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What’s Next After California’s Scathing Police Audit?

A Los Angeles County Sheriff department vehicle near a crime scene in Agua Dulce last year.Credit…Patrick T. Fallon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The findings of a blistering state audit of law enforcement agencies are reverberating across the state and raising questions about next steps for lawmakers and police officials in California.

The report found bias among officers at five agencies and determined the departments had not done enough to prevent it, raising concerns that the state has not provided enough oversight.

The auditor found multiple examples of troubling behavior that included social media posts and conversations between officers that mocked transgender people, women, Latinos, Black people and immigrants.

“We are getting a disturbing picture of something we’ve been seeing routinely across the country,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The findings, he said, illustrate that discrimination can, and often does, come from more than “just the stereotypical Southern Klan sheriff.”

The audit covered the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; the San Bernardino, San Jose and Stockton police departments; and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

The auditors made several recommendations, including that the State Legislature create an official definition of biased conduct and that police departments diversify hiring practices and screen applicants’ social media accounts for bias.

Ash Kalra, a Democrat assemblyman from San Jose, has a bill in the State Senate that would require police departments to check job candidates for ties to hate groups and would make it easier to fire anyone with such connections. Kalra said he expected the recent audit, which he called for with a group of 16 other legislators, to increase support for his proposal.

“It makes it harder to push back when the evidence is so clear it’s a problem,” he told The New York Times.

In reviewing 450 officers’ public social media accounts, state auditors found that 17 had promoted biased content on their public social media accounts, including six officers who supported far-right hate groups like the Proud Boys and the Three Percenters, the report said.

Michael Tilden, acting state auditor, said the numbers might seem small, but they point to a larger structural problem: Departments don’t have sufficient policies to prevent “hiring employees that are bringing those biases to the job or that have those problematic affiliations,” he said.

The San Bernardino Police Department declined to comment on the findings of the report.Credit…Monica Almeida for The New York Times

Susan Corke, head of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, also pointed out that since hate groups like the Proud Boys are increasingly using encrypted platforms to express their views, the publicly available posts that the auditors found are most likely “a really small slice of what’s happening.”

The audited law enforcement agencies were allowed to include a response in the report. The San Bernardino Police Department declined to comment on the findings, while the other departments largely agreed with the recommendations. But other members of law enforcement rejected the findings.

“This so-called audit is a compilation of cherry-picked allegations that is light on facts and chock-full of opinion, supposition and obfuscation,” Tom Saggau, spokesman for the San Jose Police Officers’ Association, said in a statement to The Times. He added that the auditors had not spoken to any rank-and-file police officers as part of their report.

“If they had, there may have been greater clarity and less conjecture in the final document,” Saggau said.

Tilden said that talking to individual officers as a part of the audit could have compromised the report, as officers may have taken down their posts before auditors could find them.

Over the next five years, auditors will periodically check in with the five law enforcement agencies on their progress implementing their recommendations, an official part of the audit process and a large part of its value, Tilden said. “We have a mechanism for requiring departments to keep us apprised.”


Houseboats sitting in the drought-lowered waters of Oroville Lake last month.Credit…Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press

The rest of the news

  • Reservoir levels: Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, California’s two largest reservoirs, are already at critically low water levels ahead of the dry season, CNN reports.

  • High-speed rail: In the 14 years since the high-speed rail system was approved, little progress has been made, and the possibility of its completion is being questioned, CalMatters reports.

  • Church vs. state: Nine California Catholic dioceses have petitioned the Supreme Court to review a 2019 California law that extended the window for childhood sexual abuse victims to sue, Catholic News Agency reports.

  • Medi-Cal fraud: Three people were convicted in a scheme to con the Medi-Cal system by submitting phony claims for drug and alcohol treatment, The Associated Press reports.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

  • Ghost guns: San Diego netted its first conviction under the city’s new ordinance barring anyone from having ghost guns, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

  • Journalists sue L.A.P.D.: Two journalists with KnockLA filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department, claiming their civil rights were violated when they were arrested while reporting on a protest, The Associated Press reports.

  • Mother arrested: A Los Angeles woman and a 16-year-old boy were arrested after the woman’s three children were found dead in her home, NBC News reports.

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA

  • Swapping a library for a police station: A small city in Kern County could turn the town’s library building into headquarters for the police department, The Los Angeles Times reports.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

  • Pandemic: Covid divided a county where one in 300 people died of the disease, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

  • Banning minor traffic stops: The San Francisco Police Department could ban officers from pulling over people for minor vehicle offenses, The San Francisco Standard reports.

  • Meta store: Facebook’s parent company opened its first physical store in Burlingame to showcase products like virtual reality glasses, The Associated Press reports.

  • Mask mandate: San Jose city workers are now required to wear masks again amid a rise in Covid-19 cases, NBC Bay Area reports.


Credit…Chris Fox/Curb Appeal Visuals

What you get

For $1 million in Fullerton, Calistoga or Los Angeles.


Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times

What we’re eating

Tajín grilled chicken.


Russian River in Monte Rio.Credit…John G Mabanglo/EPA, via Shutterstock

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from John Baird, who recommends a wine country road trip:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


And before you go, some good news

A rare deep-sea fish spotted just off Monterey Bay has thrilled marine biologists who have been trying to track down the elusive creature for decades.

The Bathophilus flemingi, also known as the highfin dragonfish, is a predator that roams the depths of the ocean. The torpedo-shaped fish has a bronze hue that allows it to be nearly invisible in its dark environment, The Guardian reports.

“But when we shine our white lights on it, it’s just gorgeous,” said Bruce Robison, senior scientist with Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.


Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Past the deadline (4 letters).

Jack Kramer and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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