Formally establishes California Police Shooting Investigation Teams
OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta today announced the release of initial guidelines and protocols for the implementation of California Assembly Bill 1506 (AB 1506), as well as the formal establishment of California Police Shooting Investigation Teams (CaPSIT) to handle qualifying incidents. Under AB 1506, the California Department of Justice is required by law to investigate all incidents of an officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian in the state. Historically, these critical incidents had been primarily handled by local law enforcement and district attorneys. The program announced today reflects best practices based on funding levels currently allocated for the program in the state budget. Attorney General Bonta, as a then-Assemblymember, was a co-author of AB 1506, which was signed into law on September 30, 2020 — with an effective date set for July 2021.
“One of the most important tasks ahead for public safety and our society is building and maintaining trust between our communities and law enforcement,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Impartial, fair investigations and independent reviews of officer-involved shootings are one essential component for achieving that trust. Today, California is strengthening our state’s mechanisms for accountability and transparency in investigations of officer-involved shootings. These cases are never going to be easy, but the California Department of Justice will follow the facts and seek to ensure every Californian is afforded equal justice under the law.”
Effective July 1, 2021, the California Department of Justice will investigate and review for potential criminal liability all such incidents covered under the new law, as enacted in California Government Code section 12525.3. As part of the law’s requirements, the California Department of Justice will make public its determinations regarding potential criminal prosecutions of incidents that fall under the law’s purview — either through a written report explaining a decision not to seek criminal prosecution or by the filing of criminal charges. Based on historical data, it is estimated that there will be approximately 40 to 50 officer-involved shootings each year requiring the involvement of the California Department of Justice.
As part of the effort to strengthen public trust in and understanding of the process, Attorney General Bonta is today announcing the release of: (1) a law enforcement bulletin on AB 1506 definitions and notification requirements; (2) the Criminal Law Division’s AB 1506 protocols; (3) the full investigation procedural guidelines for CaPSIT; (4) protocols for outreach and services for impacted family members; and (5) the California Department of Justice’s communications policy for incidents that qualify under AB 1506. Each document works to help provide law enforcement and members of the public with a clear picture of the California Department of Justice’s new roles and expectations. These documents are meant to serve as a guide and will be regularly reviewed to remain contemporaneous with best practices and on-the-ground, learned experiences.
Further, in order to ensure incidents shall be thoroughly, independently, and timely investigated, Attorney General Bonta is today also formally launching CaPSIT. The personnel on the new teams are geographically and strategically located across California in alignment with historical patterns in officer-involved shootings in the state, with one team covering Southern California and another for Northern California. When a critical incident occurs that may qualify under the parameters established by AB 1506, CaPSIT will, upon notification by local law enforcement, immediately deploy to the incident scene. CaPSIT will work in coordination with local responding agencies throughout the investigation of the officer-involved shooting, and members of CaPSIT will serve as concurrent, independent special agent investigators of these critical incidents. Once the initial investigation has been completed, the matter will then be turned over to the California Department of Justice’s Special Prosecutions Section within the Criminal Law Division for review. Any administrative or civil investigations are the sole responsibility of the employing law enforcement agency, and are separate and distinct from the AB 1506 investigation. Local authorities will maintain responsibility for the investigation of collateral offenses that may have occurred in conjunction with the officer-involved shooting. As needed, CaPSIT will conduct additional follow-up investigation to ensure a comprehensive, independent review of these serious, deadly incidents.
More information regarding the California Department of Justice’s new role under AB 1506 and any cases that fall under the law’s purview is available here: https://oag.ca.gov/ois-incidents.