Bay Area Lawmakers Pledge Police Reforms

Tear gas used on a protestor in Oakland
Photo credit Justin Sullivan/KCBS Radio

From chokeholds to projectiles, the calls are coming in across the Bay Area to rethink the way police deal with protests. 

Later today San Jose's police chief is expected to give a use of force report after officers fired rubber bullets, tear gas and flash bangs on protestors calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism. A man who has worked with the San Jose Police Department for years on unconscious bias training was shot in the groin with a rubber bullet by police.

In a statement Monday, SJPD Chief Eddie Garcia says “projectile impact weapons” will only be used if someone is actively attacking officers or if an armed agitator is threatening police or protestors. 

The department has also updated its ban on chokeholds to explicitly forbid using any body part to put pressure on the neck.

Statement from Chief Garcia following the events of the past week and initial next steps

— San Jose Police Dept (@SanJosePD) June 8, 2020

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo has said he supports police reforms and has been critical of some of the actions of San Jose police in recent weeks, but disagrees with the growing national movement to shift funding away from police departments and towards community programs, calling it the "wrong idea at the worst possible time." Liccardo says San Jose's police reform efforts require more funding, not less.

San Francisco Supervisors Shamann Walton, Hillary Ronan and Matt Haney will push for a ban on rubber bullets, flash bang grenades, use of chemicals like tear gas and military vehicles and equipment at the Board of Supervisors’ meeting today.

Military weapons, chemical sprays, rubber bullets, pepper balls, & flexible baton rounds should have no place in our city’s response to peaceful demonstrators. We’ve seen across the country that these weapons can cause severe and permanent physical harm to individuals, even death

— Matt Haney (@MattHaneySF) June 5, 2020

The city of Berkeley is pushing to discourage officers from putting themselves in the path of vehicles if it might require them to open fire, require de-escalation techniques and expand the types of incidents that require officers to file use of force reports.

This comes as Democrats on Capital Hill are pushing their own police reform bill which among other things, overhauls the rules that protect officers from being sued by victims of abuse. 

“I am certain that police officers want to make sure they are trained in the best practices in policing,” says Los Angeles Representative Karen Bass.

“And let’s be clear, reforming policing is in the best interest of all Americans,” says California Senator Kamala Harris. She says the Justice in Policing Act is about holding police accountable and making sure there are appropriate consequences for police who behave badly.