#StephonClark: Bill Policing When Cops Can Use Lethal Force Advances in California

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A little more than a year after Sacramento, Calif., police gunned down an unarmed Stephon Clark as the 22-year-old father of two stood in his grandparents’ backyard, California may be on the cusp of passing the nation’s strictest law governing when police can use deadly force.

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Under the proposed legislation headed to the state Assembly for a vote, cops in California would only be able to use lethal force when “necessary” and if no other options are available, NPR reports. Most laws governing lethal force allow cops to shoot to kill if a “reasonable” officer could have made the same decision.

The bill came about as a result of the outcry and anger after Clark’s state-sanctioned death at the hands of police who fired on Clark 20 times, mostly in the back. The cops, whom the prosecutor’s office chose not to indict, said they mistook Clark’s cellphone for a gun.

“We can now move a policy forward that will save lives and change the culture of policing in California,” Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, who introduced the bill, wrote in a statement, NPR reports.

The bill was allowed to advance after changes to language police organizations opposed and a decision by those groups to drop their opposition. Police groups say they’re now neutral.

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“We will not support the bill, as it is far from perfect, but the amendments have addressed our biggest fears,” Ron Hernandez, president of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

As part of the agreement, what exactly defines “necessary” has been removed, as well as language in the bill specifically requiring cops to do everything possible before using deadly force., the Times explains.

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Despite the changes, civil rights groups indicated they were satisfied with what the legislation will accomplish.

“If this bill passes and is signed by the governor, California will have one of the most restrictive use-of-force laws in the nationif not the most restrictive,” said Lizzie Buchen of the the American Civil Liberties Union.

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Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, which was one of the sponsors on the bill, said its members weren’t completely pleased with the changes, but after consulting with families of those unjustly killed by police, decided to continue supporting it, the Times reports.

The changes “are problematic for us but not so problematic for us that we are going to be coming off the bill,” BLM Los Angeles co-founder Melina Abdullah told the Times. “We still think it’s important legislation, just not as far-reaching as we hoped it would be.”

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