Gov Newsom signs bill, now legal for citizens to refuse police officers’ request for help

Gov. Gavin Newsom just made it legal for anyone in the state of California to refuse to help a police officer requesting assistance.

The California Democrat on Tuesday signed into law a bill that struck down a more than century-old law which required any “able-bodied person 18 years of age or older” to assist a police officer who requested help during an arrest, The Sacramento Bee reported.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, who sponsored Senate Bill 192, said the old law was “a vestige of a bygone era” that subjected citizens to “an untenable moral dilemma.”

The California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872 made it a misdemeanor to refuse an officer’s request for assistance. Hertzberg, a Los Angeles Democrat, proposed repealing the law after he asked his staff to “take a look into bills that were still on the books that were antiquated or no longer needed,” his press secretary Katie Hanzlik told The Sacramento Bee back in February.

“This one definitely fits the bill, and it also happens to be that the senator has a history of supporting or passing laws that minimize unnecessary fines and charges against Californians,” she said.

Newsom did not issue a statement after he signed the bill on Tuesday, but the California State Sheriff’s Association made it clear they were not in favor of the move.

“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for assistance in matters of emergency or risks to public safety and we are unconvinced that this statute should be repealed,” the group said in a statement.

The old law carried a fine of up to $1,000 for refusing to help a police officer’s request for help in making an arrest or recapturing a suspect fleeing custody “or preventing a breach of the peace or the commission of any criminal offense.”

According to The Bee:

That law stems from the California’s wild frontier days, when peace officers were scarce and outlaws were plenty. But it’s roots go back much further: Posse comitatus draws its origins from medieval England.

It has a history of being invoked in different forms throughout America’s early history, including through the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, which empowered federal marshals to form posses to hunt and re-capture escaped slaves, according to Washington Post columnist and historian Dave Kopel.


A Trinity County Sheriff’s Office invoked posse comitatus back in 2014 when a couple filed a lawsuit alleging they were put in harm’s way when asked for assistance by a police officer.

Twitter users unloaded on Newsom for signing the bill repealing the 150-year-old law.


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