Ensure equality and transparency in law enforcement prosecutions

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The goal of California Constitutional Amendment Initiative 17-022 is to ensure equality and transparency in law enforcement prosecutions.  We've all been inundated with stories of police-involved deaths over the past few years. Many of these cases have been played out on social media and the news through video clips of the incidents as they happened, some in real-time. This has sparked a massive movement to change policing practices and policies in this country. A movement that has been stymied by consistent pushback centered founded on a central belief - "This country doesn't have a policing problem. It's just a few bad apples." However, the prevalence of this belief has not translated into specific policies designed to address those 'bad apples.' 

California Initiative 17-022 is an attempt to change that.  While the majority of the policing reform efforts have been focused directly on police conduct (body cameras, training, citizen oversight boards, etc.), there is a secondary violence that must also be addressed - the inability to obtain justice in cases where the State considers an officer's conduct to be that of a 'bad apple'. The bar for prosecution of law enforcement officers for unjustified use of force, even in the most obvious-looking cases, is seen to be too high for prosecutors to bring a charge. And when a charge is brought, the essentially unchecked leeway given to officers who claim self-defense creates an almost insurmountable barrier to conviction.

It is our belief that the bar for successfully prosecuting law enforcement officers has been artificially raised due to a common misconception that the US Supreme Court created a special legal class for law enforcement officers in criminal prosecutions of use of force cases. We believe that the holding from Graham v. Connor, a civil rights case, has seeped into the popular and legal consciousness as a general standard for all instances of law enforcement use of force. Currently, there is an assumption that the Supreme Court ruled that an officer's use of force in self-defense or the defense of others is held to a different standard than that of an ordinary citizen in both civil and criminal cases. This simply is not true.

Therefore, California Initiative 17-022 attempts to do the following:

  • Clarify that the current state of the law regarding prevailing on a claim of self defense in a criminal prosecution does not make a distinction between law enforcement officers and the citizenry
  • Ensure that any future changes to criminal self defense laws that attempt to differentiate between the citizenry and law enforcement officers do not lower the standard of reasonableness for law enforcement officers below that of the citizenry
  • Require trials involving prosecutions of law enforcement officers for delineated crimes to be heard by a jury

Our petition has been cleared for circulation by the Secretary of State (petition 1818).  We are asking that you take up the cause through formal channels.



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