New California law requires additional police scrutiny for ties to hate groups

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — Law enforcement will now be required to screen applicants for ties to hate groups and make it easier to fire anyone with such ties.

The CLEAR Act, short for California Law Enforcement Accountability Reform Act — was signed into law Friday by Governor Gavin Newsom. It is described as an effort to build community trust.

The CLEAR Act was crafted by South Bay Assemblyman Ash Kalra in the wake of the Jan. 6 uprising at the United States Capitol.

“We already know there is a problem and there has been, as identified by the FBI, Asm said. Kalra told ABC7 News. “A problem of infiltration into law enforcement by those who have affiliations with certain hate groups. And so what that does is it actually allows law enforcement agencies to weed out those potential candidates .”

Kalra said the push became even more pressing after a 2022 state police audit found five California law enforcement agencies, including the San Jose Police Department, failed to does enough to prevent biased behavior.

“The reality is when it comes to people who work in law enforcement, who have a badge and the power to go with it, we shouldn’t cut corners,” Asm said. Kalra said.

RELATED: CA audit examines bias within SJPD and other law enforcement agencies

The San Jose State Human Rights Institute (SJSU HRI) and the California Faculty Association co-sponsored the bill.

Dr. William Armaline of SJSU HRI told ABC7 News that the CLEAR Act goes beyond the bar of implicit bias.

“What our bill does is create a screening mechanism for new law enforcement recruits – and for existing law enforcement officers – that would prohibit their membership in groups that advocate or participate in hate crimes or genocide,” Dr. Armaline explained.

This is essentially one more step in an already lengthy hiring process.

The CLEAR Act calls for an investigation into an officer’s membership or potential participation in hate groups, and for the defense of any “public expression of hatred”. This would include social media posts.

“It’s called a ‘public expression of hatred,'” he described. “Where you are over there, obviously, sporting your membership and that sort of thing.”

RELATED: CA enacts law requiring police to intervene if they witness excessive force from fellow officers

Armaline said the measures are driven by real cases across the country.

“It really just adds that extra qualifier to the screening that already happens at the time of hiring,” he said of the bill. “So that’s just one more thing that we would be looking at, in terms of law enforcement officers, or potential law enforcement officers at the point of enforcement.”

Dr. Armaline said SJSU HRI started working on the bill, even before the January 6 uprising. He said the work began after several reports from the FBI and other investigative journalists documented the infiltration of law enforcement by members of far-right organizations.

He said they really tried to structure the bill so that it would not “restrict the civil liberties of police officers” or other public employees.

“Instead, what our bill does is kind of give the public the power to decide who should carry a gun and wear a badge,” Dr. Armaline told ABC7 News.

CSU East Bay criminal justice professor Dr. Lisa Hill, who is not affiliated with the bill, spoke.

RELATED: Mayor Liccardo Cracks Down on SJPD Officer Misconduct, Calls for Random Drug and Alcohol Testing

“What’s surprising is that some of those assessments — background investigations, psychological tests — didn’t pick up a lot of them,” she said. “And I think this law is pushing us in the right direction.”

“We got a little confused ‘Zero Tolerance.’ There’s a percentage, every time you go over zero, you’re no longer at zero tolerance. And I think this law brings us one step closer to that,” Dr. Hill explained.

She answered a question about the Bay Area Police Department being understaffed.

“I think this need to fill these positions leads some people to believe that ‘yes, I know my Facebook can be audited, but I’m going to get away with it,'” Dr Hill described, taking into account the aspect social media research. consideration. “I think they don’t understand the meaning.”

She continued, “I think we put too much on social media, thinking it’s kind of like a free zone, and we can separate who we are in terms of our tags, and so on. social networks, in relation to who we are as a professional. And in many professions, you can do it.

Dr Hill, however, said, for police departments and police officers, “Your behavior on and off the job is very important.”

Now California law, many say the hope is that the CLEAR Act can be a model for police reform across the United States

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About Marjorie C. Hudson

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