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California Gov. Newsom Signs Law To Limit Shootings By Police

 August 19, 2019 at 10:32 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's being called the strictest use of force law in the country today, Governor Gavin Newsome signed into law assembly bill three 92 the new law raises the standard for use of force. The bill was introduced by San Diego Assembly woman, Shirley Webber or grandchildren were in the audience at the signing this morning. Here's assemblywoman Weber. My father told me certain things about what happens to young black men in America. They should not know that, only in a historical sense, but it should not be a part of their lives. It should not influence their lives and it should not make them different because they deserve justice and fairness and equality starting in January when it goes into effect and officer will only be able to use deadly force if necessary, rather than if it seems reasonable. The word necessary is central to this new law and how it will be applied. Joining me with more is capitol radio's been Adler who's in Sacramento for the bill signing. Ben, welcome. Good to be with. So what does it mean that the standard for use of force was changed from reasonable to necessary? Speaker 2: 01:05 Well, it really was a compromise that led to this deal where neither side was able to get everything they wanted and they clearly didn't have the votes. Law enforcement didn't have the votes to essentially hold steady and just do a training bill and the civil liberties groups and community activists did not have the vote to go even stronger in the use of force standards. So it is somewhat in the eye of the beholder what this law will do in the ACL you says, look, this is going to be one of the strongest if not strongest measures in the country. And then there are these persistent, uh, I think snickers is too strong of a word, but there's certainly, you know, a feeling on the law enforcement side that maybe they didn't have to give up too much and that not too much is going to change. So as with most compromises, it's probably somewhere in between. Speaker 1: 01:49 Hmm. And the new law also encourages officers to utilize deescalation techniques. How does it go about doing that? Speaker 2: 01:56 Well, this is one of the areas of compromise. It does say that you need to, that the officers are going to need to use less lethal options and deescalation techniques when whenever possible. But those are stated as intent language in the bill, which is not as strong as actual legal language. And it is not a checklist which a lot of supporters of the bill had pushed for earlier in the process and is not a checklist. So you're not going to have what law enforcement groups, they would be second guessing officers item by item, by item after the fact. Officers would basically not need to go through a mental checklist in the moment. They could react as they see fit or at least as a reasonable officer would do. Whether use of force is necessary. Speaker 1: 02:40 And I want, you know, I want to circle back to a necessary and the compromise that was made, the law doesn't define what necessary force is. So it's expected to leave a lot up to the courts. Talk to us a bit more about that. Speaker 2: 02:54 Yeah, I think that is yet another piece of the compromise. So, you know, law enforcement were saying we need to keep this reasonable standard in place. Uh, and uh, the supporters of the bill said it needs to be a necessary standard. So what they did is they went with necessary but they didn't define it. And, and the most we have on a definition is use of force is going to be justified if a reasonable officer would have believed it was necessary in that moment. Uh, and then also in another compromise, the behavior of the officer will be taken into account leading up to the shooting the actions of the officer as well as the actions of the suspect. So you've got basically on all of these issues, some sort of middle ground. Now one area that's worth touching on is there's also a companion bill that's still in the legislature but is widely expected to get through, uh, before the legislature adjourns in a few weeks. Speaker 2: 03:42 And that is new statewide training, best practices. And then there's money in the state budget to pay for that. While enforcement groups argue that by improving the training standards that that threshold for what a reasonable officer would perceive as being necessary would go up. Supporters of the bill have been more dismissive of that argument and of that separate bill. But, uh, I think that's one area that is gonna be interesting to watch down the road. For example, with the law enforcement agents to get adopted a policy of you're not pursuing someone unless there's a very clear imminent risk to life, then maybe there were fewer pursuits and maybe there, there are a few pursuits that ended in shootings. Speaker 1: 04:23 And also besides watching how the courts actually rule on use of force cases, what else will you be following in terms of, uh, the implementation of this new law? Speaker 2: 04:32 I'll be following how many state and local law enforcement agencies implement best practices. And the training is, it's not necessarily that it says these are mandatory and one universal set statewide that every agency and city and county, et Cetera must adopt. But it is perceived that they are going to have an effect. So how prevalent will they be implemented? And then the only way we'll really be able to see how different that this is is, are there fewer shootings? Are there more prosecutions of officers? Because it's, it's not necessarily clear that in, you know, for example, with the Stephon Clark shooting here in Sacramento that really spurred the latest burst of momentum that got this bill across the finish line. It's not necessarily clear that that the officers would have been charged under this bill. It's quite possible they would not have been charged. Uh, and yet there was a pursuit that took place. And so maybe if pursuits are not allowed under department policies, unless there's a perception of a, of, uh, you know, lethal threat, then maybe that would lead to a where we're shooting. So I think there's, there's a lot to watch and it's gonna take some time before we circle back and are able to assess Speaker 1: 05:38 quickly. You, you mentioned Stefan Clark. Let's take a step back. Remind us of the case that propelled the creation of this new law. Speaker 2: 05:46 So Stefan Clark was shot in his grandmother's backyard about a year and a half ago by officers. He thought he was holding a gun when in fact he was holding a cell phone. Then a year later, this past the Sacramento County district attorney and the California Attorney General Javier, but Sarah conducted separate investigations in each, decided each announced in March, they would not be charging the officers, and that's what led to even more protests and even more calls for this piece of legislation. A very similar bill failed last year, and then the that spent a, the the fall and winter negotiating talks broke down earlier this year. A couple of times before they finally came together in May to announce the deal. Speaker 1: 06:26 I have been speaking to capital public radio has been Adler. Ben, thanks so much. You're welcome. Speaker 3: 06:33 [inaudible].

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The law by Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego will allow police to use lethal force only when necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious injury to officers or bystanders.
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