Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at his gubernatorial campaign’s primary night watch party in San Francisco, Tuesday, June 5, 2018. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Here’s a strange bit of legislation.
On Tuesday, California Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill freeing citizens from the obligation to help cops who need help making an arrest.
SB 192’s sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, told The Sacramento Bee it repeals the California Posse Comitatus Acto of 1872. According to Bob, the old law’s a “vestige of a bygone era” that forces “an untenable moral dilemma” for folks.
From the bill:
Existing law makes an able-bodied person 18 years of age or older who neglects or refuses to join the posse comitatus or power of the county, by neglecting or refusing to aid and assist, as described, 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, after being lawfully required by a uniformed peace officer or a judge, guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to punishment by a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $1,000.
This bill would repeal that provision and make conforming changes.
The state Sheriff’s Association wasn’t much for the law, and they made it known via a statement:
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for assistance in matters of emergency or risks to public safety and we are unconvinced that this statute should be repealed.
But what if the command puts the person in danger?
It certainly could. As reported by the Bee, a couple claims it did:
The law was cited as recently as 2014, when the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office invoked posse comitatus in its defense during a lawsuit filed by a man and woman alleging they were deceived into responding to a dangerous 911 call on the office’s behalf.
Personally, I find both things strange — that there’s a bill aggressively freeing the public from cooperating with cops in need during an arrest, and also the fact that there was a law demanding the opposite which necessitated it.
What are your thoughts? Is this a wise correction, or just the latest rise out of wacky California?
I look forward to hearing from you in the Comments section.
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