A bill designed to give the public more power in holding police officers accountable when they use deadly force cleared the state Legislature and is headed to Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign.
Assembly Bill 392, the California Act to Save Lives, would force officers to rely on de-escalation techniques, such as verbal persuasion and crisis intervention methods, instead of resorting to using lethal force.
According to the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), officers will be able to use lethal force not when they think it is “reasonable,” but only when it is “necessary,” and if there are no other options. Prosecutors and juries will be charged in each case to determine if lethal force was justified,
The bill still allows officers to immediately use deadly force in cases in which they face imminent danger.
Weber’s bill was co-sponsored by fellow Democratic Assemblyman Chris Holden, a former Pasadena City Council member.
Under terms of the bill, police can resort to deadly force if “the 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,” states the text of the measure, “or to apprehend a fleeing person for a felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless the person is immediately apprehended.”
The bill was introduced shortly after two Sacramento police officers fatally shot Stephon Clark in March 2018. Police identified Clark as a suspect after responding to 911 calls. After chasing Clark into the backyard of his grandmother’s home, officers mistook Clark’s cellphone for a gun and shot him eight times.
The Sacramento District Attorney’s office declined to charge the officers, claiming the two officers genuinely feared that Clark had a gun, and therefore the shooting was justified and the officers “acted lawfully.”
Clark’s death prompted outrage and calls for reform in the state’s rules on police use of deadly force. AB392 made it through the Assembly in May and passed through the Senate on July 22 by a vote of 34-3.
The bill has been changed from its original form in order to gain support from the law enforcement community, according to the Sacramento Bee.