Civil Rights

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Launches New All-Digital Tool to Collect Data on Law Enforcement and Civilian Uses of Force

September 21, 2016
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Following last year’s launch of an unprecedented criminal justice open data initiative, OpenJustice, and the passage of Assembly Bill 71, Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today launched a web-based tool that allows California law enforcement agencies to digitally report law enforcement or civilian uses of force. As part of the Attorney General’s commitment to promoting government adoption of technology, this tool was built as an open-source project and the software code will be made available free of charge to other law enforcement agencies around the country. A public demo of the tool is available at     

Previously, law enforcement officers in California reported on any death in custody on paper forms. No state in the country, including California, collected data on any non-lethal use of force.  Assembly Bill 71, authored by Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona), and supported by Attorney General Harris, created a new requirement for California law enforcement agencies to annually report to the California Department of Justice data on any incidents that occurred in the previous year involving use of force by a civilian or peace officer against the other that involves a firearm or results in serious bodily injury or death.

The online platform, nicknamed URSUS after the bear on the California flag, can be accessed by any law enforcement agency in the state to report use of force data in an all-digital format, rather than by using a lengthy paper form. Today’s launch is a beta release to the field in advance of the January 1, 2017 reporting deadline for data from 2016 so that law enforcement agencies may use the tool during the fall and provide feedback to our office, which may be incorporated to enhance the tool’s functionality.  

“As a country, we must engage in an honest, transparent, and data-driven conversation about police use of force,” said Attorney General Harris.  “I am proud that California continues to lead the nation in the adoption of technology and data to improve our criminal justice system and keep our streets safe.”

One of the objectives of the OpenJustice initiative is to modernize data infrastructure, and this reporting tool will dramatically improve the speed and quality of data submitted, allowing data from the most complex incidents to be entered by law enforcement in under five minutes. The application includes dynamic screening questions and intelligent error-checking to help agencies input more accurate data. In addition, the platform’s advanced security features and role-based review workflows improve data reliability and integrity. This tool also minimizes costs for law enforcement, as its web-based interface and cloud storage reduce the need for local investment in custom data collection systems.

“The California Police Chiefs Association was an early supporter of AB 71, relating to use of force data, and has been collaborating with the Department of Justice ever since the bill was signed by the Governor last year,” said CA Police Chiefs Association President Chief Ken Corney. “We believe it is a sound practice to gather and report use of force data and make this information available to the public.”

“I commend Attorney General Harris on her development and launch of URSUS,” said California Highway Patrol Commissioner Joe Farrow.  “URSUS will assist law enforcement in gathering critical data involving use of force by a peace office, or by a civilian against a peace officer, that results in serious injury or death or involves the use of a firearm in order to meet the requirements of Assembly Bill 71. I am confident the introduction of URSUS and the collection of this data and information will improve the relationship between law enforcement and the communities that we serve.” 

“We are proud to participate in this very important program. This technology is crucial to providing accurate public data on incidents involving the use of force,” said Walnut Creek Police Chief Thomas Chaplin.  “We wholeheartedly support this approach to create additional transparency and ease of accessibility for use of force data.”  

In addition to facilitating statewide collection, this tool also provides a suite of analytical tools for local agencies to better monitor incidents in their own jurisdictions, including features such as a dashboard, interactive charts, and pivot tables. Smaller agencies that may not currently have their own tracking systems will particularly benefit from these tools. 

The reporting tool was built through a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the California Department of Justice and Bayes Impact, a technology-for-good non-profit organization. In her continuing efforts to bring civic technology to government, Attorney General Harris established this unique partnership combining the California Department of Justice’s knowledge and expertise in law enforcement with Bayes Impact’s expertise in agile software development. The application was developed in just over six months, in ongoing collaboration with 12 pilot law enforcement agencies.

As part of the Attorney General’s commitment to ensuring that government technology serves the public, this tool was built as an open-source project and the software code will be made available free of charge to other states and agencies. Its open-source nature will also reduce ongoing maintenance costs as compared to a proprietary solution. 

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the OpenJustice Data Act of 2016 (Assembly Bill 2524), which the California Legislature unanimously passed last month. This law, sponsored by Attorney General Harris and authored by Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), will convert Crime in California and other annual reports published by the California Department of Justice into digital datasets, which will be published on the Attorney General’s OpenJustice Web portal. The data from AB 71 will be posted on OpenJustice in early 2017.

Attorney General Harris first launched the OpenJustice initiative in 2015 as a mechanism for improving trust between communities and law enforcement, enhancing government accountability, and informing public policy with data. 

Earlier this year, the Attorney General announced the release of OpenJustice 1.1, which enriched the web portal’s initial data sets with city and county level data exploration tools and contextual information including population and demographic information, unemployment rates, poverty rates, and educational attainment levels.  In addition to providing greater transparency, this information enables policymakers to craft more informed, data-driven public policy.

Attorney General Harris has also taken several steps to strengthen the relationship of trust between law enforcement and California communities.  She directed a 90-day Review of her Division of Law Enforcement’s policies on use of force and implicit bias, convened the state’s law enforcement leaders to share best practices through her 21st Century Policing Working Group, created the first POST-certified course on Procedural Justice and Implicit Bias in the U.S., and developed a pilot for body-worn cameras for DOJ Special Agents.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Urges Federal Courts to Protect Transgender Individuals From Discrimination

July 28, 2016
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LOS ANGELES - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that California has joined friend-of-the-court briefs in two cases supporting transgender rights.  The briefs challenge a recently passed state law denying transgender people access to single-sex bathrooms and similar facilities in schools and workplaces consistent with their gender identity, and support the United States in efforts to ensure that transgender individuals are protected against discriminatory practices that threaten their privacy and public safety.

California joined nine other states (New York, Washington, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, and Vermont) and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus brief with the U.S. District Court of the Middle District of North Carolina in United States v. North Carolina and Carcano v. McCrory, supporting the United States and the private plaintiffs in these two related cases challenging North Carolina’s H.B. 2, the so-called “bathroom bill.”

Attorney General Harris also joined 11 states (Washington, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont) and the District of Columbia in filing an amicus brief in State of Texas v. United States, pending in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of Texas, to support the United States’ guidance that discrimination based on gender identity constitutes unlawful discrimination based on sex and that schools risk losing Title IX-linked funding unless they permit students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

“This bigoted and discriminatory law targeting transgender individuals is a dangerous step backwards in the long march toward equality for all Americans,” said Attorney General Harris. “I urge the courts to strike down hateful and degrading laws that perpetuate fear and intolerance and to uphold policies—like those in California—that protect transgender people from discrimination.  I will continue to fight for LGBTQ communities to live free from prejudice.”

The amicus brief in the North Carolina cases argues that H.B. 2 undermines public safety by encroaching on transgender persons’ civil rights – often relying on invidious stereotypes – and exposing vulnerable people to hostile situations.  Likewise, the brief submitted in Texas asserts that anti-discrimination laws, like those adopted in California, have enhanced public safety, not detracted from it.  For example, California schools are required by state law to permit students to use single-sex facilities consistent with their gender identity.  Los Angeles Unified School District (USD), San Francisco USD, Sacramento City USD, and Riverside USD have had similar policies in place for many years to protect the rights of transgender students and none of these school districts have reported any incidents or problems with the policies. 

Attorney General Harris has a longstanding commitment to ensuring every citizen, including LGBTQ Americans, are afforded equal treatment under the law.  In 2014, Attorney General Harris sponsored AB 2501 (D-Bonilla) to outlaw the “gay/transgender panic defense.”  She has filed multiple amicus briefs defending same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry.  In 2013, Attorney General Harris declined to defend Proposition 8, a 2008 ballot measure that would have outlawed same-sex marriage in California. 

When the U.S. Supreme Court issued a historic opinion in the case of Hollingsworth v. Perry, which overturned the Proposition 8 ballot initiative, Attorney General Harris declared that every county in the State of California must recognize same-sex couples’ right to legally marry. 

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Announces Membership of New Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, Including Prominent Law Enforcement and Civil Rights Leaders

June 30, 2016
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LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the establishment of the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, including the community and law enforcement leaders who will comprise the board membership. The board, as mandated by Assembly Bill 953 authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), is tasked with helping to eliminate racial and identity profiling in law enforcement.

"Keeping our communities safe requires a strong relationship of trust between law enforcement and those they are sworn to serve.  The existence of bias in our criminal justice system is destructive to that trust and harms our ability to deliver justice,” said Attorney General Harris. “I look forward to working with these dedicated Californians, who represent our state's rich diversity, to improve policing and restore the trust needed to ensure that our justice system is truly just.”

In October 2015, Governor Brown signed AB 953, known as the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015. The Act includes requirements regarding a number of significant law enforcement issues, including: 1) Collection of data regarding citizen complaints alleging racial and identity profiling; 2) Collection of data regarding law enforcement stops and detentions; and 3) Creation of the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board.

Under the law, Attorney General Harris is responsible for establishing the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board, which is tasked with:

·         Advising the Department of Justice in drafting regulations to govern the collection and reporting of pedestrian and traffic stop data;

·         Annually reviewing and analyzing the stop data submitted by law enforcement agencies;

·         Working in partnership with state and local law enforcement agencies to review and analyze racial and identity profiling policies and practices across California; and

·         Conducting evidence-based research on intentional and implicit bias.

The board is comprised of current and former law enforcement officials, attorneys, community and spiritual leaders, university professors, and civil rights activists, including: Angela Sierra, Oscar Bobrow, Chief Edward Medrano, Sheriff David Robinson, President Michael Durant, Commissioner Joe Farrow, Professor Jennifer Eberhardt, Sahar Durali, Tim Silard, Mariana Marroquin, Timothy Walker, Reverend Ben McBride, Pastor J. Edward Boyd, Honorable Alice Lytle, Alex Johnson, Andrea Guerrero, Douglas Oden, and Honorable Micah Ali. Full biographies are included below.

The first meeting of the board will be held on Friday, July 8, 2016 at 10 a.m. in the Auditorium of the Ronald Reagan State Building (300 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013). This meeting is open to the public and the meeting notice and agenda have been posted on the Attorney General’s website. The meeting will also be livestreamed and made available on the Attorney General’s website at

More information about the implementation of AB 953 can be found at:

Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board Member Biographies

Angela Sierra is the designee of Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. Ms. Sierra is a Senior Assistant Attorney General in the California Department Justice and leads the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section. She has been a lawyer in the Department of Justice for over 29 years, focusing on police practices, voting rights, housing and employment discrimination, civil prosecution of hate crimes, discriminatory and unlawful business practices, disability access, immigration consultant fraud, reproductive rights, Native American cultural protection, and safeguarding essential access to education. 

Oscar Bobrow is serving as the representative of the California Public Defenders Association. Mr. Bobrow is the Chief Deputy Public Defender in Solano County, and previously served as a public defender for 25 years in Contra Costa County’s felony division. He has extensive experience litigating claims of racial bias in the criminal justice system due to the underrepresentation of minority populations in county jury venires.

Edward Medrano is serving as the representative of the California Police Chiefs Association. Chief Medrano has served in law enforcement for over 27 years and was appointed Chief of the Gardena Police Department in 2007. He currently serves as the California Police Chiefs Association’s (CPCA) 1st Vice-President. He also collaborates with the University of Illinois at Chicago as a national trainer and subject matter expert in the field of procedural justice.

David Robinson is serving as the representative of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, and is the Sheriff of the Kings County Sheriff’s Department. He attended the College of the Sequoias Kings-Tulare Police Academy and has worked in law enforcement for over 18 years, including serving as a District Attorney Investigator for the Kings County District Attorney’s Office as a correctional officer in the Kings County Jail.

Michael Durant is the President of the Peace Officers Research Association of California, representing more than 66,000 public safety officers. Durant is a Senior Deputy Sheriff with Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department. During his more than 29-year career in Law Enforcement, he has been assigned to Patrol, Field Training Officer, Investigations, Custody, Transportation, Canine Handler and Public Information Officer.

Joe Farrow is Commissioner of the California Highway Patrol and is the first Japanese-American appointed to lead the agency in its 81-year history. He served as a police officer with the Pacific Grove Police Department before he entered the CHP Academy in 1979. He is a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the California Peace Officers’ Association, and the National Asian Peace Officers’ Association.

Jennifer Eberhardt, appointed by Attorney General Harris, is a professor at Stanford University in the Department of Psychology.  She investigates racial inequality using a wide-ranging array of methods. She has been named a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellow and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.  She partnered with the California Department of Justice on its Principled Policing course and published a white paper assessing 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.

Sahar Durali, appointed by Attorney General Harris, is the Directing Attorney of the Delano office of California Rural Legal Assistance, Inc. in Kern County. In this role, she combines litigation, community lawyering, and direct legal services to represent low-income clients in education, civil rights, housing, and employment matters.

Tim Silard, appointed by Attorney General Harris, is President and CEO of the Rosenberg Foundation and has led the foundation’s efforts to make criminal justice reform and public safety a core grant-making focus. He chairs Funders for Safety and Justice in California, and co-chairs the national philanthropic Executives Alliance to Expand Opportunity for Boys and Men of Color Justice Reform and Public Safety Collective Action Table. Previously, he served for 12 years in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office.

Mariana Marroquin, appointed by Attorney General Harris, is a Guatemalan actress, community advocate, and Program Manager of The Anti-Violence Project at Los Angeles LGBT Center. For more than 15 years, she has worked not only for the LGBT community but also with other underserved populations in the field of HIV prevention, domestic violence, victims’ rights, substance abuse, immigration, advocacy and community organizing. 

Timothy Walker, appointed by Attorney General Harris, is a rising sophomore at San Francisco State University, where he plans to major in Political Science. He has served as a mentor at the Community Coalition, based in South Los Angeles, for the past 6 years. During his time there as a youth he helped lead educational based campaigns, and is now the Leadership Development Director for the Black Student Union at San Francisco State University.

Reverend Ben McBride, appointed by Attorney General Harris, is a long-time advocate for peace and justice through spiritual and community-based leadership. Serving as an executive director of non-profit organizations and a religious leader for nearly 15 years, he moved into one of Oakland’s difficult neighborhoods and became an instrumental partner in re-launching Operation Ceasefire, leading to a 35% reduction in homicides over two years. He serves as the primary civilian trainer for the department’s Procedural Justice & Police Legitimacy Course and partnered with the California Department of Justice on its Principled Policing course.

Pastor J. Edgar Boyd, appointed by Attorney General Harris, is the Pastor of the 142-year-old First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles (FAME), the oldest African American church in the city. As the Chief Executive Officer of FAME, he conceived the recent formation of the South Los Angeles Community Development and Empowerment Corporation to address social and economic issues impacting South Los Angeles. Prior to his assignment at FAME, he served as Pastor of the historic Bethel A.M.E. Church in San Francisco for 20 years. 

Honorable Alice Lytle, appointed by Governor Brown, served as presiding judge at the Juvenile Court in the Sacramento County Superior Court from 1995 to 1996, where she was master calendar judge for landlord-tenant cases from 1989 to 1992. She served as presiding judge at the Sacramento Municipal Court from 1988 to 1989, deputy legal affairs secretary in the Office of Governor Brown in 1979, chief of the California Department of Industrial Relations’ Division of Fair Employment Practices from 1977 to 1979, and secretary at the California State and Consumer Services Agency from 1975 to 1977.

Alex Johnson, appointed by Governor Brown, is the Executive Director for the Children's Defense Fund-California and leads the organization’s statewide advocacy, policy, program and organizing efforts to ensure access to quality affordable health coverage and care for children and low income families, reforming the juvenile justice system, promoting educational equity, and ending child poverty. He previously served as Assistant Senior Deputy for Education and Public Safety to Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and as an Assistant District Attorney in the Bronx, New York where he advocated for victims of domestic violence.

Honorable Micah Ali, appointed by Senate President pro Tempore De León, serves as Vice President (and Past President) of the Compton Unified School District Board of Trustees. He is President Emeritus of the Los Angeles County School Trustees Association and serves on the Boards of Directors of Friends of the Ballona Wetlands. Mr. Ali has demonstrated his leadership over a broad range of public policy issues, including education, environmental protection, and public health and safety.

Andrea Guerrero, appointed by Assembly Speaker Emeritus Atkins, was born in Mexico City and came to the US in time to start kindergarten. She has worked in San Diego as an attorney and policy advocate, focusing on the issues of immigrant rights and educational equity for the past 10 years. She is currently the Executive Director of the Equality Alliance of San Diego County, a non-profit organization pursuing strategic policy reforms at the local, state, and national level to improve the condition of immigrants, low-income communities, and communities of color.

Douglas Oden, appointed by Assembly Speaker Emeritus Atkins, is currently the Senior Litigation attorney with the law firm of Oden & Greene and has been very active in the legal community on the local, state and national level. He is a former President of the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association and a Past President of the California Association of Black Lawyers.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Endorses Legislation to Expand Voting Rights

June 20, 2016
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SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced her support for Assembly Bill 2466, legislation authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), which would ensure state law reflects a recent Superior Court ruling which restored voting rights to individuals serving time under community supervision.  The bill would also expand voting rights to those serving a felony sentence in county jail.

“The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and society, and yet for too long we have stripped certain individuals of that right,” said Attorney General Harris.  “I applaud Assemblymember Weber for her leadership on this issue, because more Californians should be able to fully and meaningfully rebuild their lives, reintegrate into society and participate in our democracy.”

The proposed bill would ensure that individuals on post-release community supervision and mandatory supervision are eligible to vote statewide, codifying a 2014 ruling in the case of Scott v. Bowen, in which the Superior Court of Alameda County found that these individuals retain their voting rights under Section 2, Article II of the California Constitution.  The bill further specifies that a person who is not imprisoned – defined as serving a state or federal prison sentence – or on parole for the conviction of a felony, is eligible to register to vote, effectively guaranteeing that serving a felony sentence in county jail will not strip individuals of their right to vote.

“In our rush to be seen as tough on crime, we have overlooked a fundamental principal of justice in our democracy – fairness in the application of punishments,” said Assemblymember Weber.  “I am grateful for the Attorney General’s support for this legislation. It is significant that the state’s top law enforcement official acknowledges that low-level offenses do not meet the appropriately high threshold for stripping Californians of their Constitutional voting rights.”

In 1976, California ended permanent disenfranchisement and narrowed restrictions on voting eligibility to people currently imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction.  In 2011, following the passage of the Criminal Justice Realignment Act, more than 60,000 Californians were disenfranchised in the wake of an ongoing debate regarding how to interpret the terms “imprisoned” and “parole.”  This debate was put to rest with the ruling in Scott v. Bowen when the Superior Court of Alameda County drew a distinction between the new forms of community supervision and parole.

Attorney General Harris has worked tirelessly to protect the civil rights of all Californians, including former offenders, LGBTQ individuals, undocumented immigrants, and communities of color.

In 2013, Attorney General Harris joined the Attorneys General of Mississippi and North Carolina in a friend-of-the-court brief in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, urging the United States Supreme Court to uphold the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, landmark legislation that prohibited states with a history of voting discrimination from wrongfully restricting the right to vote.

In 2015, Attorney General Harris and 19 other Attorneys General submitted a friend-of-the-court-brief in Evenwel v. Abbott, supporting states’ rights to consider total population rather than voter or potential voter population when establishing fair districting polices.

Attorney General Harris has also pioneered programs to combat recidivism and ensure that individuals released from prison or jail are given a chance to become productive members of society.  In October 2013, she created the Division of Recidivism Reduction and Reentry, which has developed a statewide definition of recidivism, identified grants to fund innovative recidivism programs, and used technology to more efficiently gather crucial recidivism data and metrics.

In 2005, then-San Francisco District Attorney Harris created the Back on Track initiative, a reentry program to reduce recidivism among certain low-level, non-violent drug offenders.  The program reduced recidivism among its graduate to less than 10 percent over a two-year period.  As Attorney General, she created a new version of this initiative, Back on Track–LA, an innovative recidivism reduction partnership with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles County Probation Department, and other public and private-sector partners.  This comprehensive anti-recidivism initiative works to hold offenders accountable, while preparing them to reenter society as contributing and law-abiding members of their communities.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement and Video Message In Honor of Black History Month

February 1, 2016
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued the following statement and video message to commemorate the beginning of Black History Month:

“Black History Month is a time to remember and honor the inspirational leaders of our past and take pride in the progress we have made in the fight for justice; but it is also a time to reflect on the challenges we continue to face today. 

Across the nation, thousands of people are taking to the streets to protest the injustices their communities face.  They are demanding an end to the killing of unarmed boys and men of color, a criminal justice system where the color of one’s skin does not determine one’s fate, increased economic opportunities in communities that have been starved for far too long, and true inclusion and acceptance of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or identity.  As a society, we all must rise to meet these demands if we are to truly live up to our nation’s most sacred values of freedom, equality and justice for all.”

To view Attorney General Harris’s message on the kick-off of Black History Month CLICK HERE:

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 18, 2016
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LOS ANGELES – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued the following statement in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:

"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. united and inspired people to fight for and demand a more just nation in a time of violent and systemic racism, when millions of Americans were denied their right to vote and basic human and civil rights, and when racial enmity was stoked and exploited by voices of reaction.  

Today, many thousands of people, young and old, have been marching in the streets to decry the injustices their communities have suffered for far too long.  They are demanding an end to the killing of unarmed Black men like Trayvon Martin and Walter Scott.  They are demanding a justice system where the color of one's skin does not predetermine the measure of justice received.  They are demanding economic opportunity in long-suffering communities.  And they are demanding true inclusion and acceptance of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or identity.  

Let us recommit ourselves to Dr. King's vision—his unyielding demand for justice and an end to bigotry.  As Dr. King did in his time, let us reject any voice of intolerance that would vilify people based on their race or religion. We must look to Dr. King's vision to inspire real change, not just today but every day."

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement Honoring Cesar Chavez

March 31, 2015
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SAN FRANCISCO - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued the following statement in honor of Cesar Chavez Day:

"Today we remember Cesar Chavez, a civil rights icon who fought tirelessly to provide justice, equality and dignity to farmworkers, immigrants and all those in pursuit of the American dream.  His ability to organize, inspire and persevere helped to improve working and economic conditions for future generations of Californians and their families.  This day serves not only to honor his life and legacy, but to provide renewed strength to all those who continue to fight for equal treatment, fair wages, and justice in our immigration system."

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Celebrates 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

July 2, 2014
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LOS ANGELES -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris commemorated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 at a celebration on Monday at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles. The event featured a diverse group of civil rights leaders who discussed the significance of the Act and the challenges we still face today.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law 50 years ago today by President Lyndon B. Johnson on July 2, 1964.

"The Civil Rights Act is a living, breathing document that makes clear there are certain fundamental rights. It makes clear that there shall be equal access to education; equal access to the workplace; equal access to public accommodation; and equal access to the ballot box," Attorney General Harris said at the commemoration. "Today, fifty years later, in the spirit of the great civil rights leaders, let us rededicate ourselves to making real the promises of the Civil Rights Act."

Photos from the commemoration are available here:

Video of Attorney General Harris’ remarks is available here:

Attorney General Harris’ remarks as prepared for delivery may be found below:

California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris

Remarks Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act

As prepared for delivery:

Mr. Rollins, thank you for that incredible introduction. And thank all of you for taking this time out of your busy lives and schedules. We have so many leaders in this room, and through each of you, so many voices are present and being represented. I wanted to start by saying thank you all for the work you do individually and collectively, to be a voice for so many people. In that way you live the spirit and the intent of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Thank you all.

Elise Buik, thank you for United Way and all of the service that you do, and for cohosting this event for us today. It really means a lot to be here in this beautiful, wonderful place—the California African American Museum. Thank you for all the leadership you give. Many of you may know the California African American Museum was designed by two phenomenal California architects who were native Angelenos who also happened to be African American, Jack Haywood and Vince Proby. This museum was opened for the 1984 Olympics by then-mayor Tom Bradley.

We not only celebrate history in this moment in time, but we are literally seated in a very historical place, so thank you all.

I fully appreciate that I would not be standing here this afternoon, as your Attorney General, were it not for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I would not be standing here today if it were not for its precursor, from 1954, Brown v. Board of Education. I would not be standing here if there had not once been a California Attorney General who went on to become the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Earl Warren, who led the court in that unanimous ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the precursor to the Civil Rights Act. I wonder, standing here, whether Earl Warren, when he authored that great decision which led to such an incredible progeny, if he wondered or thought that one day his successor, 60 years later, might be the first woman and the first African American and the first South Asian to be Attorney General.

Many of you probably know my personal background. I am one of two daughters of parents who met when they were graduate students at University of California Berkeley in the 1960s. My parents met while they were both actively involved in the civil rights movement. My sister Maya and I joke often that we grew up surrounded by a bunch of adults who spent full time marching and shouting about this thing called justice. Truly among the many heroes of that great movement were the architects who were the lawyers of the civil rights movement: Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Constance Baker Motley. They understood the skill of this great profession of law and its ability to translate the passion on the streets to the courtrooms of our country. They understood the power of that movement taking place on the ground, and carried it through to the courts of our land, making clear and true the promise that we articulated in 1776: that we are all, and should be treated as equals. That was the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In that way, we know—and you have heard from the incredible guests today, who honor us by being here—the Civil Rights Act is not only a moment in history that came about through incredible sacrifice, through the incredible leadership of so many people who lived in a way that was nothing short of courageous, many of whom died standing for this principle: that this is about ensuring that all people will have dignity as well as equality. The Civil Rights Act then is, as we know, not only something that was signed on July 2nd, 1964; it is today still a living, breathing document and it makes clear fundamental rights, certain fundamental truths. In particular, that there shall be equal access to all that allows us to live a life of dignity and productivity. There should specifically be equal access to education. Equal access to the workplace. Equal access to public accommodation. Equal access to the ballot box.

It was an act that was compelled, if not propelled, by the action of incredible human beings. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, James Meredith, Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner and so many other countless names who gave up their lives to ensure that we could stand here today in celebration. In fact, one of those names is really not often spoken. It’s the name of an individual, a man by the name of Clair Engle, who in 1963 was a United States Senator from Bakersfield, California. In 1963, Senator Engle had suffered a brain trauma—he actually suffered a tumor—that left him paralyzed and unable to speak. But as the Civil Rights Act was making its way through Congress, he was determined to see it through. At that time, as you can imagine, the votes looked tight. It was incredibly controversial and contentious. Senator Clair Engle from Bakersfield, understanding that situation, demanded that he be taken to the chambers of the United States Senate by ambulance. He was then transported by a wheelchair into the chambers. When the vote was called, the Speaker said, “All those in favor, aye. All those opposed, nay.” Senator Clair Engle, on his wheelchair, unable to speak, from Bakersfield, pointed to his eye.

What he understood was there was an urgent need for change. In that way that it is a living, breathing document, its urgency is no less present today than it was then. What they knew then, Engle and all those folks, was the urgency was pretty clear. They knew that in the Jim Crow South, as Billie Holiday sang, strange fruit hung from those trees. They knew that the laws creating supposedly ‘separate but equal’ facilities created, in fact, second class citizenship. They knew that the ‘Whites Only’ and ‘Colored’ signs, designating who could use a fountain, who could go to a theater or a courthouse or school, were inherently unjust. They knew that African Americans had to pay a poll tax or pass a literacy test in order to exercise their right to vote. They knew that there were four little girls in Birmingham that had been killed by a bomb in church. They understood the urgency of the matter.

While these images and memories evoke the Deep South, as has been said here today, let’s not forget that California was a part of that history as well. Let’s not forget that in our state’s not so distant history, Chinese Californians were relegated to working in our mines, our railroads, our farms, and our laundries. Let’s not forget that they were subject to laws that were so discriminatory that they were forbidden from owning property. Let’s not forget that Chinese Americans, at that time and for quite some time, had been denied a pathway to citizenship.

In 1942, we know—and thank you Karen Korematsu—in 1942 in California, 110,000 Japanese Americans, Japanese Californians, farmers, children, teachers, veterans, were forced into internment camps. And interestingly enough, some 17,000 at that time were sent not far from here to the horse stables at the Santa Anita racetrack about 20 miles from here, just two years after Seabiscuit had just won his last race.

Let’s remember in the 1950s and before, California’s farm workers—and Dolores Huerta sends her regards, she had to travel to New Mexico today, otherwise she’d be here with us—California’s farmworkers, most of whom were immigrants, were denied collective bargaining rights and denied minimum wage. In fact, Dolores Huerta at that time left teaching to go and co-found the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez. She said, “I quit because I couldn’t stand seeing kids come to class hungry and needing shoes. I thought I could do more by organizing farmworkers than trying to teach their hungry children.”

And in the 1950s and 60s, African Americans in California, many of whom had come west after World War II, faced unemployment, substandard housing, and inadequate schools. Many white communities right here in Southern California fiercely resisted housing integration, often with threats of violence. African Americans in Los Angeles County at that time were unemployed at a rate two to three times that of whites, and 2/3s of the adults in African American and Latino communities were high school dropouts, and almost 14% had completed less than five years of school. We in California too share a dark history when it comes to many of these issues.

But in spite of these moments in our history, California has also had great moments of progress. We have been, in many ways at many points in history, a model for our country in promoting social justice and in the protection of fundamental rights.

Let’s look at our history in another way, on women’s rights. In 1911, nine years before the passage of the 19th amendment, California was one of the first states to grant women the right to vote. In 1969, four years before Roe v. Wade, the California Supreme Court protected a woman’s right to choose.

On equal access to education, in 1947—you have heard Sylvia Mendez’s story—in 1947, seven years before Brown v. Board of Education, the federal district court in California, in the case of those five families of little children, declared that separate was not equal right here in California.

On equal access to marriage, right here in Los Angeles in 1948, 19 years before Loving v. Virginia, California’s Supreme Court made us the first state to declare a state ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional after a Latino woman and an African American man were denied a marriage license under California law.

On equal access to public accommodations, in 1959, five years before the Civil Rights Act, California passed the Unruh Civil Rights Act, barring discrimination in public accommodations based on race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin. So there is a lot to remember, some of which makes us ashamed and some of which makes us very proud.

When we think, then, about where we are, I can’t help but think of what Coretta Scott King said so well as a word of advice and as a word of encouragement. She said, “Freedom is never really won. We earn it with each and every generation.” I think when she said that she made a couple of points clear.

One: It is the nature of this fight for civil rights that it must be fought and won with each generation. These gains will never be permanent by their very nature.

Two: For that reason, in this great battle and fight for civil rights, let us never allow ourselves to become tired or overwhelmed. Let us never give up but instead remain vigilant, understanding the very nature of it all.

So I say to us here this afternoon, we are that generation that is being called upon right now in that ongoing fight for the ideals of our country, in that ongoing responsibility to recognize this living, breathing document, the Civil Rights Act. We are the generation that has the duty and the responsibility to keep it real in terms of its meaning and its purpose. So let’s look at, then, where we are and what are our challenges.

On education... In California public schools today, the average black and Latino student attends a school where 75% of his classmates are black or Latino. In California today, in our public schools, the average black or Latino student attends a school where 70% of her classmates are economically disadvantaged.

And race, sadly, seems to be a major factor in whether a child will even attend school every day. One CA study found that Latino elementary school students are chronically absent at four and a half times the rate of white students. In another study, one out of four African American kindergarteners were chronically absent at a rate of nearly five times higher than that of white students.

Our criminal justice policy... Latinos in California are twice as likely as whites to become homicide victims. And homicide is the leading cause of death for African American boys and young men aged 10-24. Let me say that again. The leading cause of death for African American boys and men aged 10-24 is homicide.

On access to economic opportunity... On average, white women make 78 cents on the dollar that white men make. And black women make 64 cents to that dollar and Latinas make 53 cents by comparison. So while we have a lot to be proud of, there is work to be done.

On marriage equality... While I am very proud to have presided over the historic marriage of Prop 8 plaintiffs Kris Perry and Sandra Stier almost one year ago today, nationally, more than half the states in America still deny same-sex couples the full dignity and equality that they deserve.

And, on immigration, Congress has failed to act repeatedly while every 78 seconds a family is torn apart. By the way, you should also know that there was a study recently that documents that 44% of Latinos are hesitant to report being a victim of crime for fear that police will question them about their or their family’s immigration status.

And just today, the United States Supreme Court, in the Hobby Lobby case, rendered a decision restricting a woman’s access to quality and affordable and preventable reproductive health care, denying her the ability to make a choice about her own body and the health decisions that come with that. We have a lot of work to do.

And on all these decisions, I would suggest, that we might ask, where are we being true to those fundamental principles that talk about fairness and justice and dignity and equality and opportunity? The Civil Rights Act is indeed a living and breathing document that makes clear there are certain fundamental rights. And California has a long history of fighting to protect those rights. So today, 50 years later, we stand here all of us, united, as we rededicate ourselves to making real the promises of the Act.

On education, let’s talk about what that looks like. Let’s recognize that right now, elementary school truancy is one the of biggest issues we can actually solve when it comes to what is happening—or not happening—with poor children and children of color. Let’s talk about the child at the age of four who is on public assistance versus the child who enters school at age four from an affluent family. Do you know that the child who enters school from an affluent or educated family has heard 30 million more words than that child who is entering school on public assistance? Not 30 million different words, 30 million total words. It has hurt that much in terms of conversation. When we look at where we have to go today then, I would suggest that in California on the issue of education, we have to recommit ourselves as a community to taking a look at what is happening with our poor children and our children of color and understand that there are significant differences in the way they are experiencing, or not experiencing, education. And it is must be one of our greatest areas of focus, understanding that that was at the heart of Brown v. Board of Education, which led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

On criminal justice... Let’s look those statistics that speak to the disproportionate nature of who will become a victim of crime, as an example. Let’s rededicate ourselves today along with our partners in law enforcement, like Charlie Beck, the great Police Chief of Los Angeles, who is here. I have been so fortunate to be partnering with him on the work they are doing right here in Los Angeles. Folks, I was invited to the White House to talk about the work they’re doing here. The work we’re doing right here in LA, called “Back on Track – LA,” focusing on public-private partnerships with our faith-based leaders, with our leaders in our educational systems, with our leaders in law enforcement, and throughout the community, the Chamber of Commerce, all coming together, focusing on young, first-time, low-level offenders, and bringing education and jobs to them so that we can shut that revolving door that invariably leads them back to the place that they are right now.

On economic opportunity, we must continue to do what we as a state have been doing and I give credit to Governor Jerry Brown. We have passed legislation increasing our minimum wage. We must continue to work towards those kinds of policies. And we must recognize also, on the issue of economic opportunity, one of those fundamental lines, there is no question—we all know it is true, when you lift up the status of women, in that dynamic, you lift up whole communities. We’ve got to narrow that wage gap.

And on immigration, you know it is not a state issue, it is a federal issue, but the reality is we’ve got to move this thing along. They need to pass comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. And in the interim I am proud to share with you that last week I issued a bulletin to all law enforcement in the state of California to emphasize the very, very simple point: As the top cop of the biggest state in the country, it is clear to me on the law that local law enforcement should not be used as a tool of ICE to patrol the streets as immigration enforcement.

To make decisions for what is best for public safety, in the spirit of Gonzalo Mendez, Fred Korematsu, Cesar Chavez, and in the spirit of Ed  Roybal, Tom Bradley, Betty Hill, we have a collective duty to them and to each other, to take these issues on. And we also have a duty, I believe, to understand the tools the Civil Right Act built for us, and all that it promised and made clear in terms of everything that led to it and what it does for us more specifically.

It was the result of kneel-ins, of sit-ins, of boycotts, of voter registration drives. It is the product of activists and politicians and students and faith-based leaders and lawyers and farm workers and even a seamstress who just didn’t want to give up her seat on that bus. It was made possible, and this I cannot stress enough, it was made possible, I believe, because it created a coalition of people who supported it, who understood: there may seemingly be differences among us, but on these fundamental rights, there is no difference between us. And so, those of us here who work on education,  or immigration, or women’s rights, or housing rights, or criminal justice reform, we are all in this together, those of us who are working on marriage equality, those of us focused on economic opportunity, we are all in this together.

The way that the Civil Rights Act of 1964  came about, because you know it didn’t come easily, was folks walked out of rooms like this, seeing each other as not only being equal as human beings, but equal in purpose and equal in dedication to fundamental rights. My charge to everyone today, as we leave this moment, this anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, is to dedicate ourselves now more than ever to the coalition that we know is a winning coalition. Going forward we know we can do this. We know we can do this. There is more than binds us than keeps us apart. And so I say to everyone today, let us rededicate ourselves to the words and the principles and the spirit of that great civil rights moment and let’s walk out of here in collective purpose, marching on, leading on for equality, for dignity, and justice for all. Thank you.

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 20, 2014
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SAN FRANCISCO - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris issued the following statement in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day:

“Today we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and honor the progress we have made toward realizing his dream of justice and equality for all. His legacy has transcended nearly fifty years, inspiring generations of Americans to lead with his compassion and resolve to build a more just nation.    

In this spirit, today we also reflect on the road that still lies ahead to reach those who continue to suffer from inequality and injustice. To truly honor Dr. King, we must re-commit ourselves to his work and never forget that ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”

Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Issues Statement on San Diego County Proposition 8 Filing

July 19, 2013
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

SAN FRANCISCO -- Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued the following statement in response to the San Diego County Clerk’s filing with the California Supreme Court on Proposition 8:

"The filing offers no new arguments that could deny same-sex couples their constitutionally protected civil rights. The federal injunction is still in effect, and it requires all 58 counties to perform same-sex marriages. No exceptions."