The California Assembly overwhelmingly passed legislation Wednesday to change rules governing when cops in the state can use lethal force, despite last-minute opposition from some families of victims of police shootings who said compromises in the bill’s language watered down the legislation.
Assembly Bill 392: The California Act to Save Lives changes the use-of-force standard for police in the state to when “necessary” as opposed to when deemed “reasonable,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
However, in a concession to police groups, a definition of “necessary” was removed from the bill’s final language, and language was added indicating that a police officer’s use of force would be “evaluated” “based on the totality of the circumstances,” the Sacramento Bee explains.
The changes had some members of families of police shootings pulling their support for the bill.
“Another person is going to have to die before we can prove that this bill is not going to do what you think it’s going to do,” Laurie Valdez, whose partner, Antonio Guzman Lopez, was shot by San Jose State police in 2014, told the Times. “It’s like a slap in our face.”
But other families, supporters and sponsors of the bill written by state Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), an African American lawmaker who said she was inspired in part by wanting to keep her grandsons safe, said it would go a long way toward needed change in the training and behavior of police officers.
As the Times notes:
Cephus Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant, who was shot by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer in Oakland in 2009, said there are five organizations still co-sponsoring the bill that work directly with families of victims, representing “hundreds” of supporters.
Stevante Clark, a member of Johnson’s group whose brother, Stephon Clark, became a rallying point for the legislation after he was killed by Sacramento police in 2018, said the bill was “a little watered-down with the changes that were made, but at the same time this is progress.”
“Slow progress is better than no progress,” Clark said.
In a written statement to The Root, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California also praised the bill saying:
Changing the use of force standard in California will change the way officers are trained to pursue other, non-deadly, resources or techniques when engaging with the public. ...
For far too long, California has ignored the problem of police shootings, and the disproportionate killings of black and Latino Californians and people with disabilities. AB 392 finally addresses this problem head on – with solutions we know work.
Weber told the Times that as an assemblywoman, she expected compromise would be needed before passage of the bill, but said the legislation remained strong.
“I kept saying this bill will make it safe behind and in front of the badge,” said Weber, adding that the legislation will allow her grandsons to grow up with as many rights as any other children.
“They believe at this point that they have just as much right and respect as any other child in this nation, and that should never change,” she said.