
McGeorge law professor John Myers says it’s about due process.
“It has nothing to do with the public, nothing to do with police officer’s use of deadly force, it’s a procedural mechanism to make sure officers are treated fairly by their employers,” said Myers.
So what are some of those protections? With the bill of rights, officers have the right to know they were under investigation; there are set time limits on disciplinary actions, allows for administrative appeals. But the Sacramento NAACP chapter president says the law gives police too much power.
“Prior to an interrogation, the officer involved has the right to see and hear the evidence that’s put before him. No one else that’s going up against a judge has that type of right or power,” said Williams.
She adds that laws make it difficult for the public to learn whether officers have been disciplined appropriately because the records are confidential.
“If we come back to [Sacramento Police] Chief [Daniel] Hahn and say what happened to officer A-B-C, he can’t say! He’ll likely say it’s a personnel issue, and that officer can go to another city and work,” she said.
But Myers says a level of privacy is needed.
“Deciding what the proper balance lies between transparency and confidentiality for govt employees is a delicate task that the legislature visits ever so often, it may be time to revisit that in light of this horrible tragedy,” said Myers.
Efforts to amend the law are underway. Williams says the NAACP is working with lawmakers on a bill that could be introduced as early as Tuesday.