One thing advocates against police violence and corruption have always argued is that it’s useless to fire a police officer over misconduct or abuse if all the officer has to do is run to the next precinct over for a new job.
On Thursday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law the Kenneth Ross Jr. Decertification Act of 2021, a measure that provides “a pathway for revoking the licenses of law enforcement officers who commit serious misconduct, even if it does not rise to the level of criminal charges—preventing them from taking another badge-carrying job,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
For those unfamiliar with the story of Kenneth Ross Jr., the 25-year-old Black man was shot and killed on April 11, 2018, by now-retired Gardena police officer Michael Robbins, who was cleared of all wrongdoing after investigators determined he acted in self-defense, despite the fact that he shot Ross while Ross was running from him.
Robbins reportedly told investigators that he shot Ross because he believed he was reaching for a gun. While police reported a pink handgun was found in his pocket, Ross was not holding it at the time he was shot and his family disputes that he was armed at all.
According to State Sen. Steven Bradford, the sponsor of the decertification bill, Robbins came to Gardena after leaving his former department in Orange County. Bradford said the officer “really had no business being here in Gardena,” because he had been involved in three other “questionable” shootings before fatally shooting Ross.
“That turned on the light for me that this needs to end,” Bradford said.
But the new legislation came after an uphill battle, or what Bradford described as a “mammoth fight” against police unions and other pro-law enforcement advocates who are typically against all things police reform-related.
“Police unions are a powerful voice and probably only second to the teachers, so we knew we were going to be in for a fight,” Bradford told Times last Tuesday. “They threw everything at us.”
The original version of Bradford’s bill, Senate Bill 731, failed to even get off the ground when it was introduced last year as it wasn’t granted a final vote in the legislative assembly. Instead, the Legislature simply allowed the session to time out without voting on the matter—”the kind of quiet dispatch that takes power to orchestrate,” according to the Times.
Black Lives Matter L.A. leader Melina Abdullah, an activist whose organization pushed for the passing of the bill saying it “isn’t even a radical demand,” said she and other advocates for the legislation were “appalled actually that in 2020, the bill wouldn’t pass.”
“There was a lot of emotional energy,” she said. “We were beyond dismayed.”
In July, Bradford appeared to blame political donations from law enforcement agencies for the initial demise of his bill tweeting, “Interesting this is how you try to kill solid policy? If you can’t win on the merit of your argument, you resort to paying off legislators?? SHAMEFUL, BUT NOT SURPRISING!!”
Bradford kept pushing the legislation and it eventually found its way to Newsom’s dest and signature—but not until it was significantly watered down, unfortunately.
According to the Times, a proposal to remove qualified immunity protections for cops had been removed from the legislation and “the protocols for stripping an officer of certification have also been tightened.”
Despite the changes to the bill, many in law enforcement still oppose it, the Times reported. Bradford said that after spending an enormous amount of time and energy negotiating the bill, “we made our minds up that if we had a bill that law enforcement liked 100 percent, then we didn’t have a bill.”
It’s almost as if the whole “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about” thing only really applies to civilians.