AB 953: Make History, Don’t Repeat It

September 25, 2015 /


by Stewart Kwoh and Cristopher Punongbayan

Image: Dignity & Power NOW!

Ed. Note: As the legislative session draws to a close, AB 953 is one of several bills on Governor Jerry Brown’s desk, waiting for either a signature or a veto. AB 953 would require law enforcement to gather and report information on all stops. Supporters of the bill see it as a key step in curbing racial profiling.

Stewart Kwoh and Christopher Punongbayan share why they believe it is imperative that Governor Brown signs AB 953 into law. Kwoh is President & Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. Punongbayan is Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus.

At this pivotal moment in our nation’s ongoing struggle with racism, California can and should lead the nation in fair policing. Instead, our state shamefully leads the country in officer-involved killings, with over 120 deaths so far this year. Behind this number are the countless communities affected and families left shattered.

Last month, representatives from Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities joined with Black, Latino, and Native American communities from all over the state to bring attention to this issue by calling for the passage of Assembly Bill 953, a bill that would increase law enforcement transparency and accountability. Over 800 individuals converged on the grounds of the Sacramento State Capitol and shut down the Governor’s office to demand justice.

With AB 953 now on Governor Brown’s desk, it is imperative that the Governor sign the bill. California does not collect or make public basic information about who police stop, search, or shoot. It is time for California to confront the crisis of confidence communities across the state are experiencing. A recent poll by the American Civil Liberties Union of California shows that 65% of California voters believe that police discriminate against Blacks, and that 71% believe that young Black males are most likely to be the subject of police discrimination.

To address these concerns and develop a better understanding of biased policing, AB 953, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, creates a uniform system for collecting basic information on police-community interactions and provides an important mechanism to make that information publicly accessible. The bill also creates an advisory board that will analyze the data stemming from police stops and make recommendations to achieve fair policing. AB 953 will foster the development of evidenced-based solutions that prevent profiling and put us on a path toward repairing community trust in law enforcement.

AANHPI communities stand in solidarity with other communities of color in the struggle to end racial and identity profiling, as our communities have historically been subject to severe levels of discrimination based on race. These discriminatory acts range from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited immigration to the U.S. from China, to Executive Order 9066, which ordered the unjust imprisonment of individuals solely based on their Japanese ancestry. Presently, the violation of the civil rights of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities is particularly pronounced due to identity profiling in the post-9/11 environment, and fear of China has led to numerous suspect national security cases that single out American scientists and government workers of Chinese heritage.

This is a historic moment. Governor Brown should demonstrate strong and principled leadership by signing AB 953. This bill is co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of California, Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Sacramento, Communities United Coalition, Dignity & Power NOW, PICO California, Reform California, and Youth Justice Coalition.