SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom called for immediate reforms to policing tactics across California and the way systemic racism influences state institutions in a speech on Friday.
He was joined by a leading civil rights activist and a former California police chief. The speech came during a period of protest in the state and across the country, following the death of George Floyd.
“We have to do more,” Newsom said, on a day he spoke out pointedly against the idea of “neutrality” in the effort to combat systemic racism.
The governor directly referenced the case of Leslie Furcron, a La Mesa grandmother who was shot in the face by a rubber bullet at a protest, as an example of why he’s calling for standardized training across the state on how officers can use force to control crowds.
The governor also called for a statewide ban on the carotid restraint, a hold used by officers to knock a person out by putting pressure on their neck veins. San Diego police and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department ended their use of the restraint earlier this week.
“We cannot see the kinds of techniques that, tragically and ironically, we (still) train,” Newsom said. “I’ll own this.”
Newsom said systemic racism influences people’s experiences beyond the criminal justice system, also affecting outcomes in education, health care, and other vital areas of daily life. He said he “won’t budge” on a portion of his recent budget proposal that would target resources specifically to communities of color, which has been the subject of some contention in the state legislature.
“If you wanna go back to normalcy, I’m not going with you,” the governor said. “We have to meet a higher calling. We are so much better than this.”
Community activists who have been working in the space for decades will play a vital part in the state’s reforms, the governor promised.
One of those organizers directly followed Newsom in the speaking engagement Friday: Lateefah Simon, president of the Akonadi Foundation, an organization targeting social change in Oakland.
“We owe them,” Simon said of generations of black Californians who have cried out for an end to racial injustice. “The shift in this state — the state will come first, and so goes the nation.”
She was followed by Ronald Davis, a former police chief and Obama administration official who said he brings a unique perspective as a black man who wore the uniform for 30 years.
The former cop said “there are road maps out there,” for working with, “not against,” police departments to train techniques that save lives while helping officers protect their communities more effectively.
Newsom said the perspectives of people like Davis and Simon will help the state plunge forward with the task at hand. “We will lead, and we will listen. And we will begin to reconcile,” the governor said.