ACLU, Advocates Urge Passage of State 'Use of Force' Bill
SACRAMENTO — Today, the ACLU of California, faith-based organizations, police reform advocates, labor unions, and families who have lost loved ones to police violence called on the legislature to pass AB 392: The California Act to Save Lives. The bill was introduced by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) to bring California's deadly use of force law in line with best practices to avoid deadly tragedies like the shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento last year.
"AB 392 sets a simple rule: that officers shouldn't use deadly force unless it's necessary to defend themselves or others," said Lizzie Buchen, legislative advocate with the ACLU of California. "Every day that goes by without meaningful reform is another day that a police officer may violently take another life, leading to mourning and outrage across our communities, particularly Black and Brown communities."
AB 392 will require that law enforcement officers use de-escalation tactics whenever possible and avoid using deadly force unless it is the only way to prevent death or serious bodily injury. Just last week, the California Department of Justice released a report recommending that the Sacramento Police Department update its use of force guidelines to more clearly define when force is authorized and require that officers use de-escalation tactics and exhaust all reasonably available alternatives before using deadly force. The report was released as part of the state department of justice's investigation into the death of Stephon Clark.
The Obama Department of Justice too recommended similar use of force standards, recommendations that have already been successfully adopted by departments across the country. Seattle, for example, saw a significant reduction in the number of serious use of force incidents after adopting a use of force standard like that of AB 392.
"We know these reforms work. Studies show that officers in departments that have adopted such policies kill fewer people and are less likely to be killed or assaulted in the line of duty," said Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson with California Families United 4 Justice. His nephew, Oscar Grant, was killed by BART police on New Year's Day in 2009. "The power of police officers to use deadly force is perhaps the most significant responsibility we give to any public official and must be guided by the goal of safeguarding human life and protecting human rights."
Under California's current law, police can use deadly force regardless of whether it was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury and regardless of whether there were available alternatives. California police kill people at a rate 37% higher than the national average per capita. In 2017, California police killed 172 people, more than two-thirds of whom were people of color.
The California Act to Save Lives is supported by the ACLU of California, Alliance for Boys and Men of Color/PolicyLink, Anti Police-Terror Project, Black Lives Matter – California, California Faculty Association, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice (CURYJ), California Families United 4 Justice, PICO California, Silicon Valley DeBug, STOP Coalition, UDW America – AFSCME Local 3930, Youth Justice Coalition.