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AB-603 Law enforcement settlements and judgments: reporting.(2021-2022)



Current Version: 09/09/21 - Enrolled         Compare Versions information image


AB603:v97#DOCUMENT

Enrolled  September 09, 2021
Passed  IN  Senate  September 02, 2021
Passed  IN  Assembly  September 07, 2021
Amended  IN  Senate  August 26, 2021

CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 603


Introduced by Assembly Member McCarty

February 11, 2021


An act to add Section 12525.4 to the Government Code, relating to law enforcement.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 603, McCarty. Law enforcement settlements and judgments: reporting.
Existing law requires each law enforcement agency to annually furnish specified information to the Department of Justice regarding the use of force by a peace officer. Existing law also establishes the Department of the California Highway Patrol within the Transportation Agency.
This bill would require municipalities, as defined, to annually post on their internet websites specified information relating to settlements and judgments resulting from allegations of improper police conduct, including, among other information, amounts paid, broken down by individual settlement and judgment, and information on bonds used to finance use of force settlement and judgment payments. The bill would require the Transportation Agency to annually post the same information on its internet website regarding settlements and judgments against the Department of the California Highway Patrol. By increasing requirements for local governments, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: YES  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police when an officer held his knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, resulting in his death.
(b) The outcry over this murder has resulted in demands for police reform across the state and the nation.
(c) For decades, Californians have experienced horrific civil rights violations, injuries, and death at the hands of peace officers.
(d) These incidents often result in civil lawsuits and payouts made by cities, counties, and the state to the civilians harmed by the actions of police officers, sheriffs’ deputies, and other peace officers. These settlements and judgments are often agreed to in closed sessions at city council and board of supervisors meetings, and settlements can range between thousands and millions of dollars.
(e) Despite the burden these payouts have on local jurisdictions, there is little publicly available information about the costs to taxpayers of law enforcement liability, the manner in which governments budget for and pay lawsuits involving law enforcement, and the financial impact of these arrangements on law enforcement agency budgets.
(f) Throughout the country, municipalities with the 20 largest police departments paid over $2 billion since 2015 in misconduct claims. Of those 20 municipalities, four are located in California. The County of Los Angeles paid $238,300,000, the City of Los Angeles paid $172,200,000, the City of San Francisco paid $22,000,000, and the City of San Diego paid $12,500,000.
(g) State law stipulates that individual officers do not pay towards these settlements. Instead, these settlements typically come from the general fund of the municipality involved, or if the law enforcement agency itself pays, then it is part of a specific budget line item set aside for settling officer misconduct litigation. Municipal budgets allocate funds to their law enforcement agencies with the expectation that they will be financially liable for their wrongdoing, year over year.
(h) Cities and counties typically use liability insurance or general obligation bonds procured by the municipality or state to pay for police settlements. Cities and counties pay annually for liability insurance, which is also used to cover trip-and-fall injuries and workers’ compensation claims, to cover the costs of settlements involving police misconduct, brutality, or death of a civilian by a peace officer.
(i) In 2019, the City of Sacramento paid an insurance company $2,000,000 in taxpayer dollars to secure up to $35,000,000 for settlements and judgments. Among the payouts made in 2019 was the city’s largest ever settlement, involving $5,200,000 for a man who was so brutally beaten by a police officer that he requires intensive, life-long medical care.
(j) In 2017, the Los Angeles Police Department cost taxpayers $80,000,000 settling lawsuits involving officer misconduct. Similarly, the County of Los Angeles paid out over $50,000,000 in misconduct claims from 2015 to 2016, inclusive, the majority of which were excessive force claims. Shootings alone cost the County of Los Angeles $60,000,000 between 2011 to 2016, inclusive.
(k) During the 2018–19 fiscal year, the County of Los Angeles paid over $16,000,000 in judgments against the Sheriff’s Department, another $30,000,000 in settlements against the department, and incurred an additional $80,000,000 in litigation expenses on behalf of the department. According to the county’s annual report, “six of the nine most expensive settlements in FY 2018–19 stemmed from Law Enforcement excessive-force shooting fatalities involving the Sheriff’s Department.”
(l) In addition to liability insurance, the board of supervisors or city council can authorize a general obligation bond to pay for these incidents of police misconduct and brutality. These types of general obligation bonds are so common that they are called Police Brutality Bonds by the Wall Street firms who profit from them. These bonds are paid for by taxpayers and take years to pay off due to additional fees and high interest rates.
(m) In 2009 and 2010, the City of Los Angeles issued $71,400,000 in Police Brutality Bonds. Banks and other private firms collected more than $1,000,000 in issuance fees on these two bonds. By the time these bonds are paid off, taxpayers will have handed over more than $18,000,000 to investors—allowing Wall Street to profit from the death or serious injury of a civilian at the hands of a police officer.
(n) Therefore, it is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to establish transparency requirements surrounding police use of force settlements and judgments against police and sheriff’s departments and the Department of the California Highway Patrol.

SEC. 2.

 Section 12525.4 is added to the Government Code, to read:

12525.4.
 (a) (1) On or before February 1 of each year, each municipality shall post on its internet website how much it paid out to plaintiffs on law enforcement settlements and judgments during the previous year, resulting from allegations of improper police conduct, including, but not limited to, claims involving the use of force, assault and battery, malicious prosecution, or false arrest or imprisonment, broken down by individual settlement or judgment.
(2) For each action posted, the municipality shall include all of the following information:
(A) The court in which the action was filed.
(B) The name of the law firm representing the plaintiff.
(C) The name of the law firm or agency representing each defendant.
(D) The date the action was filed.
(E) Whether the plaintiff alleged improper police conduct, including, but not limited to, claims involving use of force, assault and battery, malicious prosecution, or false arrest or imprisonment.
(F) If the action has been resolved, the date on which it was resolved, the manner in which it was resolved, and whether the resolution included a payment to the plaintiff by the city, and, if so, the amount of the payment.
(3) If any settlements or judgments are paid for using municipal bonds, the municipality shall post on its internet website the amount of the bond, the time it will take the bond to mature, interest and fees paid on the bond, and the total future cost of the bond.
(b) (1) On or before February 1 of each year, the Transportation Agency shall post on its internet website how much it paid out to plaintiffs on settlements and judgments during the previous year obtained against the Department of the California Highway Patrol, resulting from allegations of improper police conduct, including, but not limited to, claims involving the use of force, assault and battery, malicious prosecution, or false arrest or imprisonment, broken down by individual settlement or judgment.
(2) For each action posted, the agency shall include all of the following information:
(A) The court in which the action was filed.
(B) The name of the law firm representing the plaintiff.
(C) The name of the law firm or agency representing each defendant.
(D) The date the action was filed.
(E) Whether the plaintiff alleged improper police conduct, including, but not limited to, claims involving use of force, assault and battery, malicious prosecution, or false arrest or imprisonment.
(F) If the action has been resolved, the date on which it was resolved, the manner in which it was resolved, and whether the resolution included a payment to the plaintiff, and, if so, the amount of the payment.
(3) If any settlements or judgments are paid for using bonds, the agency shall post on its internet website the amount of the bond, the time it will take the bond to mature, interest and fees paid on the bond, and the total future cost of the bond.
(c) For purposes of this section, “municipality” means a city, county, or city and county with a police department or a sheriff’s department.

SEC. 3.

 If the Commission on State Mandates determines that this act contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement to local agencies and school districts for those costs shall be made pursuant to Part 7 (commencing with Section 17500) of Division 4 of Title 2 of the Government Code.