The police “use of force” bill by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), inspired by the Sacramento police shooting last year of Stephon Clark, is moving ahead, and now officially has the approval by Gov. Gavin Newsom. AB 392 would allow criminal charges to be filed against officers who use deadly force if other enforcement options are available. Weber said deescalation tactics and “best practices” were developed from the Obama-era Department of Justice, and already in use in Seattle and San Francisco.
However, the bill has been amended to now allow lethal force only when “an officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that deadly force is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.”
Weber and co-author Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) say the change in use of force should become the standard across the country. They say the restricted use-of-force standards by police in Seattle and San Francisco have improved relations between residents and law enforcement.
Weber has said the bill is a “long overdue” update to the 100-year old use-of-force statute in the country. She said her bill is not about targeting police officers, “but about how we have treated people in this nation for 400 years – people who don’t look like us.”
The officer use-of-force bill would change the current “reasonable” deadly force standard to “necessary.”
In April, California Globe interviewed attorney Kathleen Mastagni Storm who opposed the bill and testified at the Assembly Public Safety hearing.
“This is moving the standard from objective reasonable deadly force to subjective,” attorney Kathleen Mastagni Storm said following the hearing. Mastagni Storm said this bill is just a second guessing opportunity by anyone looking at video or body camera footage following a shooting.
“AB 392 criminalizes police use of force, and tips the balance, unnecessarily jeopardizing public safety,” Mastagni Storm said. “This proposed law is based on a false narrative that the use of deadly force in situations is not necessary.”
Mastagni Storm said courts have long held that police officers may use necessary force, “but AB 392 seeks to redefine ‘necessary,’ such that there is no reasonable alternative to the use of deadly force. ‘Necessary’ has always been the standard.”
Assembly Bill 392 is now co-sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, and Gov. Gavin Newsom, following amendments. “We need this resolution to save lives, protect public safety, and guarantee justice in every community,” Rendon said in a written statement.
Police groups have backed competing legislation, Senate Bill 230, which would require each law enforcement agency to maintain a policy that provides guidelines on the use of force, utilizing de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to force when feasible, specific guidelines for the application of deadly force, and factors for evaluating and reviewing all use of force incidents, among other things. SB 230 is awaiting hearing in the Senate Public Safety Committee.
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