California’s governor has signed into law a series of bills that give the state the power to strip the badges of officers who commit misconduct, raise the minimum age of officers and take other steps to change policing following nationwide calls for reform.
The bills signed Thursday also limit when police can use things like rubber bullets and beanbag rounds at protests. They bar restraints that can cause someone to asphyxiate and require officers to immediately report excessive force by others.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said some of the measures were long overdue. He said 46 other states already had the authority to decertify police officers for misconduct.
State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat who authored the bill, said it aims to end “the wash, rinse and repeat cycle of police misconduct,” in which officers can quit one department before they are fired and get re-hired elsewhere.
“This bill is not just about holding bad officers accountable for their misconduct,” Bradford said. “It’s also about rebuilding trust between our communities and law enforcement.”
The law allowing decertification comes 18 years after legislators stripped the power from a state police standards commission. That left it up to local agencies to decide whether officers should be fired.
The bills were signed more than a year after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck and was later convicted of murder. The death of Floyd, who was Black, by Derek Chauvin sparked outrage and calls for changes to policing across the country.
Police departments in California will also be banned from authorizing techniques or transportation methods that have a risk of “positional asphyxia” — which is what experts said happened to Floyd but also can occur when people are restrained and left on the ground.
Also among the bills signed Thursday is one that raises the minimum age of officers from 18 to 21 and adds education requirements. Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer said data have shown that more mature, educated officers are less likely to use excessive force.
Another is aimed at increasing transparency of records dealing with police misconduct.
The governor and legislators were joined at Thursday’s bill signing by parents of people who died after police encounters.
Among them was the family of Angelo Quinto, who was having a mental health crisis in December and died after police in Antioch restrained him. His family said police knelt on his neck, which police have denied. The family has sued.
“Even the last four minutes of the restraint, he was unresponsive, and they didn’t address that at all …,” said his sister, Bella. “It was just absolutely excessive and unnecessary.”
Phil Helsel is a reporter for NBC News.
The Associated Press