California Gov Newsom limits use of lethal force by police with new law

Screenshot. FILE PHOTO.

Law enforcement officers in California have just been limited in their use of lethal force to only when deemed “necessary.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation on Monday that changed the state’s long-standing use-of-force statute, limiting when police are allowed to use deadly force and holding them liable if that was brought on by an officer’s own actions.

(Video: YouTube/KPIX)


The Democratic governor declared that the new law would “change culture” as he spoke Monday flanked by family members of people who have been killed by police, including Stevante Clark, the brother of  Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by two Sacramento police officers last year.

“It’s one thing to sign a piece of paper, pass legislation,” Newsom said. “It’s another to change hearts and minds, to change culture. To change the way people conduct themselves, to hold themselves to a higher standard … That’s the work that we, collectively as a community, need to manifest at peril of missing this moment and missing the point of this moment.”

Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who co-wrote AB 392 – otherwise known as the California Act to Save Lives, had introduced the bill in the state Senate and stood on the platform alongside Newsom and the families.

“We were told by so many that it could not happen and we had felt that we were at the brink of failure at one point in this whole process,” the San Diego Democrat said. “I felt the weight of the families. It’s been a difficult journey because they entrusted me with trying to make change. My greatest fear is that if we had failed, those who want to make change will never work to do it again.”

California’s use-of-force policy had been in effect since 1872 before the new law was signed Monday, and it had allowed police officers to use deadly force if it was “reasonable.” The new law now requires law enforcement to only use deadly force if and when it becomes “necessary” in order to protect against death or a serious injury.

State legislators and law enforcement officials previously wrangled over the measure’s definition of “necessary” which allowed officers to use deadly force only when there is “no reasonable alternative.” The change of “reasonable” to “necessary” made a way for groups like the California Highway Patrol, Peace Officers Research Association of California, and California State Sheriffs’ Association to not be officially opposed but only neutral to the bill, KSWB reported.

“We are doing something today that stretches the boundary of possibility and sends a message to people all across this country that they can do more and they can do better to meet this moment,” Newsom said at the signing of the legislation which goes into effect in 2020.

But some disagreed on what, if any, effect the new law would have on police policies which are already in use.

According to Time:

Several police agencies said the new law simply codifies policies already used in major California cities that emphasize de-escalation. Others said the law may have a significant effect if is coupled with a pending Senate bill requiring that officers be trained in ways to de-escalate confrontations, alternatives to opening fire and how to interact with people with mental illness or other issues.

“It’s a false sense of security to those that think this is going to shift the needle,” Plumas County Sheriff’s Deputy Ed Obayashi said.

Twitter users slammed Newsom and California lawmakers for effectively risking the lives of the state’s law enforcement officers.


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