Coroners are responsible for determining the manner of death in investigative medical examinations but in too many California counties, those coroners either operate under the sheriff's office or have the dual role of sheriff-coroner, creating a conflict of interest when someone dies in police custody.
California is currently one of three U.S. states that allows its county board of supervisors to combine the duties of the sheriff with the duties of the coroner, which can open the door to Sheriffs abusing their power and influencing the medical determinations of these offices. This is deeply concerning when it comes to investigating deaths involving their own officers. This flawed system has failed too many families who do not receive closure needed to heal after a traumatic loss of a loved one. When there is no independent medical examiner, these families are denied the justice they deserve. California needs a process that is impartial, transparent, and holds law enforcement accountable.
AB 1608 separates the duties of the Coroner’s Office from the duties of the Sheriff’s Office across all counties in California, ensuring full transparency and accountability in death investigations by:
Making sure that local death investigations are conducted independently and objectively – especially in the context of in-custody deaths.
Strengthening the medical examination process by providing independent, high-quality investigations.
Providing families who have experienced injustice under the law with the assurance that these investigations and processes are conducted ethically and fairly.