The abrupt implementation of juvenile justice realignment in California under Senate Bill 823 requires an urgent response from probation peace officer associations to protect the rights, working conditions and safety of the members.
On August 31, 2020, the California Legislature ended its 2020 legislative session. Several of the bills California’s legislators had proposed to implement “police reform” after the death in custody of George Floyd failed, while some key measures passed and are on their way to Governor Newsom’s desk.
The national outcry to strip peace officers of partial immunity from civil liability ignores the reasons why this “qualified immunity” exists, what it does for government officials and the public on the rare occasions it applies, and the consequences of taking it away.
The Road to Hell: California's Pending "Police Reform" Bills
California’s legislators have joined in a big way the national bandwagon beating the drum for “police reform” after the death in custody of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Since May 25, 2020, Senate and Assembly members have used “gut-and-amend” procedures to introduce at least nine bills calling for everything from compensation for excessive force to increased civilian oversight to a ban on the use of crowd control devices.
In the world before COVID-19, the use of social media by probation peace officers and other public employees in California already carried many risks. The last few years have seen the Legislature, courts and probation departments impose new conditions on employee use of websites, apps, and e-mail for social networking and work-related communications while at the same time increasing the likelihood of public exposure of employee communications and misconduct.
The purpose of this Client Bulletin is to answer some of the questions most frequently asked by public safety employees and labor associations about the effects of COVID-19 on work, family and healthcare.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the workplace for probation peace officers. This Client Bulletin addresses the most recent developments at the federal, state and county level and provides links to resources your bargaining unit may find useful to obtain additional information about the rights and responsibilities that apply to you and your labor association during this unprecedented and difficult time.
New California Law Supports Local Agency Peer Support Programs
Peer support programs statewide have new liability and confidentiality protections thanks to the “Law Enforcement Peer Support and Crisis Referral Services Program” that became law this January. The new statute, Government Code sections 8669.1-8669.7, supports local agency peer support by providing for training in confidential communications and giving employee organizations a role in designing peer support programs.
Probation conditions requiring a minor to submit his electronic devices to a warrantless search recently were upheld by the Sixth District Court of Appeal in a case involving a constitutional challenge to the probation terms. The court held in In re Q.R. (2020) 44 Cal.App.5th 696, that the probation conditions were not constitutionally overbroad given the nature of the minor’s sex-related offenses.
California Supreme Court Rules Department Brady Lists May Go to Prosecutors
In yet another blow to longstanding protections in California for peace officer personnel records, the California Supreme Court ruled recently that a law enforcement agency may release its Brady list to prosecutors. (Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) v. Superior Court (2019) 8 Cal. 5th 28.) The court ruled agencies are not required to comply with Pitchess procedures before releasing the identity of officers on a Brady list when those officers are involved in a pending criminal case.
Legislature Amends Controversial Use of Force Bill
Responding to pressure from the State Coalition of Probation Organizations and other law enforcement groups, state legislators last week amended their controversial use of force bill to remove provisions that drastically increased civil and criminal liability for peace officers who use deadly force.
New Rules on Disclosure of Law Enforcement Records
Peace officer personnel records are subject to new disclosure requirements under amendments to Penal Code section 832.7 that took effect January 1, 2019. Senate Bill 1421, signed into law last year by Governor Brown, made significant changes to the confidentiality restrictions on peace officer records that make it easier for members of the public and the media to obtain information relating to peace officer conduct and discipline.
JANUS v. AFSCME: U.S. SUPREME COURT DECLARES AGENCY SHOP AGREEMENTS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
The U.S. Supreme Court today overruled four decades of precedent and declared public sector agency shop agreements unconstitutional, holding the First Amendment is violated when money is taken from non-consenting employee for the benefit of a public employee union. The 5-4 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, Municipal and County Employees (afscme) Means Local Agencies and public-sector unions can no longer collect union dues or agency fees without the employee's affirmative consent to pay.
New Bill would Impose Severe Limits on Use of Deadly Force
State lawmakers in Sacramento announced on April 3, 2013 new legislation to restrict the use of deadly force by peace officers only to those situations where deadly force isdeemed "necessary... given the totality of the circumstances" to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury to the peace officer or another person. AB 931 would justify the use of deadly force only when there is no reasonable alternative, including retreating from the threat. The legislation criminalizes the use of deadly force if there os a finding the officer's "gross negligence substantially contributed to making [the force] necessary."
U.S. Supreme Court to Hear First Amendment Challenge to Union Agency Shop Laws
The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument later this month in a case that attacks on First Amendment grounds the agency shop structure that sustains public employee labor unions in California and many other states. The case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was brought by Illinois state employees who argue all union activity is political speech that employees can opt out of supporting with mandatory dues. A decision for the plaintiffs is likely because the newest associate justice, Neil Gorsuch, is believed to favor doing away with agency shop.
California Court Issues Mixed Ruling on County 37 Act Retirement Guarantees for Legacy Members
Ruling on a challenge by employees and unions to the constitutionality of the Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA), the First District Court of Appeal issued a lengthy decision earlier this month that may pave the way for further attacks on the vested pension benefits of “legacy members” of county retirement systems. (Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Assn. v. Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Assn. and Bd. of the Alameda County Employees’ Retirement Assn. (Jan. 8, 2018, No. A141913).) The court found PEPRA made substantial changes to county retirement benefits by removing vacation cash out and on-call pay from the calculation of pensionable compensation but returned to the trial court the question of whether those changes unlawfully impair the right of legacy members to existing pension benefits.
Probation Officers Face New Requirements to Implement Proposition 63 Ban on Firearms Possession
Buried in the sweeping gun control provisions of 2016's Proposition 63 were several requirements that added new duties for California probation officers beginning this year. The measure, which voters enacted overwhelmingly in July 2016, primarily restricts the sale of ammunition and bans large-capacity magazines. However, the new law also included requirements that probation officers verify and report to the courts when convicted felons and persons convicted of certain misdemeanors have relinquished any firearms and ammunition to local law enforcement.
UPDATE: One Light, Two Lights, Red Light, Blue Light
On Monday, September 25, 2017, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senator Toni Atkins’ SB 587, the “Blue Light Bill” sponsored by the State Coalition of Probation Organizations to allow probation peace officers to display a blue warning light on authorized emergency vehicles. The bill amends Vehicle Code section 25258(b) effective January 1, 2018 to give probation officers the same authority as most other peace officers to add a steady or flashing blue warning light to department vehicles.
Legislation sponsored by the State Coalition of Probation Organizations will allow probation peace officers to display a blue warning light on authorized emergency vehicles. Senate Bill 587 (D-Atkins) would amend Vehicle Code section 25258(b) to give probation officers the same authority as most other peace officers to add a steady or flashing blue warning light to department vehicles.