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After Stephon Clark, NAACP says legal protections for police give them too much 'wiggle room

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Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn looks on during a special city council meeting to address concerns over the shooting death of Stephon Clark at Sacramento City Hall on March 27 in Sacramento, California. The president of the Sacramento chapter of the NAACP called for changes to a state law that provides protections to police officers. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The president of the Sacramento chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People called for changes to a state law that provides protections to police officers, saying the law gives officers too much “wiggle room to be found innocent,” according to KOVR-TV.

What is the law?

The law in question is the California Peace Officers Bill of Rights, and it was adopted based on the premise that “effective law enforcement depends upon the maintenance of stable employer-employee relations, between public safety employees and their employers.”

The law sets up protections and rights for officers who are under investigation or subject to disciplinary proceedings.

What does the NAACP want changed?

Sacramento NAACP President Betty Williams called out two issues with the California Peace Officers Bill of Rights.

First, she pointed out that public safety officers under investigation are given information about the investigation and their interrogating officers before they are interrogated.

“Prior to an interrogation, the officer involved has the right to see and hear the evidence that’s put before him,” Williams told KOVR. “No one else that’s going up against a judge has that type of right or power.”

Secondly, Williams said there needs to be more transparency about what discipline officers are subject to.

“If we come back to [Sacramento Police] Chief [Daniel] Hahn and say what happened to officer A-B-C, he can’t say,” Williams said. “He’ll likely say it’s a personnel issue, and that officer can go to another city and work.”

Should the law be changed?

McGeorge law professor John Myers told KOVR the law is simply meant to protect the due process rights of officers, and shouldn’t be interpreted as something that applies to the killing of Stephon Clark. Clark was shot and killed on the evening of March 18 by two officers of the Sacramento Police Department.

“It has nothing to do with the public, nothing to do with police officers’ use of deadly force, it’s a procedural mechanism to make sure officers are treated fairly by their employees,” Myers said.

Williams and the NAACP are reportedly working with California lawmakers on a bill to amend the law.

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