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Lawmakers tie $20 million in grants to police use of force

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POSTED June 28, 2015 7:28 p.m.

SACRAMENTO  (AP) — The state budget that takes effect on Wednesday includes $20 million in grants for local law enforcement agencies, but lawmakers are linking the money to the national debate over killings by police.

Agencies accepting the money will have to report on the number of times their officers use enough force to result in a hospitalization or death.

“We don’t even know how many deaths are caused of California citizens as a result of force by police, because we don’t even collect that data,” said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.

“I think this is something long overdue, because you can’t address the situation if you don’t know what you’re talking about,” he added. “This will not be a comprehensive report but it will give us a better idea than we have now.”

Some lawmakers, including Leno, wanted to end the grant program entirely after giving local agencies more than $90 million over the last three years through what was originally intended as a three-year temporary local assistance program. Legislative budget committees also initially sought to use the money for other purposes.

Leno was adamant that the program won’t be extended past the fiscal year that begins July 1, noting that law enforcement agencies get billions of tax dollars elsewhere in the budget.

The money is half the $40 million originally sought by Gov. Jerry Brown and law enforcement organizations.

“If you cut it in half clearly it’s going to have impacts,” said California State Sheriffs’ Association lobbyist Cory Salzillo. “That money was being used for important things like homeless outreach and overtime.” It also helps agencies deal with lower-level criminals who are incarcerated in local jails instead of state prisons because of a four-year-old state law, he said.

But given the alternatives initially sought by lawmakers, he said law enforcement organizations are pleased to be getting half the money with relatively few strings attached.

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