The League of Women Voters of California’s Criminal Justice Interest Group held “Community Conversations with California State Attorney General Rob Bonta” Tuesday, March 7th. Attorney General Robert Bonta, as top lawyer and law enforcement official in the California Department of Justice, oversees 6000 lawyers, 500 sworn police officers, plus criminal investigators. He must uphold the People of California’s civil rights, constitutional rights, and consumer fairness laws. Especially noted were discrimination, disability, and reproductive freedom. Bonta spoke of being busy with many issues and said that his goal is to shake up and push forward where bad things are happening.
The Attorney General or AG’s first area of responsibility, violence, was discussed briefly. The District Attorney gets the cases, whereas the Attorney General gets the appeals. Bonta’s view of criminal justice is rehabilitation; to heal and transform. His office includes a Victim Services Unit.
Transparency with “complete…exhaustive data” was next. He cited the RIPA (Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board) Data https://oag.ca.gov/system/files/media/ripa-board-report-2022.pdf and explained that this data was used to make policy statements for use by legislators to create new laws. An example given was a Pretext Stops bill, that is now in the legislature, which is based on this data.
Bonta has oversight of law enforcement agencies. He does this with the intent of fostering “trust, accountability, transparency.” He explained that if a city is criticized, the Attorney General can study the issue, using their Best Practice document as a guide, to turn the agency around. An example of this was their work in the Alameda County Jail where the best practice was based on constitutional human rights. Also, he co-authored AB 1506 which allowed the AG to investigate police shooting deaths of unarmed persons. In this way, if there was any lack of trust in the investigations of the local District Attorney, the Attorney General would take a look. https://oag.ca.gov/ois-incidents/current-cases Basically, the Attorney General reviews cases yet can advise police departments at the department’s request.
Lastly, he spoke of the Racial Justice Bureau which Bonta created in response to hate crimes. This bureau works in the schools on issues such as willful defiance. Further, he put together a Reparations Task Force which Secretary of State Shirley Weber leads. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yDjYhX5NpI Bonta said, ‘’Attacks on an individual are also an attack on a community.”
–Christine Wenrich, LWVBAE Criminal Justice, 3/11/23
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