LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS: Racial profiling, diversion funding bills signed into law by Gov. Brown

SB 621 by Sen. Bob Hertzberg cited.

October 5, 2015

By Brenda Gazzar

Among the criminal justice bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law over the weekend are a data collection bill intended to combat racial profiling and another that aims to reduce recidivism among people with mental illness.

Brown signed Assembly Bill 953, which requires law enforcement agencies to collect and report to the state basic information about traffic and pedestrian stops as the nation continues to grapple with sensitive issues of race and policing. The bill would require state and local law enforcement agencies to annually report to the attorney general data on all stops, including the time, date, location and reason for the stop, what action was taken and the perceived race or ethnicity, gender and approximate age of the person who was stopped.

“AB 953 will be the state’s first step toward not only understanding the problem of racial profiling, but also toward formulating policies to reduce the practice and its devastating consequences,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, in a written statement. “California is going in a new direction on this issue; hopefully, this will set an example for other states.”

Several law enforcement agencies were opposed to the bill. The California State Sheriffs’ Association, for example, argued that the bill significantly expanded the definition of racial profiling so that it “prevents an officer from relying on identifying characteristics in any way” in conducting police work.

Gov. Brown also signed into law state Sen. Bob Hertzberg’s Senate Bill 621, which helps make clear that counties can apply for special grants through the state to pay for diversion programs for the mentally ill. From 2014 to 2016, about $19 million has been made available for the Mentally Ill Offender Crime Reduction program, to which counties can apply for competitive grants, according to Hertzberg’s office.

Prior to the passage of SB 621, it was not clear that these funds could be used for diversion programs, which is expected to reduce recidivism among the more than 41,000 mentally ill prisoners estimated to be incarcerated in the state, said Hertzberg, D- Van Nuys, who also said he plans to seek additional funds for diversion.

“If you can divert them using proper professionals, you put less of a burden on the already burdened and extremely expensive criminal justice system and you treat people fairly,” Hertzberg said Sunday. “It makes no sense to take someone who has mental challenges and put them in jail.”

There was no opposition to the bill.

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