Factions Take Shape as California Advances Nationally Watched Police Shooting Bill

Even as a landmark California bill meant to prevent police shootings passed its first committee Tuesday, the fault lines among Democrats began to emerge, suggesting the measure will likely change as it moves through the Legislature.

How much, though, was not yet clear.

After emotional, standing-room-only testimony from Californians whose loved ones have been killed by police, and a sheriff’s deputy who survived being shot by a gunman who killed her colleague, the Assembly Public Safety committee passed AB 392 on a party-line vote. But three of the panel’s six Democrats said they were dissatisfied with the bill in its current form. They asked civil rights groups that support the bill and law enforcement groups that oppose it to keep working toward common ground.

“It is incumbent upon each of us to look at the safety of the public, both law enforcement and the community members that are out on the streets every day,” said Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, a Democrat from Orinda.

“The pendulum has swung too far in one direction such that we aren’t protecting and holding accountable those who are taking life from our community members. I do have serious concerns that the text of this (bill) swings the pendulum too far in the other direction, because the sanctity of the life of our law enforcement is equally as important.”

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber said she would work to reach a compromise before the bill reaches the Assembly floor.

“We are committed to having a piece of legislation that makes a difference and that does provide a balance,” said the San Diego Democrat whose bill would change the legal standard for justifying police use of deadly force.

Her bill—which is backed by the American Civil Liberties Union and numerous civil rights groups—was prompted by the death last year of Stephon Clark. He was not armed, but Sacramento police killed him after mistaking the cellphone he was holding for a gun. Last month, the Sacramento district attorney announced she would not press charges because the officers acted legally.

Clark’s case has re-ignited anger among many that black and brown men are unfairly targeted by police, a message that was carried into the Capitol by scores of Californians who packed the hearing room and spilled out into the hallway, wearing T-shirts commemorating slain loved ones, or emblazoned with the hashtag #LetUsLive.

Weber’s bill would make sweeping changes to the laws that determine when California police can use deadly force. It says police could shoot only when it’s necessary to prevent death or serious injury, and would require they use other tactics in many situations.

That would go beyond the standard set by the U.S. Supreme Court, which says police can use force when a reasonable officer in the same circumstance would do the same thing. Law enforcement groups said that a law that deviates from the reasonable standard would subject officers to greater danger while performing an already dangerous job.

“I was fighting for my life and fighting to protect complete strangers when I chose to stand between the gunman and the employees and patrons. The thought of having to second guess my actions in that moment is frightening,” said Julie Robertson, a Sacramento deputy sheriff who watched her colleague get killed by a gunman when they responded to a disturbance at an auto parts store last year.

“My only intention is to protect and save lives. How is it that I would be questioned and judged by the ones who live so distant from the dangers we inherently face each day?”

Though law enforcement is largely opposed to Weber’s bill, several said they would keep working with her to find common ground. Police groups have backed competing legislation, SB 230, that focuses on updating department policies on the use of force and increasing training for officers. It will likely get its first hearing later this month.

Follow this issue as it moves through the Legislature this year with CALmatters’ podcast, Force of LawCALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

12 Comments

  1. Pass that bill you people will be luckily to have half your current police force in a time your being over run by a flood of illegal aliens. But you deserve it.

  2. Gunn, you must be high. Stephon Clark was not an immigrant. But he got gunned down by yet another chickensh!t cop who got away with murder like what happens day after day across the country.

    I’d like to see again what the Black Panthers did in the late 60s: They start arming themselves, a lot like the lily white boys, with their yellow coiled snake stickers, want to do. Once the public starts seeing lots of brothers armed in the street, both the cops and the right wingers won’t like that, then they will again start thinking gun control ain’t a bad thing.

    • There are plenty of “brothers” armed in the streets, they aren’t killing each other in Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, and Newark with acid attacks. That would be in England against LQBT.

      The GOA and NRA would love love love to have a large contingent of black Americans join, show up to conferences, and vote GOP, please. Infringing on our God-given 2nd Amendment Rights in cities only leads to more infringements on everyone’s rights across the country.

    • All people, of every race, color, creed, gender, sexuality, age, and anything else i am missing, should follow the advice of Chris Rock and they are almost assuredly not going to get shot by the police.

    • If we want better Officers we need better candidates. If we need better candidates then we need to offer better incentives to attract the better candidates. If we continue to make the position of Police Officer less and less attractive by heaping more and more personal liability on, on top of the existing physical liability, who in their right mind will want the job except for those that don’t grasp the liability? Which in itself shows they would not be quality candidates.

      We need to pay and compensate our Police Officers commiserate to the quality of Officers we want.
      If we want better Officers we need better candidates…..

    • SCCR
      So now your advocating for more gun violence, showing your true Commi self.
      Great everyone arm up will have a free fire zone for Cinco DeMaio.

  3. This situations and change in the law are happening not because all policemen abuse their power but some do. These abusive and currupted elements know all they have to do is state they fear for their lives to justify a killing. Most of those killed are typically Black and Latino males. It is true police have to protect themselves from serious criminals, but they tend to be nicer to privileged domestic abuser and sex offender than to others engaging in minor crimes. This shows lack of risk assessment for themselves and the community, biases, and sexism. This is particularly the case in Santa Clara County where the privileged perpetrators get a pass from police and the judiary when engaging in abusing their parteners, sexually abusing minors and women, and other white collar crimes. If something goes wrong for them, they have JEFF ROSEN to protect them. RECALL JEFF ROSEN!

    • FEXXNIST,
      Perhaps you should look up the definition of “statistics”, then with your new found knowledge apply some critical thinking to your perspectives.

  4. For a little more context than the article’s authors provided about Stephon Clark:

    • Clark committed illegal acts that elicited the call to police, namely smashing car windows and breaking a neighbor’s sliding glass door.

    • He refused to follow the officers’ commands to stop and raise his hands.

    • Once spotted inside the backyard, Clark advanced significantly toward the officers.

    • He was holding a shiny object the officers mistook for a weapon, prompting them to warn each other by yelling, “Gun.”

    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/03/05/stephon-clark-california-attorney-general-wont-charge-police/3068066002/

    Now tell me, was this an avoidable death? Was there, just perhaps, some way that Stephon could have done things a little differently here?
    I have heard about dozens of these cases. A few I believe the police actually acted improperly and made mistakes, whose reasons should be probed.
    However for some reason, those aren’t the ones that get the most attention (by BLM, etc.). It’s really odd…

  5. I can just imagine if it were me. I’ve gotten into arguments occasionally, with good-natured people who I love, where I’ve lashed out and said something I didn’t mean to and regretted it later. Even without fear of death or injury. I lots a little bit of control and messed up. Haven’t you?
    Now image you have “fight or flight” adrenaline coursing through your veins, you caught a person committing a dangerous, felonious act. You are chasing someone through unfamiliar place or they are resisting arrest. Do you think you could perhaps make a mistake?

  6. Let’s allow police officers to pick and choose what calls they will respond to and which calls they will not.

    “Man with a gun”, call?…Sorry, no can do; There might be a problem if a need to use force suddenly erupts.

    Should any officer be required to make a proactive enforcement stop of a suspicious individual? … No. Sorry; It might lead to an unforeseen violent situation if the suspect is involved in the criminal activity that gave rise to the cause that prompted the officer to stop that individual in the first place.

    White cops should absolutely never be required to respond to calls in minority neighborhoods and should never be criticized for refusing to make enforcement contacts with non-white suspects, even if the cop sees a “person of color” running down the street carrying a severed head. There’s just too much room for error and second guessing.

    Let’s eliminate these tragedies. Keep the cops out of minority communities and let social Darwinism deal with the problem. That’s the alternative.

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