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What Impact Would AB-392 Have On Police Use Of Force?

Legal experts question how much impact AB-392 would have on how officers use force.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 Today's San Diego City Council will vote on whether to throw it support behind assembly. Bill three 92 a bill the county board of supervisors voted to oppose two weeks ago. The legislation brought forth by San Diego Assembly woman, Shirley Weber, would raise the standard for use of deadly force from reasonable to necessary. Here she is yesterday at a Sacramento Rally with mothers who've lost loved ones to police violence. We have to have the right spirit to basically create an environment in California where everyone feels protected by law enforcement. That law enforcement is truly our friend of the people who comment to make things better, not to make things worse. Proponents say the change in standard would make it easier to prosecute officers who use lethal force unnecessarily, but legal experts say it may not change use of force protocol. And Nita Shabrea has been reporting on assembly bill three 92 for the Los Angeles Times.

Speaker 1: 00:54 She is joining us via Skype. I need a welcome. Thank you for having me, Jay. So first remind us, how would assembly bill three 92 change the way police use force three 92 changes? Uh, the standard from reasonable to necessary. That is the language in the bill. What that does is a little bit more nuanced. It, uh, will bring into clay what officers do prior to firing their weapons. So right now in California and really across the nation, the standard right now comes out of the u s supreme court for when officers can use deadly force and it's a case called Graham versus Connor that's been around for a couple of decades now and it limits are a examination of use of force to the moment the officer pulls the trigger. In that second, when the trigger was pulled, did that officer fear for their lives or someone else's lives?

Speaker 1: 01:49 Was there an imminent threat? What three 92 would ultimately do is pull back that timeline a little bit and allow us to look at the officers' actions leading up to that moment. And then what is the concern of law enforcement agencies then police and law enforcement across the state are incredibly concerned that their actions will be overly scrutinized in that moment. What they're saying is that your officers are making life and death decisions just in that split second and if they know that that is going to be Monday morning quarterback or second gas, then how will that affect them in that moment there what you hear law enforcement saying is they're worried that their officers will put themselves in danger or other people in danger by hesitating because of that fear of being second guessed and but there are some people who feel assembly bill three 92 will fall short of what its intent is to put it your way, the proposal won't be what community groups want or what law enforcement fears.

Speaker 1: 02:52 So tell me about that. Really what three 92 is doing is taking what is already place on the civil court side and putting it into criminal law. So right now in California it was actually a San Diego case, a man named Shane Hayes who was shot by sheriff's deputies. That case has wound to the courts. And what has become of it is that there is the expectations that police do need to use all caution and all reasonable efforts leading up to the use of force. So what you see around California is that many agencies already, cha are already training their officers to that standard. They're teaching officers crisis intervention and deescalation and all these things that we as a society have asked our police to do to try to not use lethal force. They're doing that in part because on the civil side if they don't do that, you see these lawsuits coming out of use of force incidents.

Speaker 1: 03:52 So really three 92 is just taking those standards and putting them in the criminal code. So in a lot of instances and a lot of departments, you're not going to see an active change in what police are doing on the street. You're simply going to see that accountability brought into the criminal code as well as on the civil side. And in your article you point to some of the broader issues, assembly bill three 92 is trying to address what are some of those issues? I think across the country as we've seen in since the black lives matter movement and other things have really come into play is that there's a question on what we want from our law enforcement. There's sort of two mentalities are the guardians or are they warriors? And you're seeing this conversation come up, uh, across the country. And I think that here in California and in many places, officers and law enforcement field that they're always guardians, that the sanctity of life is always the highest priority for them.

Speaker 1: 04:52 But on the community side, what you're seeing is people saying, no, we don't like the way our, our communities are being policed. And we feel that you're coming into our communities as warriors, as an armed force that sees us as the enemy. And so we want you to rethink that. And really what three 92 is getting at is a, is a way to address that. What is the mentality officers should enter a community with and how does that play out in their policies and their procedures and their actions? And what are some of the other policy issues that need to be addressed for legislation like assembly bill three 92 to be effective at keeping communities and officers safe? You know, I think the number one thing that we are not talking about is the fact that police and law enforcement have become our first responders for mental illness.

Speaker 1: 05:41 And I think this is something you are here officers across the state in both urban and rural communities say is that a good percentage of their calls involves some sort of mental illness. And just from my reporting reporting on police shootings. So many of these involve mental illness in some way. And so I genuinely believe that until we actively start discussing that link in public and being very clear that we are asking our officers to be first responders and deciding whether we want to ask our law enforcement to be first responders and mental health, that we are going to continue to have this tension in these problems. Because you are putting together, uh, you are asking an armed force to be the first line of response in mental illness. And we have to decide if that's what we want to do as a state. And as the San Diego City Council decides whether or not to put its support behind this bill, uh, what is the significance of their stance?

Speaker 1: 06:40 I think it's tremendously significant what cities and counties across the state are going to do right now. The historic tension in the Capitol with legislators is that law enforcement is an incredibly powerful a force. There's a great deal of deference and respect both to what they represented to society and to their lobbying power and their dollars. So there is tremendous pushback right now from law enforcement in Sacramento against three 92 and, uh, much lobbying to make sure that the language of use of force in three 92 does not move forward. And so as you're looking at cities, they're going to be a hearing from their sheriffs and their chief of police across the state on what they would like to see those cities do. And they're going to have to balance that with what the communities want. So I think that where cities land, we'll have a great impact done. Where Sacramento. Lance, I've been speaking with Anita Shabrea who covers California state politics and policy for the Los Angeles Times and need a thank you very much. Thank you.

Speaker 2: 07:46 Yeah.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.