By Antonio R. Harvey
On Oct. 8, Governor Gavin Newsom announced that he has vetoed several bills authored by members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC), including Assemblymember Kevin McCarty’s (D-Sacramento) Assembly Bill (AB) 603.
AB 603 would require municipalities to annually post on their websites information relating to settlements and judgments resulting from allegations of improper police conduct.
The information includes amounts paid, broken down by individual settlement and judgment, and information on bonds used to finance use-of-force settlement and judgment payments.
“The vast majority of the information that this legislation would require to be posted on department websites is already available through a Public Records Act request or in court records,” Newsom said in a written statement released Oct. 8. “Given this, I am concerned that this legislation is not only unnecessary but that it will also have potentially significant General Fund costs associated with the imposition of a state-reimbursable mandate on local law enforcement agencies.”
The bill by McCarty was written after he learned that in 2019, the City of Sacramento paid an insurance company $2 million in taxpayer dollars to secure up to $35 million for settlements and judgments.
Among the payouts made in 2019 was the city’s largest-ever settlement, involving $5.2 million for a man who was so brutally beaten by a police officer that he requires intensive, life-long medical care.
McCarty also discovered the Los Angeles Police Department cost taxpayers $80 million settling lawsuits involving officer misconduct in 2017. Additionally, the County of Los Angeles paid out more than $50 million in misconduct claims from 2015 to 2016. The majority of the cases were excessive force claims.
Shootings alone cost the County of Los Angeles $60 million between 2011 to 2016, McCarty’s office concluded.
“If the public knew how much money they’re spending on police settlements, they’d demand more reform in their own cities,” McCarty said in front of the State Capitol last April, when CLBC introduced a series of police reform bills for the legislative year.
The existing law requires each law enforcement agency to annually furnish specified information to the California Department of Justice regarding the use of force by a peace officer.
Despite the burden these payouts have on local jurisdictions, McCarty said that there is minimal publicly available information about the costs to taxpayers of law enforcement liability nor the manner in which governments budget for and pay lawsuits involving law enforcement.
The State law stipulates that individual officers do not pay towards these settlements.
The following are other bills vetoed by Gov. Newsom:
- AB 1542 by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) – County of Yolo: Secured Residential Treatment Program.
AB 1542 would authorize the County of Yolo to offer a pilot program that would allow individuals struggling with substance use disorders, who have been convicted of qualifying drug-motivated crimes, to be placed in a Secured Residential Treatment Program.
“I understand the importance of developing programs that can divert individuals away from the criminal justice system, but coerced treatment for substance use disorder is not the answer. While this pilot would give a person the choice between incarceration and treatment, I am concerned that this is a false choice that effectively leads to forced treatment. I am especially concerned about the effects of such treatment, given that evidence has shown coerced treatment hinders participants’ long-term recovery from their substance use disorder,” Newsom stated.
- AB 105 by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) – The Upward Mobility Act of 2021: boards and commissions.
This bill would modify several processes related to civil service job announcements, examinations, classifications, and hiring practices. AB 105 also promotes upward mobility for people of color in California’s civil services system and requires diversity on state boards and commissions.
While AB 105 is “laudable, elements of the bill conflict with existing constitutional requirements, labor agreements, and current data collection efforts. Therefore, it may have unintended consequences that warrant further consideration. Furthermore, as AB 105 would cost tens of millions of dollars, these one-time and significant ongoing costs should be considered through the annual state budget process,” Newsom stated.
- AB 369 by Senator Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles) – Medi-Cal services: persons experiencing homelessness.
This bill would direct the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) to establish a Presumptive Eligibility Program for persons experiencing homelessness, authorize all off-premises services under Medi-Cal, remove care authorization and coordination strategies typically provided by Primary Care Physicians, and deduct capitation payments made to Medi-Cal Managed Care Plans.
“The California Advancing and Innovating Medi-Cal (CalAIM) initiative, authorized in the 2021 Budget, will provide a whole-person approach to care and include expanded benefits to address clinical and non-clinical needs of Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Creating a ‘carve out’ for persons experiencing homelessness, on the eve of the CalAIM transformation, will cut out these patients from services that are being created specifically to support their health, housing stability, and overall well-being,” Newsom stated of his reason to veto AB 369.