Skip to main content
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

Battle Resumes In California Over Police Use Of Deadly Force

February 7, 2019 2:14 p.m.

GUEST: Laurel Rosenhall, political reporter, Cal Matters

Subscribe to the Midday Edition podcast on iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.

Related Story: Battle Resumes In California Over Police Use Of Deadly Force


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

Kaye PBS is supported by the law firm of Mintz working with startups and growing companies. Mintz legal services can help clients raise capital secure space and protect intellectual property to achieve strategic goals.

More admin Stockholm Mintz built on excellence driven by change the state legislature will soon be evaluating two new bills about police use of deadly force. Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego is reviving her push to change the standard law enforcement can use to justify shootings and use of force. And this week a coalition of law enforcement groups announced they would introduce their own bill in the legislature. Law enforcement agencies came out against Webb's bill last year so it looks as though state lawmakers may have to choose between two very different police reform bills.

Joining me is Laurel Rosen Hall political reporter with Cal matters. Laurel welcome to the program. Thanks for having me. Now Assemblywoman Webber just introduced a new bill it's HB 392 that would change a well-established legal standard for police use of force. Tell us what the bill proposes.

Essentially the bill would change the legal standard for when a police officer can shoot. By changing it from what's known as the reasonable standard to what would be called the necessary standard and the difference is that the necessary standard would take into account what leads up to the moment of the shooting did the officer do everything possible to de-escalate the situation to use persuasion or other nonviolent tactics to try to change the situation before the moment that the shooting occurred. And it would make it a lot harder to justify a shooting and therefore it would make it easier to prosecute police for shooting.

So just to be clear with the current reasonable officers standard police can and do justify their use of deadly force not simply as a last resort but also when they feel fear for their lives.

So the reasonable standard you know it stems from this 1989 United States Supreme Court ruling and four law enforcement officers. It's an extremely important protection for what they see as you know doing a very dangerous job because the reasonable standard in their mind it doesn't allow any kind of court to come in and do like a 20 20 hindsight kind of review of their action it just takes into account the moment of the incident of when they fired and if they felt a sense of fear because they believed someone else had a gun and they shot and killed that person then that is a reasonable action that a reasonable officer would do.

Why does Assemblywoman Weber say this change from reasonable to necessary is needed.

She's very concerned about police shootings and in particular the belief that they you know impact black and brown communities disproportionately. There have been many high profile deaths in recent years and this is seen as a way to curb the deaths because if it is easier to prosecute police and you have a law on the books that encourages them to do a lot of other steps before they pull out their gun then the belief is that there will be fewer police shootings.

Now this week the California Police Chiefs Association and other law enforcement groups announced they've come up with a bill of their own. What does their bill propose.

The law enforcement bill really focuses on training and internal policies. They want to see a change in the law that would require police departments across California to adopt policies that would require techniques for avoiding use of force such as de-escalation and persuasion and other things that can be used before pulling out a gun. They are calling for policies that talk about the concept of proportionality and responding with the amount of force that's appropriate to the situation and also for policies that more specifically give guidelines for when deadly force is appropriate. So that would be a big change because right now police departments you know there's a lot of local control and they do vary from one city to the next.

So this would be implementing some similarities across the state and the other thing they want is a statewide training program that would educate officers about the use of force. What are the guidelines and the rules. So that's the crux of their bill as a separate thing they're also asking for 300 million dollars over the next 10 years to give officers more resources when it comes to forming connections with homeless services mental health professionals substance abuse programs. They really feel like too many problems in our cities have become police issues that really need to be handled by other kinds of professionals.

Now the proponents of Webber's Bill and law enforcement were working on a joint bill. What happened to that effort.

They've been in negotiations for many months and they were clearly not able to come to an agreement. Right now I don't know a ton of details about how that fell apart but I think we can see from the difference in the proposals that they've put out that it was obviously really important to Assemblywoman Weber the ACLU the families of the loved ones who have been killed by police shootings that to them the issue of accountability was paramount and in particular accountability through criminal prosecution they wanted a law that was going to be able to hold police to account and for police.

That seems to be a no go area.

You know making anything that makes it legally harder for them to shoot is going to make it in their mind more dangerous to be a cop and more dangerous to do their job so they don't want anything that's going to make them more vulnerable or impact their safety. And so they're looking for ways to kind of change the training and the policies in ways to reduce shootings that wouldn't have an effect on their ability to do their job and pull their guns when they think it's necessary.

I've been speaking with Laurel Rosen Hall political reporter with Cal matters. Laurel thank you very much. Thank you.