California Governor Jerry Brown (D) on Tuesday signed Senate Bill 227 which bans the use of grand juries in cases involving police shootings of civilians.
This new legislation – authored by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) – comes as a response to distrust of the grand jury process amid the recurring deaths of unarmed Black men and women across the country.
The grand jury process is when evidence is presented to a panel of civilians in secret, which Mitchell argues fosters a lack of trust in the system.
Supporters of SB 227 deem the grand jury process too secretive and say it enables prosecutors to avoid decision-making responsibility in politically charged cases.
California is the first state to take this action, which is set to go into effect next year. Some police chiefs and law enforcement groups opposed the bill.
"The use of the criminal grand jury process, and the refusal to indict as occurred in Ferguson and other communities of color, has fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that threatens to compromise our justice system,” Mitchell said in a statement.
Once SB 227 is officially implemented, prosecutors will be responsible for deciding if police officers should face criminal charges for killing someone in the line of duty.
Brown also signed Senate Bill 411, also known as the “Right to Record Act” on Tuesday which clarifies civilians’ right to shoot video of police.