Are laws designed to protect police actually hurting them?

In an opinion piece written for the Sacramento Bee, writer Marcos Brenton brings to our attention that the law is written in favor of police, yet often hurts them rather than helps them.

The law he is referencing is the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act of 1976. He writes:

It’s because of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, which was approved by lawmakers in 1976. It sets rules on department managers’ interrogations of police officers, bans lie detector tests and allows officers to review their personnel files. Two years later, lawmakers approved another set of protections for officers. The 1978 law prohibited agencies from releasing officers’ personnel records.

This law, according to Brenton, allows investigation procedures involving police brutality to remain closed to the public.

His article was written in response to a case in which an African-American man was tackled and punched several times after jay-walking. He wrote:

In the days following the incident, which was recorded by a local resident and police in-car cameras, a pedestrian group questioned the legality of the stop. A subsequent investigation by The Bee found that Sacramento police in 2016 disproportionately had given jaywalking tickets to black people, with a concentration of these tickets handed out in north Sacramento, bringing up questions of racial profiling.

His point here is that this lack of transparency and the laws designed to protect police are actually hurting them. The people see this secrecy as a reason for police to do whatever they want because they know they can get away with it.

Brenton also writes that the Attorney General does not want the state investigating allegations of police brutality. He sees this as a problem. Although he makes some very valid points throughout his article, this is where he’s wrong. The state government should not be involved in the investigations, unless the process has already gone through the city and county level and there is still a problem.

So many people seem to think that the state and federal governments are the solution to everything. The state is better than the federal level, but police are elected by and held accountable to their local governments, and that’s where working to solve problems should start. Going straight to the state or federal level for a solution is like passing by your supervisor, department manager, and going straight to the CEO to complain that your coworker slapped you. That is a situation that can and should be handled at a lower level.

In this case, Brenton’s problem is with the lack of transparency of investigations and the AG’s alleged favoritism of police. Depending on the state, attorney generals are elected by the people, by the governor, by the state legislature, or by the state supreme court. The latter three are elected by the people. Hence, the choice is in the hands of the people.

The point is, the solution is not to call in the head boss to magically make everything better. The solution is to step up and be a responsible citizen, as our founding fathers intended us to be.