California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, on Tuesday signed a bill that no longer requires any “able-bodied person 18 years of age or older” in the state to help an officer who requests assistance during an arrest, Fox News reports.
The Sacramento Bee reported that the old law, the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872, was common in the country’s early days, but Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Los Angeles Democrat who sponsored the bill, called the old law a “vestige of a bygone era.” The law was employed to help catch runaway slaves, the report said.
The nearly 150-year-old law makes it a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 for failing to help police make an arrest or catch a fleeing suspect.
Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys says his interns initially proposed eliminating a law that he says “belongs in the history books, not the law books.”
Democratic Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove of Los Angeles says it was also used to help apprehend runaway slaves.
She calls it “a visage of a bygone era” now that California has plenty of professionals to catch criminals.
PENAL CODE – PEN
PART 1. OF CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS [25 – 680]
( Part 1 enacted 1872. )
TITLE 7. OF CRIMES AGAINST PUBLIC JUSTICE [92 – 186.34]
( Title 7 enacted 1872. )
CHAPTER 7. Other Offenses Against Public Justice [142 – 181]
( Chapter 7 enacted 1872. )
“Every able-bodied person above 18 years of age who neglects or refuses to join the posse comitatus or power of the county, by neglecting or refusing to aid and assist in taking or arresting any person against whom there may be issued any process, or by neglecting to aid and assist in retaking any person who, after being arrested or confined, may have escaped from arrest or imprisonment, or by neglecting or refusing to aid and assist in preventing any breach of the peace, or the commission of any criminal offense, being thereto lawfully required by any uniformed peace officer, or by any peace officer described in Section 830.1, subdivision (a), (b), (c), (d), (e), or (f) of Section 830.2, or subdivision (a) of Section 830.33, who identifies himself or herself with a badge or identification card issued by the officer’s employing agency, or by any judge, is punishable by a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50) nor more than one thousand dollars ($1,000).”
(Amended by Stats. 1998, Ch. 760, Sec. 4. Effective January 1, 1999.)
According to Black’s Law Dictionary “posse comitatus” means “…the power or force of the county. The entire population of a county above the age of fifteen, which a sheriff may summon to his assistance in certain cases as to aid him in keeping the peace, in pursuing and arresting felons …” can be traced back to the reign of Alfred the Great in ninth-century England.
The United States and California, in particular, needs less government coercion and more freedom. When criminals in our communities engage in rape, robbery, and murder, community members have and will volunteer to assist law enforcement.
The bill was opposed by the California State Sheriff’s Association, which said in a statement, “There are situations in which a peace officer might look to private persons for assistance in matters of emergency or risks to public safety and we are unconvinced that this statute should be repealed.”
The report said Newsom did not issue a statement after signing the bill.
Chris “Badger” Thomas is a Veteran who served our country as an Army Combat Medic.
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