Controversial Piece Of California Body Camera Bill Eased

SACRAMENTO, CA – A bill that would govern police use of body cameras advanced in the state Assembly on Thursday, but only after its author agreed to ease its most controversial provision and lawmakers were urged to stay put for a vote.

The Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee voted 6-0, with five lawmakers abstaining, to push forward AB 66.

It appeared the bill would die without a vote, but its author, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, agreed to soften a restriction that she’s repeatedly defended. That part of the bill would have prohibited officers involved in use-of-force incidents from viewing camera footage before they write reports.

She agreed, however, to craft amendments that would allow local jurisdictions to decide whether their officers should be given access to the footage.

“We’re trying to give people options,” said Joe Kocurek, Weber’s spokesman. “(Weber) agreed to the amendments to get (the bill) out of committee. This is an ongoing conversation.”

Law enforcement groups across the state, including the San Diego Police Officers Association, have opposed that provision. Many police groups attended Thursday’s hearing and spoke out against that part of the bill, saying it would place officers in an unfair position and lead to less-accurate reports.

Brian Marvel, president of the San Diego POA, said his association looks forward to the amendments and may consider supporting the bill as a result.

The bill almost died without enough lawmakers taking a vote on Thursday, which was a deadline day to get bills with fiscal impacts out of their policy committees.

Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale, who chairs the committee, asked the sergeant-at-arms to lock the room’s doors so that assembly members wouldn’t leave for their Thursday flights back to their home districts without voting on the bill.

“I did ask for that,” Gatto said later in the day. “I just wanted to make sure the members did not leave.”

AB 66 will be heard next in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

From The San Diego Union-Tribune