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By Dan Morain and Lauren Rosenhaall | CalMatters

Reprinted with permission from Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association

Photo:  Assemblywoman Shirley Weber stands to the left of Gov. Gavin Newsom at signing ceremony for her police use-of-force legislation. Photo by Dan Morain for CalMatters

August 21, 2019 (San Diego) - California will soon have a tougher new legal standard for the use of deadly force by police, under legislation Gov. Gavin Newsom signed today that was inspired by last year’s fatal shooting of a young, unarmed man in Sacramento.

Newsom signed the legislation amid unusual fanfare, convening numerous legislators, family members of people who have died in police shootings and advocates including civil-rights leader Dolores Huerta in a courtyard at the Secretary of State’s building used in the past for inaugurations and other formal events.

The governor contends that with Assembly Bill 392 in place, police will turn increasingly to de-escalation techniques including verbal persuasion, weapons other than guns and other crisis-intervention methods.

“It is remarkable to get to this moment on a bill that is this controversial. But it means nothing unless we make this moment meaningful,” Newsom said after signing the legislation.He made a point of praising law enforcement, saying the “overwhelming majority are extraordinary and honorable people.” He is planning to attend the funeral Tuesday of California Highway Patrol Officer Andre Moye Jr., who was killed by an ex-felon last week.

Newsom also noted that the state’s current budget includes an additional $35 million for more police training, including ways to better handle severely mentally ill people. He said as many as a third of people shot to death by police are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or some other serious illness.

“That is a tough assignment for law enforcement,” the governor said. “What’s happening on the streets of California is challenging, and law enforcement is increasingly being called to do social work.”

Kori McCoy, who attended the bill signing, was among the family members of people shot to death by police. His brother, Willie McCoy, was shot Feb. 9 while he slept at a Taco Bell in Vallejo. Six officers fired 55 rounds, hitting him more than 20 times.

“I don’t think this [legislation] is going to totally change everything, but it definitely is a piece, and we’ll take it,” McCoy said.

The law reflects a compromise between civil-rights advocates who want to limit when police can shoot and law enforcement groups who said earlier versions of the bill would have put officers in danger.

Under the new law, which takes effect January 1, police may use deadly force only when “necessary in defense of human life.”

That’s a steeper standard than prosecutors apply now, which says officers can shoot when doing so is “reasonable.” One of the most significant changes will allow prosecutors to consider officers’ actions leading up to a shooting when deciding whether deadly force is justified.

“This will make a difference not only in California, but we know it will make a difference around the world,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the San Diego Democrat who carried the legislation.

The law doesn’t go as far as civil libertarians originally proposed and will likely leave it to courts to define what a “necessary” use of force is in future cases. The negotiations led a few early supporters, including the group Black Lives Matter, to drop their support and major statewide law-enforcement organizations to drop their opposition. After a year of contentious testimony over how to reduce police shootings, the final version of the bill sailed through the Legislature with bipartisan support.

Newsom’s staff helped broker the compromise, and his signature was not a surprise. In March, after Sacramento’s district attorney cleared the officers who killed Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ backyard after mistaking the cell phone he was holding for a gun, Newsom signaled support for police reforms that “reinforce the sanctity of human life.” And in June, he said he would sign the bill as he praised advocates for “working across their differences” to forge a compromise.

“The bill is watered down; everybody knows that,” Stevante Clark, brother of Stephon Clarktold the Los Angeles Times. “But at least we are getting something done. At least we are having the conversation now.”

California police kill more than 100 people a year — at a rate higher than the national average and highest among states with populations of 8 million or more. Most of the people police kill are armed with a gun or a knife.

But when California police kill people who are not armed, the impact falls disproportionately on Latinos and African Americans. Together, those groups make up 66% of the unarmed people California police killed between 2016 and 2018, but about 46% of the state’s population.


Female vs Male Police Officers

While I agree that we need to have more female police officers and also more minority police officers, we also need much better selection of police officers and training. To make a point, imagine that in comparable situations that of 100 women officers, only one uses her gun compared to 100 males officers and 5 use their gun. This also means that 95 male officers didn't use their guns. So, the vast majority of male police officers don't resort to violence. So, for other reasons, we need more female police officers, e.g., better able to mediate, etc. Compared to other nations we have far more police shooting people than others; but, still, the vast majority of our police officers, men and women don't. 

One of the main problems is training and our laws. Currently, despite the 5th Amendment's "deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law," our Supreme Court ruled that asset forfeiture is Constitutional. In full body armor, our police force their way into homes, often with tragic results. Totally innocent home owners have been killed or seriously injured. Police stop cars and seize peoples money. Our DA and others claim this is necessary to fight crime; but, to the best of my knowledge, no other Western technologically advanced democracy does this. What they do is indict someone, put a freeze on their bank accounts and lien on their home, then, if convicted, then and only then can they seize those assets proven to have resulted from the convicted crime. That is, if one owns a home, paid off, and ones nephew visits and is caught with drugs, the home is off limits. Our entire war on drugs has created aggressive policing, not innocent until proven guilty; but assuming that people are ALL dangerous. Basically, a license to steal, the part of the assets going to the police department involved, paying salary increases, equipment, etc. And, if totally innocent, someone can go bankrupt from legal fees to get their home back. How is this justice?

We need to change our laws, including our war on drugs, to reflect what is truly dangerous, not what we disapprove of, and to train our police to act accordingly. Whether male or female, if training and laws assume that everyone from someone, not selling, just using a controlled substance, should be approached in the most aggressive manner, then innocent people will be injured and killed.

When I lived in Japan, taught conversation English, Japanese police were required to train Judo or Karate or Aikido on a regular basis. The police officers I knew were quite capable of dealing with a drunk or mentally ill person with a knife. The training had to be ongoing, several times per week during the officers entire career. A gun should be a last resort. Besides the martial arts, we have tasers, peppar spray, batons. And most police wear Kevlar vests.

As I wrote previously, police officers, men and women, deserve to go home to their families unharmed; but, at the same time, their job is to protect and serve, including drunks, mentally ill, and kids, so their training and our laws need to balance the two, so that the first resort isn't to shooting people. All life is precious, though historically and currently, I wonder if American culture really believes this?

Law Enforcement is a Noble Profession

No more than I think all Priests are Pedophiles or all Politicians are Crooks. We need ways to better single and weed out the very few Law Enforcement Officers that may need to find a different line of work just like in any other Occupation. Choosing to be in Law Enforcement is a very noble Profession in my eyes with a small percentage causing those that want to pursue it not too. This may be just the tool needed!

One way to reduce police violence: hire more women officers

Fascinating findings:

Female officers discharge their weapons at far lower rates and are more effective at negotiating better and less lethal outcomes, even though citizens are not more likely to use less force when officers are female.

In 2002, the National Center for Women in Policing completed a landmark study that revealed marked differences in policing based on gender. It found male officers, who make up 88 percent of the U.S. police force, are eight and a half times more likely than female officers to face sustained charges of excessive force and to discharge their weapons, which is clear from the four cases previously cited.

In the years since that study was published, during which time the number of women on police forces has barely changed, follow up studies, both national and international, have repeatedly confirmed these findings.

Let's not sidetrack discussions with speculations on posters.

There's no reason to believe Deplorable Girl is not a woman, though we have no way of knowing the gender or anyone here unless they're using real names.

Let's please keep our focus on the issues germaine to the article -- police use of force and how best to reduce it, while making sure officers are also able to protect themselves.

Liberal Logic...

Rather than get tougher on crime, lets pass more laws making it tougher for our LEO's to do an already difficult job. Makes perfect sense, great job California. These statistics are BS too, they don't account for suicide by cop or those pretending to brandish weapons either. California legislators have made our state a haven for criminals, while at the same time making it inhospitable for current LEO's or anyone thinking of pursuing a career in law enforcement. This will only get worse, prepare to reap what you sow.

@ Liberal Logic

A number of cities and states have adopted similar rules with the result of far fewer people killed by police; yet, no increase in crime nor injuries to police officers. Our police officers, men and women, protecting and serving us should be able to go home safe and sound to their loved ones; but, at the same time, it should NOT be a death sentence to be mentally ill, holding a vape device, drunk, or a child with a cell phone. The reports have been clear that in some situations the police officer involved fired his/her weapon within seconds, despite being as much as 20 feet away. Many nations with large immigrant populations and refugees from the Middle East, e.g., Sweden, Germany, UK have far fewer people shot and killed by police on a per capita basis than the U.S. and especially California.

I believe that human life is sacred and should only be taken if there exists no other choice. I believe that the police are here to serve and PROTECT. While the vast majority do just that, some don't. If believing in the sanctity of human life is "Liberal Logic" then I gladly accept the label and, at the same time, so do most Jews and Christians.

Does DeplorableGirl really believe a child with a cell phone is trying for suicide by cop?