California residents can now legally refuse to help a police officer who needs their assistance.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed a bill on Tuesday that allows citizens to refuse help to police officers, Fox News reported.
Previous legislation required any “able-bodied person 18 years of age or older” in the state to help an officer who requests assistance during an arrest.
The old law, called the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872, was supposedly passed as a way to catch runaway slaves, the Sacramento Bee reported.
As such, it was considered by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bob Hertzberg, to be a “vestige of a bygone era” that subjected citizens to “an untenable moral dilemma.”
Individuals who violated the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872 could be given misdemeanors and a fine of up to $1,000.
However, the bill, Senate Bill 192, was opposed by the California State Sheriffs’ Association, saying in a statement that it could risk public safety.
“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for assistance in matters of emergency or risks to public safety and we are unconvinced that this statute should be repealed,” the statement read.
As recently as 2014, the law was cited when the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office, in northern California, was being sued by a man and woman alleging they were being deceived into responding to a dangerous 911 call on behalf of the officer.
Newsom did not issue an official statement after he signed the law, nor has he commented on it on his Twitter account.
The Democratic governor has previously scorned the police system, even by referring to it as racist.
“It’s just incomprehensible to me that we have a system that is so biased, so random, so unbelievably racially biased,” Newsom told The Marshall Project.