Police officials all over California are pointing their collective itchy trigger fingers at lawmakers who advanced a new bill that might stop police in the state from having target practice on live black bodies. It’s almost like they can’t bear the thought of not shooting unarmed people.
The new proposal, sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and other community organizations in the wake of the Stephon Clark shooting, would raise the standards required for use of force to allow deadly force only in situations where it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious injury or death to the officer or another person. This means that ...
Wait ... I think the Associated Press may have that wrong. I’m pretty sure the law already said that police should only use deadly force to prevent injury or death. I don’t even know why the ACLU even had to get involved. I’m gonna look it up and correct that mistake. I’ll be right back.
Oh. My. God.
It turns out that California has the oldest unchanged use-of-force law in the country! It hasn’t been changed since 1872. The old law gives police the right to use “reasonable force” not only to protect their lives but simply to arrest a suspect. It even specifies that officers can use “reasonable force” instead of retreating or whenever a suspect is hard to catch. It reads, in part:
A peace officer who makes or attempts to make an arrest need not retreat or desist from his efforts by reason of the resistance or threatened resistance of the person being arrested; nor shall such officer be deemed an aggressor or lose his right to self-defense by the use of reasonable force to effect the arrest or to prevent escape or to overcome resistance.
The proposed law is slightly different. Assembly Bill 931 authorizes police to use “reasonable force, other than deadly force, to effect the arrest, to prevent escape, or to overcome resistance.” It mandates that officers can use deadly force “only when such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.”
The bill spells out a list of “reasonable alternatives” to deadly force, including “verbal communications, warnings, deescalation, and tactical repositioning, along with other tactics and techniques intended to stabilize the situation and reduce the immediacy of the threat so that more time, options, and resources can be called upon to resolve the situation without the use of deadly force.”
OK, that’s gotta be wrong. I know what “verbal communications” means. I understand the definition of “tactical repositioning.” There’s no way that police were previously allowed to shoot people instead of talking to them or moving out of their way. Well, I guess that’s how they did it back in 1872. Meanwhile, police chiefs all over California are fighting the bill.
“Requiring officers to wait for backup and causing officers to second-guess themselves in life-and-death decisions will lead to the increase in number and severity of victims injured,” California Police Chiefs Association President David Swin told ABC 7.
You read that correctly. They’re mad because they might have to wait before they shoot someone. I must admit—I don’t understand the second-guessing part. I would hope that any officer would at least think twice before using deadly force. Two guesses. They don’t even think they should have to guess more than once before ending someone’s life.
Aaron Read, a lobbyist for Police Officers Research Association of California, said: “The training is huge. It’s going to be a difficult task to train that many people that fast, and there’s no money in the bill to do that.”
To help with the effort, The Root would like to offer a Starbucks-like one-day police training course to teach California police officers how to respond under the new law. The full text of the course is included, at no cost, below:
The Official Police Training Guide to Not Shooting People
Just stop shooting people.