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California makes it legal for citizens to refuse to help cops in need


'Vestige of a bygone era'

Hector Amezcua/Sacramento Bee/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill Tuesday that ended the legal requirement for citizens to assist a police officer in need upon request, according to The Daily Caller.

The bill repealed the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872, which dictated that it was a misdemeanor for any "able-bodied person 18 years of age or older" to refuse to assist an officer "in making an arrest, retaking into custody a person who has escaped from arrest or imprisonment, or preventing a breach of the peace or the commission of any criminal offense."

Senate Bill 192 was authored by state Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D), who called the law a "vestige of a bygone era" and said the law's requirements could subject citizens to "an untenable moral dilemma."

Hertzberg said he told his interns to scour the books for any laws that were outdated and needed to be repealed.

"Thank you to my interns for finding a law that belongs in the history books, not the law books," Hertzberg said, according to CNN.

The California State Sheriff's Association issued a statement in June saying it felt that repealing the law was unnecessary.

"We are unfamiliar with concerns with this statute other than it was enacted many years ago and carries a fine for a person who disobeys it," the statement read. "There are situations in which a peace officer might look to private persons for assistance in matters of emergency or risks to public safety and we are unconvinced that this statute should be repealed."

The law has some controversial associations, which may have contributed to its repeal. According to the Sacramento Bee, it was sometimes employed for the purpose of catching runaway slaves.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, posse comitatus was invoked by the Fugitive Slave Act to allow federal marshals to "summon and call to their aid the bystanders, or posse comitatus of the proper county ... [and] all good citizens [were] commanded to aid and assist in the prompt and efficient execution of this law."

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