CA Senate Bill (SB) 731

Current Revsion Submitted: Wed, 06/15/2022 - 13:14
Issue area


Submitted by Jane Clayton on Wed, 06/15/2022 - 13:13

The National Police Accountability Project was proud to support our members' work in spearheading California Senate Bill 731, authored by California Senator Bradford (D-Los Angeles).  Qualified immunity at the federal level has prevented victims of police violence and misconduct from achieving accountability and justice.  Federal lawmakers have not been able to limit the reach of qualified immunity, but state legislators in California can act to eliminate immunity for police officers.

California’s civil rights statute, the Bane Act, is similar to the federal civil rights statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.  Fortunately, the Bane Act does not permit a defendant to raise the defense of qualified immunity.  Unfortunately, the Bane Act still provides immunity to law enforcement officers for certain acts.  Right now, in California, police officers who plant or fabricate evidence, or lie to have criminal charges filed against innocent people, are immune from liability under the Bane Act.  Jails are immune from liability even when jail guards maliciously beat and injure people, or withhold needed medical treatment without reason.  

Senate Bill (SB) 731 would have changed this: it sought to abolish immunity for police officers and transform the Bane Act into a powerful tool for enforcing police accountability.  Victims of police misconduct in California would have found relief under Senate Bill 731 even when qualified immunity under federal law denied them justice.    

SB 731 went beyond this-- it aimed to implement a statewide system for revoking the license of police officers who commit serious misconduct, preventing bad cops who leave one law enforcement agency from being employed by any other police agency. This statewide decertification process would have meant that cops who had been fired, or resigned while under investigation for misconduct, could no longer bounce around from community to community.  It also would have meant officers who were fired for excessive force, sexual misconduct, and dishonesty would no longer continue to terrorize community members by finding a job somewhere else.

US State