California Police Balk as Calls Grow Louder for LAPD to Change Its Use-of-Force Policy

Stevante Clark, brother of Stephon Clark, speaks during a Black Lives Matter protest outside the office of Sacramento, Calif., District Attorney Anne Schubert on March 28, 2018.
Stevante Clark, brother of Stephon Clark, speaks during a Black Lives Matter protest outside the office of Sacramento, Calif., District Attorney Anne Schubert on March 28, 2018.
Photo: Justin Sullivan (Getty Images)

As more people look to the Los Angeles Police Department to change its use-of-force policy, a throng of police chiefs in Northern California came together on Monday to denounce proposed legislation that would raise the standard for legal review of such action—after the fact.


The Mercury News reports that police chiefs gathered in Fairfield, Calif., to condemn the bill, which was recently introduced in the State Assembly by members Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty. The Police Accountability and Community Protection Act would raise the standard for legal review of how and when lethal force is used. McCarty represents Sacramento, the jurisdiction where 22-year-old Stephon Clark was shot eight times in his grandparents’ backyard for holding what police thought was a gun. It turned out to be a cellphone.

Weber and McCarty were joined by Clark’s family in announcing the legislation. According to KUSI-TV, the new bill would “change the standard under which deadly force is used to authorizing it only when necessary to prevent imminent death or bodily injury and when, given the totality of the situation, and if there are no reasonable alternatives, like verbal warnings, verbal persuasion, or other non-lethal methods of resolution or de-escalation.”

“Existing use-of-force laws have made an encounter with law enforcement—no matter how ordinary and no matter whether an individual is unarmed or even cooperative—into one that ends in the death of a civilian,” Weber said, according to KUSI. “The worst-possible outcome is increasingly the only outcome, especially in communities of color. Our legislation will ensure that law enforcement is held to a higher standard, that they have more options for resolving situations without deadly force, and that communities can better trust law enforcement to keep them safe again.”

Unsurprisingly, state police unions, including the California Police Chiefs Association, have no interest in any such bill that prioritizes justice for those unfortunate civilians killed by extrajudicial mistakes. Their rationale? It would impede their ability to do their jobs and increase crime.

“This legislation as proposed puts communities at risk,” said Morgan Hill, Calif., Police Chief David Swing, president of the CPCA. “Evaluating the use of deadly force from the perspective of hindsight and narrowing the justifiable-homicide defense will lead to officers pulling back on proactive policing, resulting in increased crime throughout the state.”


Also, officers have to make “split-second” decisions and shouldn’t have to second-guess themselves, he said.

And I hear him talking—but his kids aren’t being mowed down by increasingly wrong decisions.


Apart from the legislation currently making its way through the Legislature, several prominent civil rights activists held a press conference outside the LAPD Southwest Police Station on Monday. The activists want the Los Angeles Police Commission to enact a policy that would restrict officers’ use of deadly force itself and not wait for the Legislature.


“The police commission has an opportunity get ahead of the curve,” said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, founder of the L.A. Urban Policy Roundtable, according to KABC-TV. “They don’t have to wait for the state Legislature to take action—or any legislature. They can change policy, they can put a hard and tough policy in—when and under what circumstances officers can use deadly force.”

I guess there’s more than one way to skin a cat—or save a black.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this post stated that Stephon Clark was shot 14 times. He was shot at 20 times and hit eight times.

Ms. Bronner Helm is the Senior Editorial Director at Colorlines. Mouthy Black Girl. Rosalynn Carter Mental Health Fellow. Shea Butter Feminist. Virgo Sun, Aries Moon.


"Not a real" DrDonna

These fools don’t understand that use of deadly force should always be the last resort. Their resistance is just further evidence of that: they want it to be something you can do if you feel like it, since that’s where the current law sits. This really reminds me of that thing that’s been said about equality:“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”