LOS ANGELES – Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday signed legislation that redefines when officers and deputies can use deadly force.
Assembly Bill 392, co-written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, will hold law enforcement officers liable for homicide if an investigation finds the use of deadly force on a civilian was necessitated by the officer’s own actions. Law enforcement will still be able to use deadly force as self-defense, but only when “necessary.”
The boards of directors of the unions representing law enforcement officers — the Los Angeles Police Protective League and Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs — issued a joint statement with Protect California and the San Bernardino County sheriff’s union saying the legislation mirrors procedures already in place.
“The new state law’s standards codify those currently utilized in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and other major law enforcement agencies throughout our state,” according to the groups. “These current standards emphasize de-escalation of volatile situations and a reverence for life.”
The unions, however, called for the passage of companion legislation, Senate Bill 230, which would standardize de-escalation training requirements statewide in an effort to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page.
That legislation “will provide California public safety officers critical mental health, continued de-escalation and other necessary training on an ongoing basis to improve officer and community outcomes,” according to the unions.
Weber introduced a similar bill last year after two Sacramento police officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, but it made little progress in the Legislature. Weber said she battled with former Gov. Jerry Brown and opposition from law enforcement over the bill, even threatening a hunger strike last year.
The two officers were not charged in Clark’s death. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert ruled in March that they were legally justified in killing Clark because they said they felt they were in imminent danger. The decision prompted public outcry and further inflamed the national conversation about police violence and its ties to race.
At one time, AB 392 appeared stalled again amid unresolved tensions between state legislators and law enforcement officials. That tension dissolved when the two sides struck a deal in May to amend the bill by changing the word “reasonable” to “necessary” and removing language mandating officers to use lethal force only after using non-lethal alternatives.
As a result of the deal, state law enforcement groups like the California Highway Patrol, Peace Officers Research Association of California and California State Sheriffs’ Association shifted their official stance on the bill from opposition to neutrality.
The companion legislation, SB 230, is going through the Assembly committee process. SB 230 is supported, in part, by a coalition of PORAC, the California Police Chiefs and the California Association of Highway Patrols.
“Together, AB 392 and SB 230 will modernize our state’s policies on the use of force, implementing the very best practices gathered from across our nation,” CPCA President Ron Lawrence said. “Once both bills are signed and take effect, the real work can begin using the training made available to officers by SB 230 to implement the AB 392 standard.”
The Greater Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations applauded the legislation.
“The passage of this legislation is both historic and important because the lives of people of color are on the line,” said CAIR-LA Police and Advocacy Manager Fayaz Nawabi. “This law will hold peace officer accountable for use of excessive force and to implement better de-escalation training for peace officers throughout the state.”