LOS ANGELES - California Attorney General Rob Bonta opened field offices in the state to investigate deadly police shootings of unarmed civilians within the state.
Bonta made the announcement Wednesday, saying law enforcement agencies in the state must notify the Department of Justice about any fatal police shootings of unarmed citizens.
The Attorney General will have two teams, one for Northern California and one for Southern California, and two field offices will be opened in Los Angeles and Riverside. The announcement is the result of Assembly Bill 1506, a new law that took effect July 1.
The new law, AB 1506, was authored by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty and requires the Attorney General's office to independently investigate all deadly police shootings of unarmed citizens to determine if charges should be filed against the officers.
Black Lives Matter Los Angeles co-founder, Melina Abdullah, said the new law does not do enough.
"One of the shortcomings of the new law is that the Attorney General's office must work collaboratively with local law enforcement so basically what we see is kind of a transference of the kind of muddied waters that the District Attorney finds themselves in to the Attorney General," said Abdullah.
Bonta said their department will collaborate with local law enforcement agencies on the investigations. The Attorney General's office will investigate the shootings, submit a written report with the facts of the case, and provide a determination on whether the office recommends charges.
"These are not independent investigations that are called for. This is just a transference of who issues the charges or decision not to charge murderous police officers. It now moves from the District Attorney and we know we currently have a very progressive District Attorney in the form of George Gascón who has committed to issuing charges against officers who kill people, over to an Attorney General who hasn't made that same commitment," said Abdullah.
Marshall McClain, the President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, who is also a part of the Executive Board of Directors for Peace Officers Research Association, also spoke to FOX 11 about the new law.
"We knew it [AB 1506] was coming because the bill was signed last year. Unfortunately, it was another thing that slipped through during the lockdown. We do have some concerns as far as constitutionally what it will mean. You can't come in and change a policy that a local agency has, sheriff's department or a police department. You can't compel an officer to make a statement and then turn around and use that statement against them criminally. There are challenges. I don't know if the Attorney General is aware of that or not so we have a lot of concerns and we look forward to working with him to work out the kinks," said McClain.
McClain said he wants it to be a fair process.
"Our concern is that it's a fair process and not some type of double-jeopardy situation where you have Attorney General's coming in and doing something different than the local investigators or trying to trip the officers up to give statements that are contrary to the other statements. We're just hoping we can work this all out so it's a seamless process that everybody can understand," said McClain.
Abdullah said the Attorney General should work with local organizations on the matter.
"I think what this points to is the importance of legislators working in partnership with justice organizations like Black Lives Matter to make sure that we usher through new laws that protect the people and really consider all the nuances," she said.
McClain hopes to work with Bonta too.
"We want things to be changed for the better. But like with any change, you have to have everybody at that table to make the change. We're hoping to work more with the Attorney General as well as the Governor to get things that can work that everybody can have faith in so we're all on the same page where we would like the community to trust what we do," said McClain.
The Orange County Sheriff's Department released a statement:
"Investigations following critical incidents, like a deputy-involved shooting, are independently conducted by an external investigatory agency. The Orange County Sheriff’s Department will follow the mandate of the law as outlined in AB 1506 and remains committed to transparency with the community."
The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department released a statement about the new law:
"The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department will enthusiastically work collaboratively with the California Department of Justice (DOJ), Division of Law Enforcement, in investigating fatal shootings of unarmed civilians. In keeping with Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s "Transparency Promise," our goal is to assist the DOJ in completing a comprehensive, fair, and impartial joint investigation."
The Los Angeles Police Protective League Board of Directors also provided a statement:
"Officer-involved shootings currently go through a transparent and exhaustive investigative process and we believe that is one reason why trust and confidence in law enforcement has risen to 72% in recent national polling of registered voters. It is absolutely critical that this new process be grounded in evidence, based on the law, and not swayed by political pressure to ensure a fair process for everyone. We hope the Attorney General will now turn his attention to the full implementation of SB 230 so that officers are equipped with every tool available to improve outcomes with the public they serve."