It has been argued that the left has all but declared war upon the nation’s law enforcement agencies and police officers, and that position has seemingly been vindicated by legislation just signed into law by Democrat California Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The bill that Newsom just signed holds police officers criminally liable for homicide if a post-shooting investigation determines that the use of deadly force by an officer was precipitated by the officer’s own actions.
Deadly force only when “necessary”
San Diego Fox affiliate KSWB reported that Newsome signed into law on Monday a piece of legislation co-authored by a Democratic assemblywoman from San Diego, Shirley Weber.
The bill, known as AB 392, would still allow law enforcement officers to use deadly force against a civilian in cases where such action is deemed “necessary,” but would otherwise prohibit the use of deadly force against civilians and hold officers criminally liable for homicide if investigators find the deadly force came about because of prior actions taken by the officers.
A similar bill was first introduced by Weber and others in 2018, but failed to gain traction following a police-involved shooting in Sacramento that resulted in the death of an unarmed man named Stephon Clark who was fired upon by officers when a cellphone he was holding was mistaken for a handgun. The two officers were eventually cleared in the shooting and no charges were filed against them.
“It’s one thing to sign a piece of paper, pass legislation,” Newsom said of the new law. “It’s another to change hearts and minds, to change culture. To change the way people conduct themselves, to hold themselves to a higher standard…That’s the work that we, collectively as a community, need to manifest at peril of missing this moment and missing the point of this moment.”
Such a standard could prove troublesome for officers, however, as the mere act of initiating contact with a civilian or suspect that ends in gunfire could be deemed as having been precipitated by the officer’s decision to approach the civilian or suspect in the first place.
In all likelihood, this new law will have the end result of police officers further pulling back from engagement with the communities they are tasked to protect and serve out of fear of criminal liability should such contact to devolve into a deadly encounter.
That doesn’t appear to be a concern for Weber, however, as she cheered the signing of her bill into law by the governor. The bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 68-0 with 12 members abstaining from a vote, and it passed the Senate by a vote of 34-4 with 4 senators abstaining.
Additional burdens on officers
The law is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, and now a scramble is on to craft and pass accompanying legislation proposed in the California Senate, known as SB 230, that would provide standardized training for officers in accordance with AB 392 as well as mandate standardized de-escalation training for officers to help them avoid potentially deadly entanglements with civilians.
SB 230 appears to have been introduced to assuage the concerns of law enforcement agencies with regard to AB 392, which initially imposed a “reasonable” instead of “necessary” standard on the allowable use of force by officers and would have imposed a requirement of the use of non-lethal force prior to the use of deadly force in any encounter.
As things stand now, the California Highway Patrol, the Peace Officers Research Association of California and the California State Sheriff’s Association have all officially taken a “neutral” stance on the new law, after initially opposing it.