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California Legislature

California's attorney general could investigate local police shootings under new legislation

Attorney John Burris, center, comforts Robert and Deborah Mann, family members of Joseph Mann, who was killed by Sacramento Police in July, after a news conference on Oct. 3, 2016. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)
Attorney John Burris, center, comforts Robert and Deborah Mann, family members of Joseph Mann, who was killed by Sacramento Police in July, after a news conference on Oct. 3, 2016. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

California’s attorney general could investigate local police shootings under a new bill authored by a Sacramento lawmaker.

Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty’s Assembly Bill 284 would allow local police departments or district attorneys to ask Atty. Gen. Xavier Beccera’s office to independently investigate police shootings of civilians.

The legislation was prompted by high-profile police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Eric Garner in New York City and last summer’s police shooting of Joseph Mann, a mentally ill homeless man, in Sacramento, according to McCarty’s office. In all three cases, local prosecutors declined to charge the officers.

“There is a growing skepticism and a perceived conflict of interest, of the current process of local district attorneys investigating local police,” said a fact sheet on the bill provided by McCarty’s office. “Given that they work so closely, it is a valid question of whether this is the most transparent process for the public. There is a growing appetite, both at the national and local level, to create a better and more transparent system for [police shootings] that is fair to police, families, and the community in order to restore public trust.”

McCarty’s bill would make state investigations voluntary in these cases and would be implemented only if lawmakers also give Beccera’s office money to pay for the effort.

In 2015, McCarty tried to pass legislation that would have made state investigations of local police shootings mandatory, but that bill failed to make it out of legislative committees. This year, lawmakers have generally scaled back prior efforts to change the state’s rules governing police discipline and transparency.

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