‘Restorative solution’: AB 2054 creates police alternative, aims to redistribute responsibilities

Berkeley police stand in protective gear during duty
Amanda Ramirez/File
Amid calls for police reform, California State Assembly members proposed a bill that would shift certain responsibilities away from the jurisdiction of police departments.

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As debates surrounding police reformation continue, AB 2054 is an option for change, as a bill aiming to create community-based law enforcement alternatives in California.

The bill, also known as the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems, or CRISES, Act, intends to readjust state budgets and dedicate funding for community organizations over the course of three years. If passed, the bill would result in a legislation shift away from law enforcement as first responders.

The CRISES Act proposes that qualified and trusted community members become first responders instead in situations including calls for mental health, domestic violence and underserved communities.

Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager, D-Los Angeles, who introduced the bill with others, said the bill originated to challenge the disproportionate number of miscellaneous issues compared to violent crimes that officers are dispatched to respond to. She added that about 8% of emergency calls in Los Angeles are reports of violent crimes.

Kamlager said expecting officers to know how to appropriately respond to a swath of issues at the same time is “wrong.” 

“Police are not there to resolve problems, to solve problems or to de-escalate,” Kamlager said. “They stopped something that’s happening, and the tools in their toolbox includes, you know, making arrests and taking people away.”

She alleged that law enforcement mishandling situations allows room for systemic arrests or misuse of force to occur.

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, a co-author of the bill, views the CRISES Act as a stepping stone for California to redistribute funding from law enforcement to communities and initiate services for vulnerable populations.

“This includes education and behavioral health services, with the ultimate aim of reducing racial and socioeconomic disparities, and helping communities of color rather than harming them,” said Erin Ivie, a spokesperson for Wicks, in an email. “This bill will give us the opportunity to show that people in our district can be kept safe when we invest in community organizations.”

Kamlager added that during the three-year funding period, her office will continue to study the impact of the CRISES Act and ensure its holistic applicability throughout the state.

She also sees the bill mitigating police departments’ strains, as Kamlager anticipates cities allowing greater flexibility with their budgets. Ultimately, she expects this to allow for community voices and concerns to be prioritized.

“I am hopeful that AB 2054 will allow us to, you know, redefine how we de-escalate, how we solve and how we resolve problems in a way that can keep communities whole and offer some kind of restorative solution to emergencies that communities face,” Kamlager said.

Contact Kelly Nguyen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellyNguyen_DC.