Monday, August 31, 2020

Killing Police Reform in California

The Sacramento Bee has an editorial summing up all the police reform bills pending before the California legislature, most of which currently lack the support to pass. They include:

  • The Deadly Force Accountability Act (Assembly Bill 1506). This bill by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, would allow local law enforcement leaders and district attorneys to request that the California state attorney general investigate police shootings.
  • Police Decertification (Senate Bill 731). This crucial bill by Steve Bradford, D-Gardena, would allow California to decertify police officers who break the law or engage in serious misconduct.
  • Police record transparency (SB 776). This bill by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would mandate increased transparency from law enforcement agencies.
  • A ban on chokeholds.
A bill that would have required officers to intervene when other officers us excessive force has already been defeated.

These bills aren't passing because Republicans uniformly oppose them, and these Republicans are supported by many Democrats, most of whom are Hispanic. The Democratic coalition that governs California depends on the support of Hispanics who vote Democrat for reasons of ethnic history but who are in fact quite conservative on many issues, including crime and the police. California's black voters also have a history of supporting "tough on crime" candidates (like Kamala Harris).

Democrats who dream of a progressive future driven by racial change need to remember this. In the US, blacks and Hispanics mostly vote Democrat because they think Republicans are racists, but they are not on the whole very progressive about a long list of issues that include gay rights, police reform, the environment, and taxes.

If you can remember back to George W. Bush and Karl Rove, they had a plan to insure the Republican future by somehow toning down the racism, and anti-immigrant feeling and getting Hispanics and immigrants to support them on the basis of religion and attitudes toward crime and government spending. It didn't work because it turned out racism and anti-immigrant feeling were too important to the Republicans' white base, but that doesn't make conservative Hispanics a great fit for a progressive coalition.

1 comment:

David said...

This is very interesting, first, because I think John is basically right: many, many Black and Hispanic voters are much more conservative on crime, cultural and moral issues, and so forth than many liberal Whites. It has often struck me that this is a very odd and important thing about the Democratic coalition. That said, the deep-seated and up-from-the-ranks nature of White racial hostility in the Republican coalition mean that this White/non-White division is not the greatest weakness among Democrats, in this election at least. The greatest weakness remains the difficulty of holding the hard left in the coalition. Hard leftists are relatively few and thus weak as an overall force, but 10,000 votes in a swing state can make all the difference.

Second, I'm impressed by how moderate the proposed reforms actually are. Empowering local officials to ask state authorities to investigate an incident seems pretty reasonable to me. I'm surprised that isn't already in the law. I think a lot of what is going on when these provisions get defeated is more signalling. These provisions sound anti-police, and they sound like first steps toward defunding, so people want to signal that they don't want to go down that road. Thus what seem to me relatively unremarkable procedural corrections get voted down, because everyone want to make it clear that Ward Churchill and Mariame Kaba aren't going to get the America they want.

In which case, after arguing with him much on this issue, I would say John is right that folks like Churchill and Kaba have a lot to answer for.