Calls for Police Reform
Calls for reform of law enforcement practices in the United States, as they affect the Black community in particular, go back centuries. While we are in another high-profile moment of calls for reform, the moment of the taking of public space is nothing new. Many CSUSM students, faculty and staff are participating in these actions. The righteous fury, pain and demand we see and take part in on the streets is motivating and necessary. Ultimately, calls for reform may be inadequate.
Meaningful changes in society need disruption both from outside and from inside social institutions (part of the structure of society). In very recent years, California Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) pushed for and successfully negotiated important pieces of legislation about law enforcement accountability.
AB 953, the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 (known as RIPA), requires law enforcement agencies to collect and report social identity information on the community members officers contact. These identities include race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, mental health and national origin, and are based on the perception of reporting officers. Working with the California Department of Justice, the RIPA Advisory Board (community advocates, law enforcement practitioners, academics) uses this law enforcement agency data to review, analyze, consult and recommend policy to law enforcement agencies.
An important aspect of RIPA's mandate is that the advisory board hold public meeting across California a number of times a year (currently virtually). For students, staff and faculty of CSUSM, this is an opportunity to offer your insights, experiences and suggestions to a governmental body that exists “for the purpose of eliminating racial and identity profiling and improving diversity and racial and identity sensitivity in law enforcement.” (https://oag.ca.gov/ab953)
In 2019, the California legislature passed another of Weber’s efforts. AB 392, the California Act to Save Lives, which was co-authored with Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), updated legislative language from 1872 on officer use-of-deadly force to include the “necessity” of that force. Earlier language with this law was not as stringent and provided “legal cover” in fatal killings of community members by law enforcement. (https://oag.ca.gov/sites/all/files/agweb/pdfs/info_bulletins/2020-dle-10.pdf)
Weber identifies the 2018 fatal shooting of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old Black man killed by Sacramento police, in addition to her own experiences in the Black community, as context for this important legislation. AB 392 theoretically tightens and makes more certain accountability of law enforcement officers who use deadly force in the community, a key element in real change to racialized state violence.
Weber, recently named San Diegan of the Year 2019 by the San Diego Union-Tribune, has visited CSUSM to speak about her legislative social justice work and also has a CSUSM alumnus as a legislative aide. Students, staff and faculty at CSUSM can support her institutionalized efforts at contesting racialized law enforcement by getting educated on AB 953 and AB 392, by educating and organizing others around this these new state laws, and by actively engaging opportunities to offer public comments to the RIPA Advisory Board in order to deepen the “teachable moment” current conditions bring to campus and our communities. You can do all of this and not leave the streets!
Karen S. Glover, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology
Author of "Racial Profiling: Research, Racism and Resistance" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2009)