California Democratic Attorney General Rob Bonta announced on Wednesday that his office formally launched “California Police Shooting Investigation Teams” to review officer-involved killings of unarmed civilians independently.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Bonta said the state Department of Justice has opened several field offices and instructed law enforcement agencies to notify the state whenever fatal police shootings occur.
“One of the most important tasks ahead for public safety and our society is building and maintaining trust between our communities and law enforcement,” said Bonta. “Impartial, fair investigations and independent reviews of officer-involved shootings are one essential component for achieving that trust.”
The Times reported, “The actions, including the opening of investigative offices in Los Angeles and Riverside, were in response to a new law that took effect July 1 requiring Bonta’s office to independently probe all fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians to determine whether criminal charges should be filed against officers.”
Such investigations have historically been handled by local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys.
Bonta co-authored the legislation, which was signed into law last year, as an Assemblymember representing a district in the East Bay Area. He became the first Filipino American to serve as California’s attorney general in March after being appointed to fill a vacancy left by Xavier Becerra, who had resigned to join President Biden’s cabinet as Health and Human Services secretary. In May, Bonta vowed to reject all campaign donations from “law enforcement” as he runs to stay in the seat next year.
The personnel on the new California Police Shooting Investigative Teams (CaPSIT) are geographically and strategically located “in alignment with historical patterns in officer-involved shootings in the state,” Bonta’s office said.
“These cases are never going to be easy, but the California Department of Justice will follow the facts and seek to ensure every Californian is afforded equal justice under the law,” said Bonta.
More details from the L.A. Times:
Bonta said he expected the two new teams, one for Northern California and one for Southern California, would investigate 40 to 50 fatal police shootings each year based on historic trends…
The attorney general said 27 special agents and six supervisory agents would make up the California Police Shooting Investigation Teams. The Northern California office is in Sacramento…
Under the new law, the DOJ must investigate the fatal police shootings and submit a written report that states the facts of the case, its analysis, provides a conclusion on each issue raised by the shooting and recommends whether policies of the law enforcement agency should be changed. If the DOJ determines criminal charges are warranted, it would prosecute the officers.
Bonta said he anticipates cooperation from local law enforcement agencies.
“I’m honestly not expecting a lot of pushback or tension or obstacles,” Bonta said at a press conference on Wednesday. “We will be prepared for any that do arise.”