21st Century Policing


As California’s chief law enforcement officer, the Attorney General's Office knows that trust between law enforcement and the communities we serve is vital to effective policing. To strengthen this trust, the Attorney General's Office is committed to increasing fairness and transparency throughout the criminal justice system by effectively implementing California laws critical to eliminating bias in policing and reducing unnecessary uses of force; promoting evidence-based approaches and trainings to improve police practices across California; and investigating agencies for civil pattern or practice violations when there is evidence to suggest systemic police misconduct.

Sponsored Legislation and Implementation of California Laws

AB 953: The Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015

In October 2015, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 953, known as the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015, with the purpose of eliminating racial and identity profiling in policing, and providing greater transparency in law enforcement. The Act includes requirements regarding a number of significant law enforcement issues, including:

  • Collection of Data Regarding Citizen Complaints Alleging Racial and Identity Profiling
  • Collection of Data Regarding Law Enforcement Stops and Detentions
  • Creation of the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board

The Attorney General’s Office has the responsibility for writing regulations to implement the collection and reporting of data on “stops” made by law enforcement officers, and for establishing and working with the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board to produce the annual report required by the Act. The data collected through this Act will be reported to the California Department of Justice (DOJ). Further information can be found on the AB 953 page.

AB 71: Use of Force

In October 2015, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 71, which requires all California law enforcement agencies beginning January 1, 2016 to collect and beginning January 2017 to report to the DOJ all incidents of use of force by a civilian or peace officer against the other that involves a firearm or results in serious bodily injury or death. In September 2016, the Attorney General launched a web-based tool that allows California law enforcement agencies to digitally report this information. In December 2016, the DOJ sent a bulletin to law enforcement agencies regarding their reporting requirements under AB 71. The DOJ also has produced a template that illustrates the use of force information that is being collected and reported.

In 2017, this data will be published on the Attorney General’s OpenJustice Dashboard and Data Portal. OpenJustice, launched in 2015, is a transparency initiative of the California Department of Justice that publishes criminal justice data as a mechanism for improving trust between communities and law enforcement, enhancing government accountability, and informing public policy to make California safer.

Legal Actions Taken by the California Department of Justice

Civil Rights Investigation into Kern County Sheriff’s Office and Bakersfield Police Department

On December 22, 2016, the Attorney General’s Office opened separate civil pattern or practice investigations into the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Department. California Department of Justice (DOJ) attorneys from the Civil Rights Enforcement Section will focus on allegations involving police practices and accountability, among other related issues, within both the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Department. The Attorney General’s decision to investigate the two law enforcement agencies was informed by complaints by individuals and community organizations, as well as by media reports, which allege use of excessive force and other serious misconduct. Publically available data sources concerning officer-involved shootings and deaths in custody were also reviewed and considered over the course of more than a year. Pattern or practice investigations are civil, not criminal investigations.

Los Angeles Police Protective League v. City of Los Angeles

In July 2014, in the case, Los Angeles Police Protective League v. City of Los Angeles, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) exercise of managerial discretion to issue Special Order 7. Special Order 7 prohibits officers from invoking the fixed 30-day impound statute for vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers in certain circumstances. Special Order 7 was implemented to provide a clear directive to officers on how to handle the various discretionary Vehicle Code impound statutes and to address allegations of disparate treatment and other concerns raised by the city's immigrant community. The Los Angeles Police Protective League challenged Special Order 7, principally arguing that it unlawfully deprived individual officers of discretion to impound a vehicle as allowed under the Vehicle Code. The Attorney General's brief argued that the LAPD's decision to exercise vehicle impound discretion at the managerial level, thereby limiting individual officer's discretion, is a lawful exercise of the LAPD's authority and is consistent with California law enforcement tradition. The brief further argued that to maximize public safety, law enforcement agencies must retain the authority to evaluate the unique needs of their particular communities and officers, and determine when the issuance of discretion-limiting directives are appropriate. On December 26, 2014, the California Court of Appeal issued a decision concluding that Special Order 7 is within the broad discretion of the police chief, and that neither the Protective League nor the individual taxpayer who filed the action had standing to challenge the policy.

Civil Rights Investigation into the Maywood Police Department

On July 21, 2009, the Attorney General’s Office secured a court order compelling the City of Maywood to implement critical use-of-force and related reforms within its Police Department. The order capped a comprehensive investigation of the Maywood Police Department by the Attorney General that uncovered patterns of excessive use of force, and a conspicuous absence of meaningful articulation of probable cause to justify arrests and searches and reasonable suspicion to detain members of the public. In March 2009, the Attorney General issued a public report regarding this investigation and the Attorney General's findings. Effective July 1, 2010, the City of Maywood elected to disband its police department and contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for police services.

People of the State of California, etc. v. City of Riverside

In the late spring of 1999, the Attorney General launched a civil investigation of the Riverside Police Department after concluding that the four officers who were involved in the shooting death of Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California, should not be criminally charged. After a nearly two-year civil rights investigation into the practices of the Riverside Police Department, the parties filed a complaint and stipulated judgment in the case entitled People of the State of California, etc. v. City of Riverside. This was the first consent decree to reform a local police department secured by a state attorney general under state law. The judgment, which remained in effect for a period of five years, required the Riverside Police Department to implement reforms in the areas of training, supervision, and accountability. The City of Riverside was required to pay the cost of a consultant to assist the Attorney General in monitoring compliance with the terms of the judgment. On March 2, 2006, the Attorney General, after concluding that the Riverside Police Department had fulfilled the conditions of the judgment, requested and received formal approval from the court for the judgment's dissolution.

"Principled Policing" Training Course on Implicit Bias and Procedural Justice

In November 2015, the Attorney General launched a law enforcement training course on implicit bias and procedural justice. The course, titled “Principled Policing: Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias,” was produced in partnership with the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST), the Stockton and Oakland Police Departments, the Stanford University SPARQ Center, Stanford Professor and MacArthur Fellow Jennifer Eberhardt, the California Partnership for Safe Communities, and Reverend Ben McBride and the Empower Initiative.

Certified by POST, the training curriculum is an 8-hour course aimed at training officers on both procedural justice and implicit bias. Procedural justice is an approach to policing that emphasizes the importance of treating everyone equally and with respect. Implicit bias – thoughts or feelings about social groups that can influence decisions or actions – can be a barrier to procedural justice. The course is designed to help law enforcement officers overcome barriers to neutral policing and rebuild the relationship of trust between law enforcement and the community.

A white paper evaluating the Principled Policing training, published jointly by the Department of Justice and Stanford University Center for SPARQ, assessed the effectiveness of the course in educating police officers about procedural justice and implicit bias, as well as shifts in perceptions about police-community relations. The evaluation revealed that the course was highly effective and illustrated the tremendous potential of the principled policing training as a strategy to improve the relationship of trust between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to serve.

The Department of Justice is pleased to continue to partner with POST to expand these important trainings to officers throughout the state.

How to File a Complaint

The mission of the Civil Rights Enforcement Section at the California Department of Justice includes assisting the Attorney General on civil rights issues in the area of police practices. If you have a complaint against a police officer or sheriff's deputy, you should first contact the local law enforcement agency. Each law enforcement agency in the state is required by Penal Code section 832.5 to establish a procedure to investigate complaints. You can obtain a written description of the procedures from the law enforcement agency. If unable to resolve your complaint with the law enforcement agency, contact the district attorney's office or the grand jury in the county that has jurisdiction. If your complaint involves alleged criminal misconduct and the local agencies do not act upon it, you may write to the Attorney General's Office.

The Office of the Attorney General maintains a policy and complaint form [en Español] governing the review of complaints received by the Department of Justice that allege police misconduct by local law enforcement agencies or their employees. Under that policy, complaints received by this office from complainants who have exhausted the local review process will be referred to both the Criminal Law Division and the Civil Rights Enforcement Section for review and appropriate action.