Governor Newsom Signs Legislation Reforming Police Officer Recruitment and Pre-employment Evaluations

Thursday, October 1, 2020

SACRAMENTO – Assembly Bill 846 authored Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D – Thousand Oaks) and by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D – Inglewood), was signed into law on Wednesday, September 30, 2020. This bill will require the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to develop a process to identify explicit and implicit bias against race or ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, disability, or sexual orientation in applicants during the pre-employment emotional and mental condition evaluations. In addition, AB 846 will require police departments across the state to make changes in recruitment practices, by deemphasizing the paramilitary aspects of the job and instead placing emphasis on community interaction and collaborative problem solving.

“I applaud Governor Newsom for taking action to address the profoundly important issue of bias in policing. His support of the proactive solution proposed by AB 846 will propel efforts to reform the culture within law enforcement, a change that Californians have demanded,” said Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin. “Screening police officer applicants for dangerous biases is common sense approach for any state that wishes to see its law enforcement fully protect and serve its diverse communities. Emphasizing collaborative problem solving and community interaction in job descriptions is crucial for recruiting officers who will make communities feel safe, not under siege.” 

Before an individual can become a peace officer, they must be evaluated by a physician or a psychologist to be found free from any physical, emotional, or mental condition that might adversely affect their ability to perform officer duties. The current screening process does not include an examination of biases that could make an individual unfit to become a peace officer. There are also no existing standards for the type of information or language that can be utilized for recruitment efforts by police departments. AB 846 will ensure that there is a proper screening for individuals with racial or other discriminatory biases and change recruitment materials to dissuade individuals who are looking to use violence against others from becoming a part of law enforcement.

"A weapon isn't just about what you put in an officer's hand or the tactics you teach them. It is about who they are and how they think,” said Assemblymember Autumn Burke. “Thank you, Governor Newsom, for signing my AB 846 and recognizing that the way we recruit and screen officer candidates is an incredibly necessary step in the fight for criminal justice reform and racial equality. Our law enforcement officers should be a reflection of the very communities they are sworn to protect and serve."