A bill aimed at holding police officers accountable when they use deadly force cleared the Assembly last week.
The Assembly voted 67-0 to pass AB 392, the California Act to Save Lives.
According to the bill’s author Assemblywoman Shirley Webber (D-San Diego), officers will be able to use lethal force only when it is “necessary” and if there are no other options.
Police officers would be forced to rely on de-escalation techniques, such as verbal persuasion and crisis intervention methods instead of lethal force.
The bill still allows officers to immediately use deadly force in cases in which they face imminent danger.
The bill also states that imminent harm is not merely a fear of future harm, no matter how great the fear and no matter how great the likelihood of the harm, but instead a situation, from appearances, that must be instantly confronted and addressed.
“Changing the use of force standard in California will change the way officers are trained to pursue other, non-deadly, resources or techniques when engaging with the public. In cities like Seattle and San Francisco, with stricter use of force policies, police kill fewer people without any negative impact on law enforcement or community safety,” the ACLU of Southern California said in a statement issued after the bill passed.
Delaware and Tennessee also require police to use all other alternatives before their gun. A Washington state law requires police to de-escalate if at all possible.
If passed, California would become the only state to combine a “necessary standard” with the requirement that courts consider an officer’s conduct leading up to a use of deadly force when determining the legality of the officer’s actions.
The bill gained public support after the death of Stephon Clark in Sacramento helped deadly force situations into the limelight.
The 22-year old African-American man was shot and killed by Sacramento police Officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet on March 18, 2018 in his grandmother’s backyard while he was on the phone. The encounter was filmed by police video cameras.
A Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department helicopter was involved in observing an individual on the ground and in directing ground officers to the point at which the shooting took place. Helicopter video footage was released three days after the shooting. The officers stated that they shot Clark, firing 20 rounds, believing that he had pointed a gun at them.