California Black Media Political Playback: News You Might Have Missed

A California Department of Justice (DOJ) report released last week states that African Americans in California are stopped by law enforcement officers 132% more than expected, based on a comparison of stop data and residential population.

By Tanu Henry, Magaly Muñoz and Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media

Report: Police Officers Stop Black Californians 132% More Than Expected

A California Department of Justice (DOJ) report released last week states that African Americans in California are stopped by law enforcement officers 132% more than expected, based on a comparison of stop data and residential population.

The findings were included in the DOJ’s Race and Identity Profiling Advisory (RIPA) Board’s seventh annual report. The report analyzes millions of vehicle and pedestrian stops conducted in 2022 by 560 law enforcement agencies in the state.

Established in 2016 as a result of Assembly Bill (AB) 953 written by former Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), RIPA aims to eliminate racial and identity profiling and foster diversity and racial and identity sensitivity within law enforcement.

The 223-page report features the board’s view of pretextual stops where the stops result in resisting arrest charges, looks at the impact police unions have on law enforcement accountability and protocols for law enforcement training on racial and identity profiling, and examines youth interactions with police both in and out of schools.

Black individuals made up 12.5% of stopped people analyzed in the report, with Hispanic/Latinos making up about 43% and Whites making up 32.5% of people.

In a statement released Wednesday, Attorney General Rob Bonta commented on the guidance that RIPA has given to the state in the report.

“The annual collection of the RIPA stop data is making California communities safer by directing thoughtful and reflective reform,” said Bonta.

But not everyone agrees that the data presented by RIPA is accurate or informative.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), an organization that represents 80,000 public safety members and over 950 associations, said the report “does not capture enough information for the Board to even satisfy California’s own legal standard for determining racial profiling.”

PORAC enlisted the help of Texas State University professor Dr. Brian Withrow to examine the data from the report which he found “inadequate in many ways.”

“The best data sets are those that recognize the complexities associated with an issue and provide robust qualitative information. However, the data the RIPA Board collects and analyzes — despite the breadth of its reach — is woefully inadequate as a measure of potential racial profiling in routine operations,” Withrow said in a statement.

Withrow recommended that other factors such as age, gender, and context of the communities where officers are assigned should all be taken into consideration along with race. He proposed that members of the RIPA Board sit down with police officers, one-on-one, to better understand why they might make a stop and how they proceed once they do.

Sec. of State Weber Will Appeal Ruling Allowing Asm. Vince Fong to Run for Two Seats in Same Election

In a statement, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber said she will appeal a California Superior Court decision that allows Republican Assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) to run for seats in the United States Congress and the California State Legislature at the same time in the March 2024 primary election.

“I strongly disagree with the outcome of this case, and I am gravely concerned about the consequences of today’s ruling,” Weber said. in a “I do agree, however, with the Court’s expressed concern that this ruling ‘may result in voter confusion and the disenfranchisement of voters if Fong is ultimately elected for both offices but does not retain one,’ and that it ‘defies common sense to find the law permits a candidate to run for two offices during the same election.”

Fong is running for the seat currently held by his one-time boss, former U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy (D-CA-20). He is also in the race to retain his current seat in the Assembly representing the 32nd District, which covers parts of Kern and Tulare counties.

“Today’s ruling is a victory for the voters of the 20th Congressional District, who will now have the opportunity to select the candidate of their choice in the March 5th election,” Fong celebrated in a statement.

Weber says as California’s “Chief Election Officer,” she has a duty to protect the votes of Californians.

“As such, my office will appeal this ruling in an effort to ensure that voters in future elections will not become disenfranchised, be left without representation, or become subject to other unforeseen negative consequences that would erode confidence in our elections,” she said.

Proposal to Create University of California Online Could Generate Hundreds of Millions of Dollars

As of the time this news brief was written, the Secretary of State (SOS) of California had not yet declared it eligible, but a proposal to establish the University of California Online (UCO) as its own semi-autonomous institution may appear on the Nov. 5, 2024, ballot as an “initiated constitutional amendment.”

Last week, the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released its analysis of the measure that will create the UCO as an institution administered by the University of California (UC).

In a letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta, the LAO said creating the virtual university exposes the state to some financial costs and risks initially, but California could generate hundreds of millions of dollars to “low billions of dollars” in revenue every year.

If the measure’s sponsors meet all the SOS’ requirements and the initiative makes it to the ballot, voters will have the option to approve UCO as an online university that has its own president, faculty, academic senate, budget and endowment. The Board of Regents would have the authority to appoint the virtual school’s president.

The initiative also proposes that UCO offers an online version of every course the University of California, California State University (CSU) and Community Colleges of California (CCC) lists in their catalogs to in-state and out-of-state students either on a for-credit or audit basis. In both cases, tuition would be charged.

“All of the cost is to be covered through student tuition revenue generated by the new university,” wrote the LAO in its letter to Bonta. “The measure is not intended to have any direct fiscal impact on state or local governments.”

California Concealed-Carry Law Blocked … for the Second Time

Senate Bill (SB) 2, California’s controversial conceal-carry permit law that took effect Jan. 1, has been blocked for a second time now.

SB 2 prohibits gun owners from carrying their concealed firearms at most public places and gatherings, including religious institutions, banks, hospitals, parks and other venues.

On Jan. 6, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals lifted a temporary hold on a lower court injunction that blocked the law. This most recent decision upholds a Dec. 20 ruling issued by U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney that blocked the law.

Before that, on Dec. 22, Attorney Gen. Rob Bonta filed an emergency motion appealing Carney’s decision. A three-judge panel of a different 9th Circuit Court Appeal granted Bonta’s request, allowing the law to take effect, at least temporarily.

The same day, the law was blocked from taking effect, Gov. Newsom’s office shared the findings of a new survey that reports California’s gun laws are working.

Conducted by Everytown USA, a gun safety advocacy group, the survey ranks California and New York at the top of its list for having the lowest rates of gun violence.

“We compared gun policy across the country, scoring every state on the strength of its gun laws and comparing it with its rate of gun violence,” the introduction to the report reads.

“In states where elected officials have taken action to pass gun safety laws, fewer people die by gun violence,” it continues.

COVID in California: Numbers of Infections, Hospitalizations Creep Up

Almost a year after California officially ended its State of Emergency declared in response to the outbreak of the Coronavirus in the United States in 2020, COVID-related hospitalizations and infections have begun to slightly increase– sometimes in combination with the flu.

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) for the week ending Dec. 23, there were 3279 coronavirus-positive patients, which was 14% higher than the week before. That spike is the highest recorded over the last 10 months.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are eight California counties are now in its “Medium COVID-19 Hospitalization” category. They are Los Angeles, Sacramento, Placer, Yolo, El Dorado, Butte, Tehama and Glenn counties.

Los Angeles County has also reinstated a mask mandate at all license healthcare facilities after the county’s Department of Health reported a 25% increase in hospitalizations.

Based on CDPH data for the last week only, those numbers have begun to decline. There were 3,122 new COVID-19 infections across the state for the week ending Jan. 5.

The statewide “test positivity” rate for the week ending Jan. 5 was 12.3%, up +0.5% from the week before.

From Oct. 1, 2023. to Dec. 30, 2023, there were 1,296 confirmed COVID-19 related deaths in the state. Over the course of the last week only 1.8 percent of all deaths were “COVID-coded,” according to the CDPH.

Despite the increase in numbers in some places in California, officials say the state’s overall infection and hospitalization rates are lower than

last year. Hospitals are also reporting that there are enough beds in ICUs to accommodate the reported upticks.

Over the last seven days, there was an average of 1,437.1 ICU hospital beds available across the state, according to the CDPH.