Community-Based Alternatives to Police Response Vetoed by Governor Newsom

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Sacramento, CA – Governor Gavin Newsom today vetoed a bill to establish a pilot program to have community-based organizations serve as first responders instead of the police.

The legislation, AB 2054 – the CRISES Act – authored by Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager (D-Los Angeles), passed both houses of the California legislature with nearly unanimous and bipartisan support. The bill was co-sponsored by 13 organizations and included family members of individuals killed by police, advocates and experts in non-police responses to crises.

According to the Governor’s veto message, the Office of Emergency Services is not the appropriate location for the pilot program proposed in the legislation.

“We’re disappointed in the Governor’s action,” said Kamlager. “This bill was an easy, noncontroversial opportunity to advance racial equity and save lives in California. We will continue to pursue community alternatives to police response that are not controlled by law enforcement and we will work with the Governor to create such a program. Justice demands it.”

“Governor Newsom's decision to veto the CRISES Act is in sharp contrast to his promises to address systemic racism and violence in policing,” said Cat Brooks, Co-founder of Anti Police-Terror Project and Executive Director of Justice Teams Network. “Black and Brown people in mental health crises, plus police with badges and guns, prove time and time again to be a violent at best, and deadly at worst, cocktail. This veto is a missed opportunity for California to be a vanguard of responding to human conditions with humanity. Shame on you, Governor Newsom. While I appreciate that the Governor has stated he will work on this through the State Budget in the next legislative session, how many lives will we lose between now and then?”

Despite the positive impact and cost savings of community-oriented responses to emergencies, California has done little to offer and support these efforts. Instead, law enforcement officers respond to emergencies better suited to peer support experts, or crisis counselors trained to deescalate and resolve crises. Community-based services need to be part of the web of emergency response networks.

“Not having the CRISES Act puts families in jeopardy because they don’t have alternatives to police as a response to mental health crises. If we don’t have a CRISIS Act, more lives can be lost like my son Miles Hall’s. Our family deserved to have alternatives to ensure his safety, ” said Taun Hall, mother of Miles Hall, who was killed by Walnut Creek police on June 2, 2019.

In cities across the state, community organizations successfully respond to situations involving unhoused people, people exposed to violence, people experiencing substance abuse and other issues.

Law enforcement officials have expressed frustration and a desire to focus on public safety emergencies and a preference for trained health professionals to respond to the type of crises targeted by this legislation.

A wide range of organizations, cities and government officials supported the CRISES Act. The bill received no opposition.

To schedule an interview with Assemblymember Kamlager, contact Alina Evans at (916) 319-2054. To schedule an interview with a co-sponsor, contact Sybil Grant at (213) 761-2968.

Assembly District 54 consists of Baldwin Hills, Cheviot Hills, the Crenshaw District, Century City, Culver City, Ladera Heights, Mar Vista, Palms, Rancho Park, Westwood and parts of South Los Angeles and Inglewood.

AB 2054 co-sponsors included: Alliance for Boys and Men of Color, ACLU of California, Anti Police-Terror Project, Berkeley Free Clinic, CURYJ, East Bay Community Law Center, Justice Teams Network, Oakland Power Projects, PolicyLink, Public Health Advocates, STOP Coalition, UDW/AFSCME 3930 and Youth Justice Coalition.