Police Groups Withdraw Objection To California's Anti-Deadly Force Bill
Sacramento, CA – Law enforcement groups have dropped their objections to controversial legislation that would give California one of the toughest use-of-force standards in the nation after legislators made some amendments that changed the language of the bill.
Assembly Bill 392, which was introduced as a reaction to the officer-involved shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, makes it easier to prosecute an officer who uses deadly-force, the Associated Press reported.
The original version of the bill, authored by Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, would have made prosecution possible if it were determined that there were other options available, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Weber, the bill’s main author, said that the proposed law change would “clarify law enforcement’s obligations” in order to prevent “unnecessary deaths.”
Originally, AB 392 called for officers to verbally persuade offenders to surrender or utilize crisis intervention skills or other de-escalation techniques instead of using deadly force.
The largest groups representing California law enforcement removed their objections to the legislation after the latest round of amendments, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“We will not support the bill, as it is far from perfect, but the amendments have addressed our biggest fears,” Ron Hernandez, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said in a statement.
Six major law enforcement groups, including California Highway Patrol, Peace Officers Research Association of California, and California State Sheriffs’ Association, have all removed their objections and taken a “neutral” position on AB 392 following the latest changes to the bill, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The heart of the dispute over the legislation centered on changing the word “reasonable” to “necessary” when describing the standards required for an officer to use deadly force with a suspect.
The substantially-changed legislation kept the word “necessary” but dropped the definition of the word, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The deleted language said officers could only shoot when there was “no reasonable alternative,” according to the Associated Press.
The language requiring an officer to try to de-escalate an incident by exhausting all non-lethal alternatives before turning to a deadly use-of-force was also stripped out of the bill.
Instead, the revised legislation makes clear that officers are not required to retreat or back down when a suspect resists, nor do they lose their right to self-defense if they use “objectively reasonable force,” the Associated Press reported.
AB 392 would still, however, expand the scope of investigations into officer-involved shootings, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Under existing law, only the moment the deadly use-of-force occurs can be considered when determining whether an officer-involved shooting was legal.
However, the new legislation would allow prosecutors to explore the “totality of circumstances” surrounding the shooting, including the actions the police officer took leading up to the use of deadly force, the Los Angeles Times reported.
That means that in some cases, officers might be prosecuted based on their conduct leading up to the shooting.
California Governor Gavin Newsom called the amended legislation “an important bill, one that will help restore community trust in our criminal justice system,” according to the Associated Press.
Black Lives Matter, who sponsored the original legislation, was disappointed in the final version of AB 392, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Los Angeles Black Lives Matter Co-Founder Melina Abdullah said the changes were “problematic for us but not so problematic for us that we are going to be coming off the bill.”
“We still think its important legislation, just not as far-reaching as we hoped it would be,” Abdullah explained.
AB 392 is expected to be passed soon by a vote of the full Assembly, and then it will go to the governor for his signature, the Los Angeles Times reported.