Under AB 392 the state would establish one of the strongest police use of force laws in the country
SACRAMENTO — On Monday, July 8, the California Senate passed landmark legislation to strengthen the law on police use of force and reduce the number of deadly police shootings in the state. Assembly Bill 392: The California Act to Save Lives, introduced by Assembly member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), will establish a “necessary” use of force standard, paving the way for other states to follow suit.
Police officers in California consistently kill more people than officers in any other state. As in other states, Black and Latinx people and people with disabilities are more likely than other residents to be targets of police violence. AB 392 addresses this problem head on by adopting best practices proven to reduce the number of use of force incidents.
“I believe that a law like AB 392 could have saved Diante’s life,” said Ciara Hamilton, whose cousin Diante Yarber was killed in Barstow on April 5, 2018. “Police officers should always do everything in their power to preserve life. I shouldn’t have to fear for my life because police officers mistake my phone for a gun or shoot into a vehicle that I’m in because of the color of my skin.”
Under current law, California police officers can use deadly force if it is “reasonable” – regardless of whether deadly force was necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury, whether there were available alternatives, or whether the officer’s own actions created the circumstances that led to the use of deadly force. AB 392 raises that standard to require that officers only use deadly force when “necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.” California would be the only state to combine this “necessary” standard with the requirement that courts consider an officer’s conduct leading up to a use of deadly force when determining whether the officer’s actions were justified.
“I am pleased to see AB 392 pass,” said Marissa Barrera, whose brother Michael Barrera was killed on February 8, 2017 by Woodland police officers outside of Sacramento. “My family and I have been fighting for change for the past two and a half years, since my brother was wrongfully killed. Since then, I have met countless other families that are affected by the loss of their loved ones to police killings. I see this bill as a start to change, which we desperately need.”
Establishing a “necessary” standard has been shown to reduce the number of use of force incidents. Under the guidance of the Obama Department of Justice, Seattle and San Francisco’s police departments both successfully adopted a use of force standard like that of AB 392. According to a report from the federal court monitor, Seattle saw a significant reduction in the number of use of force incidents, while police officers and the public remained just as safe. San Francisco also saw similar declines in use of force incidents: The San Francisco Police Department hasn’t shot a single person in almost a year. Across the country, police officers in cities with stricter use of force standards kill fewer people and are less likely to be injured or killed themselves.
“Today, our family applauds the passage of AB 392 through the Senate floor, this is an important step,” said Pamela Fields, whose son was killed November 10, 2013. “My son Donte Jordan should be alive today, but his life was taken by Long Beach PD. I have no choice but to fight for justice every day, can’t stop won’t stop!”
AB 392 now heads to California Governor Gavin Newsom for his signature.