SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California’s police standards commission, known as POST, said it's possible that they could decertify or suspend up to 3,500 police officers each year for serious misconduct under a new state law, some of which the Newsom administration wants to weaken.
The estimates detailed in a POST budget request, and reported by the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday, suggest that's about 4% of the roughly 90,000 officers working in California.
To date, there are 44 officers on POST's list, though most have a temporary suspension at this point and there is a long process before they would ultimately be decertified, meaning they would no longer be able to work at any police department in the state.
There are several Bay Area officers on the list, ranging from Phong Thanh Tran in Oakland, whom the Alameda County District Attorney recently charged with perjury, bribery and threatening a witness to Dan Fink, a veteran and now-retired San Rafael police lieutenant who allegedly committed undescribed "egregious acts."
As of Jan. 1, California became the latest state in the country to be able to decertify peace officers, under a law called SB2.
The law charges POST with decertifying officers for serious misconduct — essentially kicking them out of the profession for things like sexual assault, perjury and wrongfully killing civilians.
POST can also suspend an officer’s certification for up to three years.
In its budget request, POST said it expects to receive more than 16,000 reports of serious misconduct per year, about 3,500 of which will be sustained and will require the commission to initiate proceedings to decertify the officers.
In the first five months of the year, the commission received more than 6,200 reports of serious misconduct from law enforcement agencies, the Chronicle reported. About 40% of those involve allegations of excessive use of force.
POST is guessing that officers will appeal the commission’s sustained findings of serious misconduct in about 10% of cases.
At the same time, Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to pass a "trailer bill" to roll back part of the law that would require POST to provide investigative records in response to public records laws authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner – which every other police agency in the state has to adhere by.
Members of the public could still request them through local police departments, but a coalition of 22 groups, including ACLU California Action, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office and the First Amendment Coalition, sent a letter to legislative leaders on Wednesday arguing the changes "would deny promised transparency into the decertification process."
"We must let @CAgovernor& #CALeg know that we won’t accept secret dealings behind closed doors that reduces police transparency & accountability," the ACLU of Northern California tweeted.