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Bill that would end medical staff reporting of suspected domestic violence faces test

The+California+Capitol+is+pictured+in+April+2022.+%28Photo+by+Josh+Hild+via+Unsplash%29
The California Capitol is pictured in April 2022. (Photo by Josh Hild via Unsplash)

On average, 13 women in the San Diego region are murdered every year because of domestic violence. That’s according to San Diego Association of Governments crime statistics from 2021.

This Friday, legislation its supporters claim will save more lives from domestic violence faces its toughest test to date before the California Senate Appropriations Committee, joining 489 other bills that will sink, swim or wait a year.

The legislation — Assembly Bill 1028 — would eliminate the requirement that medical staff notify law enforcement agencies, instead leaving the decision to the victim. The bill has created a deep divide between activists and law enforcement, with both sides citing extensive support from across the state.

San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan and San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott oppose the bill.

“This ill-conceived bill reverses critical, long-standing protections that currently exist for victims of serious crimes including domestic violence,” Stephan said in a news release from her office.

The nonprofit Futures Without Violence supports the legislation of Rep. Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood), who created the legislation. The group stated that the bill “would help reduce domestic violence, provide training requirements for health professionals, help identify and treat survivors, and provide accountability for the person” causing harm.

In a hearing last week, both sides made their cases before the Senate Appropriations Committee. What followed was AB-1028 being moved to the committee’s suspense file. Friday, Sept. 1, the bill is before the same committee. If the bill moves forward, it goes to the full Senate for a vote.

The bill has already been passed by the state Assembly.

Tina McKinnor

McKinnor says the current law creates fear among domestic violence victims. Under her bill, a health care professional will “refer them personally with a warm handoff, to like a domestic violence center survivors center, someone that can help them plan, get the services they need, when they intend to leave their domestic violence situation.”

Casey Gwinn, a former San Diego city attorney who strongly opposes the bill, says removing police from domestic violence reporting may be well intentioned but is bad law.

“If AB-1028 passes, more women will die in domestic violence homicides in California,” he said. “Ending all reporting of serious injury, high-risk domestic violence cases is the most irresponsible legislative proposal I have seen in 35 years in California.”

Laura Brignone with CalSAFE spoke at the hearing last week leading up to Friday. The organization is made up of forensic nurses who, among other things, document patient injuries from domestic violence cases in 48 hospitals across the state.

The group believes the bill would increase health costs, add pressure on social service programs and increase the number of homicides by partners.

Brignone pointed out that “when Kentucky passed a similar law, homicides went up by 73 percent.”

She noted that 50% of mass shootings involve domestic violence, as in the recent incident in Orange County where a retired police sergeant opened fire in a bar, targeting his estranged wife, according to law enforcement officials.

McKinnor’s office countered, stating that “AB-1028 is a survivor-focused bill that empowers survivors so they get and remain safe. We have welcomed public feedback on this legislation throughout the process and believe that the bill as written will best support and protect survivors of domestic violence across California.”

Gwinn says that McKinnor’s office was unwilling to discuss a compromise. He said that because bills of a similar nature have been introduced in the last two years in Sacramento, his organization, Alliance for Hope International, will propose new legislation next year.


J.W. August is a longtime San Diego broadcast and digital journalist.