A New Law Says California Cops Can Only Use Deadly Force When “Necessary”

Governor Newsom signed a bill named after Stephon Clark, who was shot and killed by Sacramento police
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Governor Gavin Newsom on Monday signed into effect a law intended to limit the circumstances under which police can use deadly force in the state, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The bill, AB392, directs law enforcement to “use deadly force only when necessary in defense of human life” and to use techniques to de-escalate a confrontation before shooting whenever possible.

“We are doing something today that stretches the boundaries of possibility,” Newsom said at the signing ceremony. “It sends a message to people all across this country that they can do more and they can do better to meet this moment in their respective states.”

The law, which goes into effect January 1, has critics on both sides of the issue, largely because it does not specifically define the criteria for “necessary.”

Law enforcement supporters say that the lack of a definition will put officers at risk by causing them to second-guess their actions when a life-or-death situation calls for a split-second decision. Police are urging the passing of a companion bill, SB230, which would order the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to develop new guidelines and courses on police use of force.

Activists and family members of people wrongly killed by cops say the new measure doesn’t go far enough.

“There’s a lot of people in our community who feel they’re just giving us crumbs,” said Kori McCoy, whose younger brother, Willie, was killed by Vallejo police in February after they found him asleep in a car with a handgun on his lap.

Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber introduced the legislation last year after two Sacramento policemen fatally shot unarmed Stephon Clark, 22, as he stood in his grandmother’s back yard and the Sacramento DA declined to charge the officers who shot him.

Meanwhile, a new study from Rutgers University says getting shot by police is a leading cause of death for black men.

“About 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in America can expect to die at the hands of police, according to a new analysis of deaths involving law enforcement officers. That makes them 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to die during an encounter with cops,” according to the study.


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