Law Enforcement Backs Down on Deadly Force Standard—For Now

The political landscape in California’s debate over how to curb police shootings shifted Tuesday as law enforcement groups agreed to drop the part of their bill that would lock in the current national standard for justifying the use of deadly force.

The move—intended to sustain negotiations on what could be a historic change in law enforcement—would link the police groups’ calls for stronger department policies and officer training to a rival bill that would encourage alternatives to lethal force by making it easier to prosecute police who kill.

A state Senate panel passed the new version of the bill Tuesday, ratcheting up pressure on law enforcement and civil rights advocates to compromise on an issue that, nationally and in California, has aroused intense emotions.

For the second time in a month, dozens of Californians whose relatives were killed by police lined up to testify in the state Capitol, many of them bearing photos of their loved ones and, in some cases, wailing in grief.

“What we are trying to do is create a new opportunity for the different sides to come together again and have a discussion around the changes to the use of force standard in California,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner, the Berkeley Democrat who chairs the Senate public safety committee and helped negotiate the changes.

“Many, many, many people up and down the state and experts… feel that California’s use of force standard should be revised. And so the way this bill is amended at least creates that opportunity for that conversation to continue.”

At issue is how to determine legally when police can use deadly force. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police can shoot when a “reasonable officer” in the same circumstances would do the same thing.

Law enforcement groups have long supported this standard, while civil rights advocates say it’s made police killings of civilians too easy to justify. The diverging views were laid out in dueling bills that emerged after Sacramento police killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in his grandparents’ backyard last year.

Until the last-minute amendments Tuesday morning, the law enforcement-backed measure (SB 230) called for the state to adopt the Supreme Court’s standard. A bill backed by the American Civil Liberties Union (AB 392) would further limit when police can shoot, saying it should only be lawful when “necessary” to prevent death or injury.

With the Senate panel dominated by progressive Democrats from some of the state’s most liberal cities, the earlier version of the law enforcement bill was almost certainly doomed. The amendments delete the paragraphs saying California would adhere to the reasonable standard established by the Supreme Court, and link SB 230 to AB 392.

The maneuver means the police bill requiring more training and stronger department policies can only become law if the bill changing the legal standard for justifying deadly force also does.

“That was something that we felt needed to be done in order to have fruitful conversations moving forward,” said Brian Marvel, a San Diego police officer who is president of a statewide federation of police unions called Peace Officers Research Association of California. “The fear is that if we didn’t couple them together, that there wouldn’t be any more continued conversations.”

Though he acknowledged that law enforcement groups had to change course, it wasn’t clear if they will embrace the “necessary” standard spelled out in AB 392. Marvel said the coalition hadn’t yet made a decision on that but speaking for himself, he said he thinks “the Supreme Court got it right.”

ACLU lobbyist Lizzie Buchen said she anticipates negotiations will now heat up.

“My hope is that this will actually force them to finally come to the table,” she said. “If they really do want to see reform, which is what they are claiming, then they’re going to have to help work on AB 392 to get it through.”

Both sides will be pressuring the full Assembly, which must vote on the bill to change the legal standard by the end of May. Though Democrats hold more than 75 percent of the seats, the Assembly typically skews more moderate than the Senate, and a handful of Assembly Democrats have strong ties to law enforcement.

CALmatters reporter Laurel Rosenhall is tracking California’s effort to curb police shootings in a new podcast called Force of Law. Listen and subscribe here, or wherever you get podcasts. CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

21 Comments

  1. Just wait till the next mass shooting in a school, and police stand around warning the bad guys,
    “Come out now with your hands up, or we will call your mommy!”

  2. > The Peace Officers Research Association of California. “The fear is that if we didn’t couple them together, that there wouldn’t be any more continued conversations.”

    The Peace Officers Research Association needs to read Donald Trump’s “Art of the Deal”.

    Walking away is ALWAYS an option.

  3. Policemen no one is telling you not to protect yourselves or protect others from dangerous criminals. In many occasions though you guys escale situations. Some are good officers but others just cry babies, everything make them fear for their Lives! Really?Don’t people like law enforcement and army assume some risk of harm while in their jobs? Focus on those criminals who are engaging in domestic violence and sexually assaulting and raping women and children. Why do you give privileged men passes for vicious crimes while killing the non-privileged engaging in non-violence crimes?

    • You cannot even respond to a large fight that involves a particular race. If you intervene the iphones, F bombs, N bombs will drop down on you. Suddenly you are the agressor for attempting to bring civility to a chaotic situation. Now lets move it up a notch to a large fight at a club with shots fired. People pointing out the possible shooter. Police give chase, he keeps running while turning back. At what point do police say “oh heck he might just be scared” Let him go or continue to do your job (enforce the law and arrest bad acting people) ? Now the chase continues and cops shoot. Hes dead and there is a gun in his waistband. Just not the actual shooter. He was just “scared” cuz he didnt wanna catch a new case. Now its a bad shoot. Fex its easy to sit back in your cop loathing world and disect split second decisions. You should try working the east side on a summer weekend night with the 3 other cops on your team (one or two might be on another call) and confront people breaking into cars or smoking dope in their Chrysler 300…. You have noooooo clue. Ya theyre scared sometimes

      • Excuses and more excuses…The law of men and the law of God will protect law enforcement that act according to law and common sense. You are one of those officers with a closed mind attempting to maintain the status of power being a law enforcement bring. Mentally superior people use their power to empower others. Legal and illegal crooks use their power to abuse other and take advantage. I have law enforcement people in my extended family. Some are real life heroes and others real life criminals. I have even reported my own relatives. Nothing really happens to them though; their blue culture protects them. The difference between a top criminal and corrupted police is that the First represents criminal culture; the second represents the “law.” In my extended family some are priests and others white collar criminals, lost regular people. You better than most know some policemen/law enforcement belong in Jail. I know that too.

      • I know local law enforcement that are active pedophiles. I have reported them. WOW, I became the enemy of these local law enforcement and judiciary for doing that. I won’t stop. I will protect my community to any level of my capacity. I do not fear ROSEN, police, the judiciary or anyone. “For me Jesus is life and death is gain.” BRING IT ON!

        • > I know local law enforcement that are active pedophiles.

          Are you trying to say that there is a connection between law enforcers and pedophilia?

          I know of Clinton campaign donors that are reportedly pedophiles. How much should we conclude?

          • I am trying to say that there are law enforcement who engage in watching child porn and in other criminal activity and people like Julia A Emede protect them. Jeff Rosen just simply chooses not to file charges for law enforcement engaging in criminal acts. RECALL THE SANTA CLARA COUNTY JUDICIARY AND JEFF ROSEN! People have been reporting ROSEN to the San Francisco FBI for public corruption. I have doubts the FBI will do anything. These people are so corrupted because they can!

          • I know Trump supporters who are pedophiles and engage in sexually abusing women and children. I know clergy from different denominations who engage in sexually molesting kids. Pedophiles come from all walks of life and are every place, race, creed, mostly males though, sexual orientation, SES….Hillary Clinton is history. KAMALA HARRIS: For The People! KAMALA FOR PRESIDENT. Chip in your Benjamins! Thank you and God bless you!!!

    • “Social justice” is just “justice for MY tribe”.

      Tribalism was the world that existed before civilization.

      Police forces are institutions of civilization.

      Tribes didn’t have police forces; they had mobs because they WERE mobs.

      Since I’m in favor of civilization, I’m on the side of “law enforcement”.

  4. FEXXY:

    > KAMALA HARRIS: For The People! KAMALA FOR PRESIDENT. Chip in your Benjamins! Thank you and God bless you!!!

    I have no idea why anyone would need Kamala Harris for anything.

    You need to do a better selling job.

    How is anyone’s life going to be any better if we elected her instead of Justin Smollett?

    • She is not the president yet and in just less than eight minutes showed the big idiot we have for US AG! That’s not all amigos…CHIP IN YOUR BENJAMINES! Gracias y bendición! KAMALA Harris: for The People; KAMALA FOR PRESIDENT!

      • > She is not the president yet and in just less than eight minutes showed the big idiot we have for US AG!

        Did something happen?

        What did Kamala do in eight minutes to make people forget about 54 years of narcissistic mediocrity?

  5. > KAMALA HARRIS: For The People! KAMALA FOR PRESIDENT. Chip in your Benjamins! Thank you and God bless you!!!

    WHOOPS! Just answered my own question/

    Kamala Harris packs heat!

    NRA voters comin’ atcha!!!!

    • > SAY it one more time: GO KAMALA!

      Sorry, FEXXY. You didn’t get the order.

      I’m switching to Eric Swallwell.

      I think everything you’re said about GOKA MALA can be said about Swally, too.

  6. Well Bubble, you were pro-trump and have now switched! Alleluia glory to the lord. I know he changes hearts and minds! GO Jesus!

Leave a Reply