If a police officer asks assistance in apprehending a suspect in California, citizens will no longer have to acquiesce.
What is it?
SB 192 removes the ‘Posse comitatus’ sections from the Penal Code. Originally added in 1872, Posse comitatus was designed to allow police to form actual posses made up of local citizenry to help hunt down and capture criminals. In more recent years, it has been used by law enforcement to get help when a suspect becomes too much to handle during an arrest, or if they require immediate assistance with no backup.
The bill would make it legal again for citizens to not help police during arrests or captures, specifically, according to the law, “in making an arrest, retaking into custody a person who has escaped from arrest or imprisonment, or preventing a breach of the peace or the commission of any criminal offense.”
Who Backed It?
Senator Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) authored the bill. Unlike some bills introduced where local citizens bring up an issue or the lawmakers goes after issues important to them, SB 192 was created because Senator Hertzberg was looking at old laws to remove. He instructed his clerks to look for old, outdated laws, and the ‘Posse comitatus’ came up.
“Thank you to my interns for finding a law that belongs in the history books, not the law books,” said Senator Hertzberg after the Senate vote. “It’s a vestige of a bygone era.”
Senator Hertzberg also opposed the law because of “an untenable moral dilemma” it can give some citizens if forced to help. Many citizens and civil liberties groups also backed the bill, saying it’s against a persons rights to be forced to help the police, and that it raised questions whether the elderly or disabled would have to help in some situations.
SB 192 has been opposed by police and law enforcement groups. While some cited that there is a greater need for public safety during many situations in which an officer asks for help, while others worried that the bill would send a message that the police should not be helped or assisted.
Despite law enforcement opposition, SB 192 made it through the Assembly and the Senate with near-bipartisanship support. The only nays came during the Assembly vote where a few Assemblymembers with a long history of voting for pro-law enforcement bills voted no.
Signed into Law by the Governor.
SB 192 was signed into law earlier this month by Governor Gavin Newsom. While no comment was made at the time, he had previously questioned how a part of the penal code that forced citizens against their will to help the police was still in place.