Rob Bonta to introduce a proposal to address political influence attached to campaign contributions from law enforcement agencies.
Legislation is planned to rebuild community trust and curb possible conflict of interest between district attorneys tasked to handle police misconduct cases.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, plans to introduce a proposal to address the potential political influence attached to campaign contributions from law enforcement agencies.
The proposed proposition would require DAs to recuse themselves from cases involving police misconduct if they previously accepted a monetary contribution from a law enforcement association or union.
Bonta plans to put forth the bill the first day of the December New Legislation session, reported City News Service.
Bonta made the announcement during a November virtual news briefing.
“There [are] four of us here today,” said Tori Verber Salazar, district attorney of San Joaquin County. “There should be more.”
Of the 58 publicly elected prosecutors in California, only four attended the news briefing.
The four DAs are considered progressive and formed the Prosecutors Alliance of California and support the bill, according to the article.
The announcement sparked controversy from some DAs, who said that the bill would violate the First Amendment right to free speech.
This criticism of the bill is off the mark,” said Bonta in a statement. “This bill is very narrowly tailored and hyper-focused specifically and solely on publicly elected prosecutors who have unique and heightened ethical duties as attorneys (and members of the State Bar) and prosecutors of individuals for violations of criminal law.”
When police unions represent an accused officer and the district attorney has accepted financial campaign contributions from the union, a conflict of interest could have occurred, according to the drafted bill.
What’s next?” asked Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association. “Should we force local school board members to recuse them-selves from decisions involving a teacher because the teachers’ union contributed to that school board member’s campaign? Where do you draw the line on who gets to have a voice and who doesn’t?”
The drafted legislation contains a progressive mea-sure. If a district attorney would be required to step down from a case, the state’s attorney general would step in to prosecute. A special prosecutor would be appointed if the state’s AG has a conflict of interest issue, according to the drafted bill.
“We must cure the conflict of interest that gives, at minimum, the appearance of police not being held accountable to the proximity and political influence of law enforcement associations and unions,” Bonta said.
Law enforcement unions or officers are not prohibited from contributing to a district attorney, attorney general or any candidate campaign under the pro-posed draft legislation, said the article.
The transparent effect of the bill would restore public trust in elected district attorneys and law enforcement throughout the state, Bonta commented.
“This is about trust in law enforcement and trust in the independence of our elected prosecutors,” Bonta said.