A bill proposed by State Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore, that would have made a felony charge of battery of a peace officer a "strikeable" offense was knocked down today.
Assembly Bill 60 was voted down by the Assembly Public Safety Committee. It was introduced by Jeffries after the death of Riverside Police Officer Ryan Bonaminio last November, according to a news release from Jeffries' office.
At the age of 27, Officer Bonaminio was a four-year veteran of the Riverside Police Department and a U.S. Army war veteran. On November 7 he was brutally beaten, shot and killed, said Jeffries' Chief of Staff, Jeff Greene, in a news release.
The accused, Earl Green, had already been convicted of half a dozen previous felonies including battery of a peace officer where he broke the officer's nose. He was only given a short sentence for this crime; had AB 60 already been law, Earl Green would not have been free to commit this murder, Greene said.
This case and others like it brought about AB 60 which makes a felony charge of battery on a peace officer a "serious" and "violent" crime, and provides that the offense will count as a "strike, according to Greene.
In the hearing Tuesday, Assemblyman Jeffries stated that "our officers place themselves at risk in order to ensure the safety of our communities. It is our responsibility to do what is in our power to protect them and hold those who commit crimes against them responsible for their actions".
Joe Bonaminio, father of fallen Officer Ryan Bonaminio, was a witness at the hearing where he remarked that "personally speaking there is no way in this world that anyone should ever be able to put a hand on a police officer or peace officer in an offensive manner."
"These officers should be able to go home again, to go home and see their wife or husband, their children, their parents and their loved ones," the elder Bonaminio said.
According to Jeffries' office, all major law enforcement groups were in support of the bill including Police Officers Research Association of California, California State Sheriffs Association and California Professional Firefighters. Local agencies in support of the bill from the city and county of Riverside level included the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Riverside Police Officers Association, the City of Riverside, the Riverside Police Department and the Riverside Sheriffs' Association.
Jeffries' office said opposition argued the bill "would make an unprecedented and unfortunate change to the system" which would allow for abuse; placing more individuals in our already overcrowded prisons.
According to Jeffries' office, former Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, who previously served on the Public Safety Committee, flew up to the Capitol to offer his support and testimony in favor of the bill where he rebutted opposition by stating there are many safeguards within the system to protect unnecessary abuse.
AB 60 only makes felony charges of a peace officer eligible to be a strikeable offense, giving prosecutors and judges more discretion when they analyze the entirety of the offense, Greene said.
Spitzer remarked that "going after a man or woman in uniform is a stark statement of blatant disrespect for the law."
Before recommending a "no" vote to the committee, Chairman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, remarked that "it is very distressing to know the right thing to do in this situation. It is emotional and we have to step back...but I have to say I have serious concerns with this bill and I cannot support your bill today."
AB 60 intended to do what was in the legislature's power to protect our law enforcement officers, Greene said. Unfortunately the committee proceeded to vote the bill down with only three votes in support and four in opposition, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, was the only Democrat to support the bill, Greene said.
After the committee's decision, Jeffries issued this statement:
"When we neglect to protect our peace officers it is our communities that suffer the greatest loss. We lose dedicated public servants like Officer Ryan Bonaminio whose deaths could have been prevented. I am disappointed that the committee did not take the step to learn from this loss and protect our officers who continue to serve and protect our community," Jeffries said.
Jeffries represents Western Riverside County and Northeastern San Diego County, including Jurupa, Riverside, Lake Elsinore, Wildomar, Murrieta, Temecula, Fallbrook, Bonsall, Valley Center and Julian. He recently announced his 2012 candidacy for Riverside County Supervisor, First District.