Trio of Senator Skinner Bills Move Forward, Including Law Enforcement Transparency Bill


Over the past few days, three bills by Senator Nancy Skinner have moved forward ranging from the Protecting Communities and Law Enforcement, gun violence restraining orders and updating the felony murder rule.

California Senate Passes SB 1421, Senator Nancy Skinner’s Protecting Communities and Law Enforcement Bill
With bipartisan support, the California State Senate passed SB 1421, Senator Nancy Skinner’s (D-Berkeley) “Protecting Communities and Law Enforcement” legislation. SB 1421 would open the door for a limited set of records related to a law enforcement officer’s use of serious force, on the job sexual assault, or dishonesty to be available to the public. Skinner’s bill must now pass the Assembly and be signed by Governor Brown to become law.

“California is an outlier when it comes to providing public access to law enforcement records” said Senator Skinner. “SB 1421 is a sunshine ordinance that will help build trust and accountability.”

California’s existing confidentiality rules on law enforcement records, which SB 1421 would modify, are among the most secretive in the country. Under existing law, the public, and in some cases even hiring agencies, do not have access to internal reports or investigations into officer use of force. These restrictions erode public trust, and can allow officers with repeated incidents to bounce from agency-to-agency undetected.

Specifically, SB 1421 requires law enforcement agencies to provide public access to records related to:
1. Discharge of a firearm, or use of force that results in death or serious bodily injury,
2. On the job sexual assault, including coercion or exchanging sex for lenience, or
3. Dishonesty in reporting, investigating or prosecuting a crime.

“Law enforcement has never been better trained or better educated and incidents of officer misconduct are decreasing, yet distrust between many communities and law enforcement continues to grow,” said Senator Skinner. “Transparency can help build the trust so needed to keep our communities safe.” More info

California Senate Passes SB 1200, Senator Skinner’s Bill to Strengthen California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order 

Today, the California Senate passed Senator Nancy Skinner’s (D-Berkeley) SB 1200, “Strengthening California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order.” SB 1200 would enhance California’s existing Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO), a law Skinner authored when she was in the Assembly. SB 1200 is now on its way to the Assembly for approval.

Skinner’s new legislation, SB 1200, eliminates any fees for requesting a GVRO and adds ammunition, magazines and firearm components to the list of items which can be confiscated. SB 1200 requires law enforcement personnel that serve the order to verbally ask the recipient if they have firearms or accessories and also requires GVROs that are issued for a 21-day period have a hearing held within that time period to allow for that GVRO to be extended for a year.

Senator Skinner authored AB 1014, the bill that established California’s GVRO, after the Isla Vista shooting in 2014. The law took effect in January 2016 and allows firearms to be taken away if there is credible evidence that the person presents a violent threat. Skinner’s law was the first in the U.S. to allow immediate family members of a person threatening violence to petition for the order. California has issued over 250 GVROs since the law was established. There are now five states: California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington with similar laws, also known as “Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” on the books. More info

California Senate Passes Senator Skinner’s SB 1437 BESTT Practices bill
SB 1437, “Better and Equitable Sentencing Through Thoughtful (BESTT) Practices” by State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), passed the California Senate today on a bipartisan vote. SB 1437 was introduced to clarify the application of California’s “felony murder” rule to ensure that individuals are charged appropriately for the crime they actually committed. Skinner’s bill must now pass the Assembly and be signed by Governor Brown to become law.

Under California’s current application of the felony murder rule, a person who participates in any portion of certain felonies that result in a death can be charged with first-degree murder. In practice this means that even if someone was unaware that a killing would or did take place, they could still face a first-degree murder charge and receive a sentence that is equally or, in some cases, more severe than the one handed down to the person who actually committed murder.

SB 1437 would clarify California’s murder statutes to reserve the most serious murder charges for those who actually commit a homicide and/or who knowingly participate in or plan an act intended to kill. SB 1437 also establishes a process for those who may have been wrongfully sentenced under the current interpretation of felony murder to seek resentencing.

“Punishment should fit the crime,” said Senator Skinner. “SB 1437 directs our toughest punishments to individuals whose actions were intentional rather than sweeping up those who may have had little to no role in the crime.” More info