Public Safety Chair's Bill to Improve Officer Entry Standards Signed into Law by the Governor

For immediate release:
  • Richard Garcia
  • 916-319-2059

(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer’s (D-South Los Angeles) AB 89, the Peace Officer Education and Age Conditions for Employment (PEACE) Act was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 30, 2021. This legislation will require new peace officers to be 21 years of age starting January 1, 2022, as well as, create the framework for incoming officers to achieve higher education.

Current state law only requires the minimum standards for peace officers to be 18 years of age and have a high school diploma or passage of a test equivalent. Departments have the ability to require entry standards above the state minimum, but those standards vary across California and are not consistent with the elevated duties of policing today. With decades of research showing more mature and better educated officers receive higher supervisory evaluations and use force less often, it is crucial that California leads the nation in elevating entry conditions for employment as a peace officer.

The PEACE Act establishes an advisory board to assist the California Community Colleges (CCC) in developing the framework for a modern policing degree program. This degree will include courses in psychology, communications, history, ethnic studies, law and those in critical thinking and emotional intelligence. Once adopted, this degree will equip officers with the skills necessary for de-escalation, while also guaranteeing they develop a critical understanding of the history of various communities and culture.

“While the duties of law enforcement officers have developed over time, their entry qualifications have failed to evolve to meet the current demands of the job,” said Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer. “Aligning with data showing more mature and better educated officers are less reliant on excessive force, have fewer disciplinary actions, and perform better overall, the PEACE Act will strengthen community trust in law enforcement and ensure public safety, especially for our community members of color who disproportionately fall victim to officers’ excessive force.” 

The CCC’s report also includes recommendations for financial aid programs to be adopted for students of low-income and underrepresented backgrounds. In partnering with one of the best, tuition-free community college systems in the nation and providing increased financial assistance to higher education, the PEACE Act will increase access to higher education as well as diversity in the workforce, guaranteeing peace officers are reflective of the communities they serve.  

“California must take the lead and ensure that we have the best and most highly trained officers,” stated Senator Portantino, Principal Co-Author of the PEACE Act.  “Studies and research from public safety experts throughout the country consistently show that increased education and training can help officers approach each interaction in a way that is proven to increase positive public safety outcomes. I am proud to partner with Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer on this important bill and thankful to the Governor for prioritizing public safety reform.”

“This bill will reduce the likelihood of unlawful or impulsive use of force. By requiring individuals in positions of authority to have a post-secondary educational background, it deepens their understanding of the numerous factors that influence criminality, including trauma. We are excited to see this legislation pass and look forward to being a part of the transformation,” said Esteban Núñez, Director of Advocacy and Community Organizing at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, co-sponsor of the PEACE Act.

“California is in need of a major overhaul in policing, and the PEACE Act is a step in the right direction. The California Faculty Association believes that Assembly Bill 89 can provide an opportunity for change in the culture of law enforcement. This bill helps by requiring new peace officer candidates to be older and we hope more mature in carrying out their work. Studies show that higher education and life experiences significantly reduce officers’ use of excessive force. We want officers to see their work as an investment in our communities and to protect all members of our society. We look forward to continuing our work with Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer and the Legislature to ensure that peace officers have the maturity and education necessary to ensure the safety of our citizens,” said Dr. Charles Toombs, President of the California Faculty Association, co-sponsor of the PEACE Act.

“It is imperative we continue to focus on cultivating emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills through law enforcement education. Assembly Bill 89 will advance the development of an educational pathway for California law enforcement that will fundamentally transform policing in the years ahead,” states Abdul Pridgen, President of the California Police Chiefs Association, supporter of the PEACE Act.

The PEACE Act, co-sponsored by the Anti-Recidivism Coalition and California Faculty Association, passed both the Assembly and Senate with bipartisan support, and garnered broad support, found here, from law enforcement, cities, labor, and social and racial justice organizations.

Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer represents South Los Angeles, Exposition Park, Florence-Firestone, Walnut Park, and a portion of Huntington Park.

For more information about Assemblymember Jones-Sawyer,please visit https://a59.asmdc.org/