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Civil Rights groups accuse legislator and AG of stalling police accountability bill

Civil rights leaders descended on the Capitol on Tuesday, to express their frustration with the language change on Assembly Bill 284 (also known as the Deadly Force Evaluation Act.)The bill would require all police shootings to be investigated by a team from the Attorney General's Office.

Betty Williams, president of the Sacramento NAACP, said the bill had been gutted during what she calls the “July 3 massacre." (The bill was revamped on the eve of the July 4 holiday.)

"They gutted it and bled it to death," she said, referring to how the teeth had been taken out of the bill.

The Rev. Shane Harris, president of the San Diego National Action Network, was also upset at how the bill had been held up and deprived of its power. He also questioned California's priorities. He said the state was willing to spend $60 million on immigration issues, but taking action against police shootings was held up for "further study."

"We didn't need a research plan for some of the issues around education," he said. "But we need a research plan for policing?"

Police shootings continue to be a problem in California. According to the Guardian, the Los Angeles Police Department lead the nation in officer-related shooting deaths.

Other high-profile California shootings include Alfred Olango, an unarmed black man shot dead by El Cajon police, and Oscar Grant, who was shot dead after a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer confused his taser with a gun.

And last year Sacramento also dealt with police shootings. Last year, Joseph Mann, a mentally ill man, was shot 16 times by Sacramento police officers, who also tried to run him down before shooting him. The Sacramento District Attorney's Office cleared both officers involved in the shooting. According to the Sacramento Bee, the city of Sacramento paid more than $700,000 to settle a lawsuit involving Mann's death.

According to advocates the appointed prosecutor language is one of the central problems that AB 284, authored by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento,) needed to address. Since district attorneys often work alongside police and depend on their support during local elections, they can't be objective when it comes to prosecuting officers. Harris compared it to expecting students to grade their own work. However, the Police Officers Research Association of California (PORAC) called AB 284 a "waste of taxpayers' dollars" and removed their opposition from the amended bill.

Robert Mann, Joseph's brother, was also present at the Capitol. He said the original version of the AB 284 was good, but "a lot of the good parts of the bill have been taken out.” He said he is hopeful he can work with legislators to make the bill stronger.

Earlier during a hearing to evaluate AB 284 State. Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) said California's record on prosecuting police shootings was embarrassing. He said there had been hundreds of police shootings in California, but only five officers had been prosecuted, and only two convicted, but acknowledge it is a tough job.

"We as a legislative body should be troubled at the number of unarmed individuals who been killed (by police) over the last couple of years," said Bradford.

In May, Al Sharpton held a press conference at the State Capitol alongside the Rev K.W. Tulloss, NAN western regional director, and the Rev. Shane Harris, San Diego president of NAN, to urge legislators to pass AB 284 which passed with the original language.

Sharpton said although California claimed to be a progressive state, it leads the nation in police shootings.

"California has this image of progressivism but is not up to par with other states in the union, like New York, like Wisconsin, who have made toward a special prosecutor," said Sharpton.

"How is it that California leads the nation in officer involved shootings but is behind eight states behind in creating a solution for officer-involved shootings?" Harris asked.

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