Source: The Stockton Record
Assemblyman Carlos Villapudua says he doesn't want to see a repeat of “the senseless killing of George Floyd.”
That is why he is the lead author of Assembly Bill 931, a legislative bill proposing changes to peace officer – including police – training.
Villapudua, D-Stockton, says the idea is to implement training where officers are encouraged to stand up and intercede if they see a fellow officer potentially violating someone's rights.
The proposed legislation aims to study and adopt the ABLE training program (Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement) “or a training program that is at least as rigorous and as focused on cultural change as the ABLE program,” reads the bill.
By doing so, the proposal seeks to “promote a culture where officers intervene to prevent other officers from violating the constitutional and statutory rights of others.”
In a telephone interview with The Record, Villapudua answered the following questions about this bill's details.
Why draft and propose this legislation? Was there something specific that brought these ideas to mind and resulted in AB931?
The bill is modeled after an active bystandership and peer intervention training that has been adopted across the nation through a number of industries. A lot of people will think, “it’s all police,” but the training has been also shown to decrease (work issues). Here’s an example: plane crashes, medical errors. And yes, unlawful use of force in the environment where officers are encouraged to communicate and confront each other. So, it’s not just law enforcement, but it’s also other departments.
You know that saying “if you know it’s bad, then you should jump in and stop it.” I think a lot of us just don’t think of that because of who’s around you, or you are someone that maybe has more of a rank and file, but true leaders ... doesn’t matter what stripes you have, what rank you have. A true leader can intervene and stop (an error, a problem).
Why the ABLE program? What interested you from their offering and changes to peace officer training?
My first job when I graduated was working with the sheriff’s department. Back then, there was really no triaging, there was no triage. You just got thrown into a situation sometimes and I think now – fast-forward – what I love about folks is that they are getting more modern, they are getting more responsible, but at the end of the day our officers' fundamental responsibility is to serve our community with best interest. You know, the community members in mind, basically. So, it’s part of their job, and it is going to be part of their training.
What I also liked was that I got full support from law enforcement. Then I got unanimous support from my colleagues here at the Assembly, which all agreed it was important. It is important to have this type of training spread throughout not just the state of California but throughout the nation.
What is ABLE?
The Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement Project aims “to prepare officers to successfully intervene to prevent harm and to create a law enforcement culture that supports peer intervention,” and was created by the Georgetown University Law School and its partners. More information can be found at https://bit.ly/3gYtNIh.
The bill mentions both, peace officers and police and is titled “Peace Officer training: duty to intercede.” Section 830.2 of the California Penal Code identifies some Parks and Recreation, Fish and Game, Forestry and Fire protection among other recreational divisions as peace officers as well. If the bill passes, would they have to receive this proposed training as well?
Absolutely, yeah. They would all have to. And I think that’s a ... it’s been asked, it’s been wanted.
This gives them more of an authority to communicate, hold each other accountable, but mainly it’s to really communicate. ... I’m really into the part that we need to all figure out how can we make this better, safer — and it’s all by communicating.
This bill does that. This bill empowers our officers and our police departments to create an environment of communicating, and at the end of the day they are held accountable.
If I was just to look at what our officers are lacking, this is one thing that we are lacking right now. It’s basically the training to actually be equipped with all these proper skills to literally execute policies that exempt them from that. I want to be able to let this become something from the past. I want to be part of that change. It doesn’t have to be “Villapudua’s Bill,” it’s that I helped to make sure that any excessive and unnecessary force became the thing of the past.
What’s the status of AB931 now? What is its expected legislative path? Right before our call, it was at the Senate Public Safety (Committee). So, it’s Appropriations (Committee) after and then the Senate general hearings?
Right, July 13 it (the bill) is going to go through (Senate) Public Safety.
LEGISLATIVE NOTE: The bill passed at the Assembly – but is still pending its legislative process at the Senate. Depending on the results of the July 13 hearing at the Senate’s Public Safety Committee, the bill would then pass (or not) to the Senate Appropriations Committee. If passed, the bill would then reach the Senate floor for hearings and voting.
If passed, how will we see this bill implemented in our community? What changes could we expect in Stockton, San Joaquin County and/or the state?
The changes will be immediately, as soon as it is signed by the governor. It would be sent to all state and local law enforcement. I know they are going to receive it (if passed) — because I did, I checked with them, too. I wanted them to make sure, to let them know, that there wasn’t going to be any surprises on this bill. I wasn’t trying to force a bill that they didn’t know of.
I wanted to work with them, I wanted to have them check the language, if there was something that I’m missing, just because I think the bill is great. If there was something that I was missing (or) something that I could add more to it. So, this is something that – I believe — is going to be well received because they will immediately be able to have this training, to go into this training and start practicing what we all believe that we should have been doing years ago.
I’ve consulted with the governor's staff, I’ve consulted with local government, local law enforcement, prior to this bill so it’s been received and given a thumbs up.
Is there something additional you want to share?
I’m grateful that my colleagues on the Assembly all agreed on how important this type of training is for our state. And to receive unanimous support from all sides means that we’re all going down the right pathway at this. I’m not doing that (the bill) for me at all. I’m doing this so that we don’t go down any pathway of what we saw last year*. I do not want to ever see that again, none of us want to see that again. So, this is making sure that we’re doing our jobs.