SACRAMENTO – Today, Governor Newsom signed AB 655, the California Law Enforcement Accountability (CLEAR) Act, authored by Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and sponsored by San Jose State University Human Rights Institute (SJSU HRI) and California Faculty Association (CFA). The CLEAR Act was introduced on the heels of the January 6th insurrection at the US Capitol and amplified by a 2022 report from the California State Auditor on police conduct and bias. The bill would require law enforcement agencies to screen candidates for participation in a hate group that promotes hate crimes or genocide.
“AB 655 is a timely response to increase much-needed public trust in law enforcement. Members of violent groups have no place in our law enforcement agencies and should not be able to possess a badge or the authority and power that comes with it,” said Assemblymember Kalra. “The CLEAR Act will provide law enforcement agencies and the public with a legal tool to root out those who would jeopardize public safety with extremist and violent behavior.”
The infiltration of law enforcement agencies by extremist organizations has been well-documented, including two decades of reports by federal agencies and investigative journalists. California's own police departments have been tarnished with scandals involving officers expressing racist, homophobic, or threatening messages over social media. The State Auditor recently reviewed the public social media accounts of about 450 officers, and found at least 17 posted negative stereotypes or deliberately hateful and derogatory speech directed at specific groups of people.
“The SJSU HRI is proud to co-sponsor this critical legislation from Assemblymember Kalra to address the infiltration of law enforcement agencies by violent hate groups,” said SJSU HRI Director, Dr. Bill Armaline. “AB 655 takes great care to protect civil liberties of public employees while empowering public oversight. We hope the CLEAR Act can be a model for police reform in the US.”
“The California Law Enforcement Accountability Reform Act is a step in the right direction to address bias in policing by, at the very least, making sure those who work in law enforcement are not participating in hate groups or advocating for racial violence. It’s important for our communities in general, but specifically our campus communities, to have law enforcement officials screened for participation in extremist activity. We should not tolerate racial bias and hatred in policing,” said Chris Cox, Associate Vice President of CFA’s Council for Racial & Social Justice, North.
Assemblymember Ash Kalra was first elected to the California Legislature in 2016, representing the 27th District, which encompasses approximately half of San Jose and includes all of downtown. In 2020, he was re-elected to his third term. Assemblymember Kalra is the Chair of the State Assembly Labor and Employment Committee and also currently serves as a member on the Housing and Community Development, Judiciary, Transportation, and Water, Parks, and Wildlife committees.