Santa Clara County became the latest local agency to adopt a slate of policing reforms in response to the public uprising over the murder of George Floyd.
In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors approved a slate of changes aligned with a national campaign known as “8 Can’t Wait,” which prescribes the following reforms (that are now county policy):
- Officers must intervene to stop a colleague from using excessive force
- A ban on chokeholds, strangleholds, carotid restraints and other approaches that cut off a suspect’s air supply or blood flow
- Officers must de-escalate situations to the greatest extent possible before using force and must undergo training in de-escalation and violence reduction strategies
- Use-of-force policies must be updated to more clearly represent the maximum level of force allowable in response to specific types of conduct
- Officers must give a clear verbal warning before using deadly force
- Officers are prohibited from shooting at moving vehicles unless an individual in the vehicle poses a direct deadly threat by means other than the vehicle
- Officers must exhaust all other reasonable alternatives before resorting to deadly force
- Officers must provide comprehensive reporting of all uses and threats of force
In addition to the #8CantWait policies, the board referred the county to explore the following changes to law enforcement practices:
- Prohibiting the hiring of enforcement and correctional officers with a history of excessive force or serious misconduct complaints (including lateral transfers)
- Making public a list of all lethal and less-lethal armaments owned by county departments
- Limiting the acquisition of “military-style” weaponry and equipment
- Banning or limiting the use of tear gas and rubber bullets as a crowd control technique
- Restructuring county emergency response to ensure that employees best trained and suited to handle a given situation are able to do so
Meanwhile, the county was directed to brings its policies in alignment with SB 230, which tightens up police standards for using force, and AB 392, which limits the allowable reasons law enforcement personnel can resort to killing someone.
In a letter praising the policies proposed by Supervisor Joe Simitian, Santa Clara County Public Defender Molly O’Neal called them, “an aggressive but sensible formula for reform.” The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Santa Clara County descrbed the same proposals as “timely, appropriate, and needed.”
Simitian said Floyd’s killing underscored the urgency of such accountability measures.
“The details of George Floyd’s killing are by now known to us all. Indeed, they seem all too familiar. Because they are,” he said. “What we have just witnessed is and should be deeply disturbing to every American. It is inherently inconsistent with our nation’s stated aspiration to provide equal justice under the law. And there can be no argument that the pain of such behavior weighs most heavily on communities of color.”