California Could Criminalize Fatal Police Shootings Under New Law

Lawmakers in California are pushing a bill that would clarify when police officers are allowed to use deadly force. Assembly Bill 392, also known as the California Act to Save Lives, would require police to judge whether the use of force is authorized before shooting a person. If the use of force is not used in self-defense or to protect another individual, the officer could be prosecuted for the shooting, USA Today reported. The bill will be introduced in the California Legislature next week, according to the publication.

The bill was first introduced in February by Assemblymember Shirley Weber of San Diego and would require police officers to engage in de-escalation techniques, such as listening to the suspect’s story or explaining the actions of the officers, before reaching for their gun, according to Weber’s website. The bill passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee in April, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California.

"The piling on of killings of often unarmed civilians by police for the past six or seven years now is wearing on the conscience of this nation," Weber told USA Today. "The thought after these shootings often is, ‘Isn’t there something else police could have done?’ And maybe sometimes there are other things."

State Senators Steven Bradford and Holly Mitchell have also thrown their support behind the proposed bill. Other supporters include the Alliance for Boys and Men Of Color, the Anti Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter California, Youth Justice Coalition, and others. “This is a measure that will assure and help end and make sure that there are no more Stephon Clarks, Trayvon [Martins], Michael Browns, Eric Garners, Freddie Grays, Antwon Rose as well,” Bradford previously said in a statement to The Sacramento Bee.

Police officers in California killed 172 people in 2017, and only half of those people were armed with guns, according to Weber’s website. The law currently states that officers are allowed to use deadly force as long as an “objectively reasonable officer would have done the same.”

“Where use-of-force limits are already in place, there has been a decrease of more than 30 percent in both murder rates and nonfatal shootings and an increase in anonymous tips that show an improvement in community relations,” Webster’s website states. “This reform reflects policies that policing experts recognize as effective at better preserving life while also allowing officers the autonomy needed to ensure public safety.”

Last week, a California judge ordered the state’s attorney general to release police misconduct records that predate January 1, 2019, KCRA Sacramento previously reported.

In May, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard B. Ulmer, Jr. ordered the attorney general to release the misconduct records under the state’s new police transparency law. The law requires police departments to show disciplinary records for behavior of reports involving sexual assault and use of force, the news station reported.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.