LYNN LA • MAY 23, 2023
Although he’s eyeing to one day become California’s governor, for now Rob Bonta is still the attorney general. Today, that means preserving reproductive rights, preventing gun violence, enforcing housing laws — and investigating fatal police shootings of unarmed civilians.
CalMatters’ criminal justice reporter Nigel Duara is tracking these cases and recently talked to families who have been waiting a year or more to get answers. Nigel has repeatedly asked Bonta why the investigations are taking so long. In statements, Bonta has cited a lack of funding.
On Monday, I asked him again at a Public Policy Institute of California event and Bonta gave his most detailed answer yet. He acknowledged that while the law he co-authored as a legislator intended for cases to be resolved within a year, that didn’t happen for the first cases on his watch.
- Bonta: “It’s more important to get it right than fast, but the goal is to get it done right and fast…. It took some time to work out the kinks and to get through some of the hiccups, and we’re moving more rapidly now.”
Bonta also said his office is doing things that “haven’t been done before.” That includes determining if charges against officers can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and writing reports that detail the legal analysis and lessons for law enforcement.
To family members who are still awaiting closure, however, Bonta says “they’re right to be frustrated.”
Besides police shootings, Bonta covered a broad range of issues during Monday’s question-and-answer event. Here are some highlights:
On housing enforcement: Bonta announced he has carved out a new position in the department’s Housing Strike Force, newly rebranded as the less-confrontational sounding Housing Justice Team. The team works with cities to enforce California’s housing laws, which “are not advice, or counsel, or suggestions” but are “required to be followed.”
On red flag laws: Praising San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott for aggressively using red flag laws to take guns from dangerous people, Bonta wants others to follow her lead: “Over a third of the gun violence restraining orders in the state of California came from San Diego, not because there’s such a greater need there, but because they’re utilizing, more fully, the tool.”
On fentanyl: Bonta viewed fentanyl as the biggest challenge in public safety. He briefly mentioned the new fentanyl task force and said that approaching the crisis “from all sides” and viewing it as a public health issue will help “move the needle.”
On hate crimes: Seen as a top priority, Bonta said his office continues to work with district attorneys to identify hate crimes and investigate criminal hate groups. He also established an outreach program to engage with underrepresented communities.
On running for governor in 2026: Though he said he will make a decision at some point, “that point is not now.” Less than five months into his first elected term, he is “focused on the work.”
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