SACRAMENTO—Senate Bill 1389, authored by Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Inglewood), would prohibit law enforcement officers from pulling over vehicles for a low-level infraction without a separate, independent basis to initiate the stop.
In the bill, introduced in February and approved by the senate appropriations committee May 19, such infractions would be not having an up-to-date vehicle registration, a license plate that is not fully secured, and a broken tail light.
Orange County Sheriff Barnes strongly urged senators in a May 24 letter to reject the bill, saying, if passed, it would “undermine the credibility of our laws” and “further cement California’s reputation as a state that turns a blind eye to criminal activity.”
According to Barnes, while the infractions may be “low-level,” they ensure vehicles on the road are operating in accordance with California laws.
“If a law is important enough to keep on the books, [then] it is important enough to enforce,” he said. “Failure to enforce these laws essentially results in permission to break these laws.”
Additionally, Barnes traffic stops for such low-level violations often result in uncovering more serious offenses, such as seizing illegal guns and drugs, for example.
“Taking away our ability to address smaller violations, will remove an important tool for addressing the more serious law violations that have the potential to harm our residents,” the sheriff wrote.
The bill also promotes anti-police rhetoric according to Barnes, saying “vehicle stops by law enforcement often result in violence towards civilians.”
Barnes noted that in 2021, only 34 stops by the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for such low-level vehicle infractions out of over 24,000 resulted in a use of force.
“Continuing to put forth the myth of rampant abuse by police is a clear attempt to undermine the rule of law and break the trust between law enforcement and our community,” he said.
Sen. Steve Bradford was not immediately available for comment.