AB 846 – Amends Peace Officer Screening Standards And Job Descriptions To Eliminate Bias And Emphasize Community Policing

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room, Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education, Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Nov 12, 2020

AB 846 is a police reform bill that broadens the minimum standards for peace officers to screen for an applicant’s biases during the hiring process. In addition, AB 846 requires law enforcement departments, including campus police departments that employ sworn officers, to review and revise peace officer job descriptions and law enforcement recruiting practices to emphasize community-oriented policing.

Under Government Code Section 1031, peace officers are required to meet certain minimum standards, including undergoing an evaluation that finds them to be free from any physical, emotional, or mental condition that might adversely affect their exercise of peace officer powers. AB 846 amended Section 1031 to specify that a disqualifying condition includes any bias based on race or ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.

The bill also requires the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to study and update its regulations and associated peace officer screening materials by January 1, 2022, to incorporate the identification of explicit and implicit bias based on race or ethnicity, gender, nationality, religion, disability, or sexual orientation.

In addition, AB 846 requires every law enforcement agency, including those that are part of a school district, the community college district, California State University, or University of California that employs peace officers to review their job descriptions used in the recruitment and hiring of peace officers to make changes to emphasize community-based policing, community interaction, and collaborative problem solving while de-emphasizing the paramilitary aspects of the job. However, the bill clarifies that this provision does not alter the job duties of peace officers.

In response to AB 846, public agencies, including public educational institutions with police departments should begin reviewing their peace officer hiring procedures and look for further guidance from POST to incorporate these new prohibitions on explicit and implicit biases.  In addition, public educational institutions that have police departments should review and revise their peace officer job descriptions to incorporate community-based policing, community interaction, and collaborative problem-solving. 

(AB 846 amends Section 1031 of the Government Code, adds Section 1031.3 to the Government Code, and adds Section 13651 to the Penal Code.)