SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — A bill to remove investigations and prosecutions of military sexual assault cases from the chain of command is headed to Governor Jerry Brown for his consideration. The bill was given final legislative approval today on a unanimous 36 to 0 bipartisan vote of the State Senate. Senate Bill 1422, authored by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would require that cases of sexual assault of a service member of the California Military Department (CMD) be subject to the jurisdiction of local civilian authorities.
“Sexual assault is a serious problem throughout our military. While Washington debates how to address this crisis, California can lead by example. Victims of sexual assault deserve our support and a respectful and effective justice system,” said Senator Alex Padilla.
The CMD is comprised of the following three components of the active militia: The National Guard, the State Military Reserve, and the Naval Militia. The CMD’s 24,000-person roster includes the California National Guard (CalGuard), the largest of the 54 state-level National Guards in U.S. states and territories. The majority of its service members are on inactive duty status. The federal government has struggled with how best to address sexual assaults in the military. Federal mandates have included establishing a Sexual Assault Response Program (SAPR), Bystander Intervention Training (BIT) and a dual-track sexual assault reporting system for victims.
However, CMD lacks the personnel and infrastructure to adjudicate sexual assault cases. As a result, the CMD’s standing policy is to refer these cases to local authorities who are better equipped to investigate and prosecute potential crimes. Senator Padilla’s legislation would make this policy state law.
“Local jurisdictions are in a better position to prosecute sexual assault cases in California’s Military Department. Importantly, this practice also separates the investigation and prosecution from the chain of command ensuring that there is no conflict of interest in the evaluation and prosecution of sexual assault cases,” said Senator Alex Padilla.
SB 1422 would require that cases involving the sexual assault of a service member of the California Military Department be subject to the jurisdiction of local civilian authorities. It also provides for no statute of limitation in cases of sexual assault in the CMD. The bill would also require the department to report annually to the Governor and the Legislature on sexual assault statistics and the efficacy of the department’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response (SAPR) program.
Every two minutes, an American is sexually assaulted. 1 in 3 American women will be sexually abused during their lifetime. These crimes also take place in our military departments. The most recent report from the Department of Defense estimated that 26,000 service members had experienced unwanted sexual contact in 2012, up from 19,000 in 2010. Last year, U.S. soldiers were 15 times more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by an enemy.
Senator Alex Padilla, 41, graduated from MIT with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and just completed serving on the MIT Corporation Board. He is President of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. He is Chair of the Senate Energy, Utilities and Communications Committee and represents the more than 1,100,000 residents of the 20th State Senate District in Los Angeles.