For Immediate Release
October 1, 2018
Black Lives Matter, Community Organizers, and the Families of those Killed by Police Get the “Right to Know” Bill on Police Transparency Signed into California Law
California was one of the most secretive states in the nation when it comes to police investigations. California is also the state where the greatest number of killings at the hands of police occur. In early 2017, a coalition of organizations, that included the ACLU, Anti Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter, California Faculty Association, California News Publishers Association, CURYJ, PICO, Policylink, and Youth Justice Coalition, came together as bill co-sponsors to brainstorm how this veil of secrecy could be lifted through legislation. The “Right to Know” bill, authored by Senator Nancy Skinner, authorizes public access to internal investigations when police kill people or are found guilty of serious misconduct. Immediately, the families of those killed by police jumped in. Hundreds lined up to offer public testimony around the importance of simply knowing what happened to their loved ones. “I just want to know what happened to Eric. I want to know what happened to my baby.” said Valerie Rivera, whose son Eric Rivera was killed by LAPD in 2017 and whose killing was found to be “in policy,” with no charges ever filed by the Los Angeles District Attorney, Jackie Lacey.
This sentiment was echoed by Helen Jones, whose son, John Horton was killed in 2009 inside LA County jail and whose busted liver, fractured ribs and skull, facial abrasions, and internal bleeding indicate that he didn’t die by suicide as alleged by his jailers.
Dozens of families, hundreds of organizers, and thousands of Californians have made the passage of the “Right to Know” bill their work, with countless overnight bus trips to Sacramento, public testimonies, lobbying, incessant calls to legislators and the Governor, media work, letters to lawmakers, and countless conversation.
The landmark legislation faced an uphill battle, fighting the money and power of police unions, who tried all kinds of dirty tricks, including “coincidentally” donating to key legislators the night before the floor vote on the bill.
“We can never underestimate the power of the people,” says Black Lives Matter organizer Gregory Akili. The people lined up behind SB 1421 and did the work. The night of the legislative vote, there were “call your legislator” parties, and many of the votes that had been flipped by police unions were flipped back by public demand.
Weeks passed and Governor Jerry Brown had not signed the bill. Daily calls to action were issued, imploring folks to call, tweet, and contact the Governor to ask him to sign. Finally, just hours before the legislative deadline, on the night of September 30th, word came. Jerry Brown signed the bill.
“For Black Lives Matter, so much of what we do is intangible. The passage of this bill is pivotal. It’s the first bill we have ever co-sponsored and gives us a tangible victory that has real meaning – especially for the families of those who have been killed by law enforcement.” says Black Lives Matter organizer, Melina Abdullah. This is affirmed by Lisa Hines, whose daughter, Wakiesha Wilson, was killed inside LAPD Metro Detention Center in March 2016. After having worked for more than six months to pass SB 1421, Ms. Hines celebrates the win and notes the possibilities for the future. “This is just the beginning!” she says.
ABOUT BLACK LIVES MATTER
Black Lives Matter is a chapter-based, member-led organization whose mission is to build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. They support the lives of the Black queer and transgender communities, the disabled, the undocumented, those with records, women, and all black lives along the gender spectrum. Black lives network centers those who have been marginalized with Black liberation movements.