SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California police would no longer be able to arrest anyone for loitering with intent to engage in prostitution under a bill approved by state lawmakers on Friday mid debate on whether this decision would help or harm victims of sex trafficking.
But Senator Scott Wiener then used a procedural measure to withhold the bill from the governor’s review until next year.
The delay until January gives supporters “more time to explain why this civil rights bill is good policy that should be enacted and why this discriminatory crime of vagrancy goes against California values and must be repealed, “Wiener’s office said in a statement. declaration.
Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, argued that crime too often depends on an officer’s perception and results in disproportionate arrests of transgender, black and Latino women.
His bill would repeal that part of California law. It was approved by the Assembly by 41 votes to 26 and by the Senate by roll call 26 to 9.
It would also allow those who are currently serving sentences or who have already been convicted to ask a court to dismiss and seal the conviction record.
Similar legislation became law in New York in February. Wiener said the measures are part of an effort to end discrimination and violence against female sex workers.
The current law undermines public safety and victims of trafficking by increasing distrust of the police, especially among targeted communities, which “means people will not engage with law enforcement when they need it, ”said Democratic MP Rebecca Bauer-Kahan during the Assembly debate.
“Criminalizing the victims and leaving them with a criminal record that creates additional obstacles to finding employment, housing and relief is not the solution,” she said.
Opponents gathered at the State Capitol on Tuesday, saying the measure essentially legalized the most dangerous form of prostitution. The measure endangers those who are forced into sex trafficking, they argued.
It would “seriously undermine the ability of law enforcement to investigate trafficking crimes,” many opponents said in a letter to lawmakers last month. The bill assumes that sex work is voluntary, while opponents argue that many are coerced.
Supporters of the bill “have given the impression that this group is simply being judged and targeted for going about its own business and standing in corners, and that is simply not the case,” said Sable Horton, survivor of sex trafficking.
Bauer-Kahan took offense when Assembly Member Jim Cooper, a fellow Democrat and former Sacramento County Sheriff’s captain, said officers should be allowed to presume women “dressed like this” in such a way. defiant and carrying “a handbag full of condoms” are street walkers.
“It’s not rocket science,” Cooper said. “You know who the players are and who they aren’t.”
“I know I’m probably not the only woman on the floor who was triggered when one of our coworkers said, ‘Well, they’re dressed like this,” Bauer-Kahan replied. this way ‘is not a crime, and it will never be acceptable to be a victim because you were dressed in any way. “
The bill had the backing of a former public defender, MP Ash Kalra, and a former prosecutor, MP Al Muratsuchi, both Democrats.
“Law enforcement can help people without threatening to arrest them,” Kalra said.
“It just eliminates that vague provision in the penal code that allows abuse for people to be simply profiled for the wrong reasons,” Muratsuchi said.
Wiener’s bill has the support of the American Civil Liberties Union as well as groups representing LGTBQ people and sex workers.
The ACLU said the measure “eliminates a law that allows police to rely on bias rather than evidence to criminalize otherwise legal activities like walking, dressing or standing in public.”
Also on Friday, lawmakers approved a bill in response to the 2019 mass shooting at a synagogue in Poway, California. The minor shooter was able to purchase his assault weapon because his lack of a valid hunting license was not verified, a loophole the bill seeks to fill.
The same bill would expand a new mandate that the state attorney general would investigate all fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians to include cases where there is a reasonable dispute as to whether that civilian was armed.
Lawmakers also approved another Wiener bill ending mandatory minimum jail or prison terms for non-violent drug offenses, giving judges more leeway to impose probation or other alternative sentences.
Lawmakers also sent the governor a bill raising the minimum age for becoming a police officer to 21 and requiring state regulators and education experts to develop “a modern police degree program.”
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