California, Facing High Numbers of Deaths by Police, Passes Watered-Down Bill Restricting Force of Cops

More people are killed by police in California than in any other state in the union.

In response to the deaths, the California Assembly passed legislation Wednesday to change rules governing when police officers in the state can use lethal force.

Using Assembly Bill 392: The California Act to Save Lives, the criteria under which cops can use lethal force is changed from when “necessary” as opposed to when deemed “reasonable,” the Los Angeles Times reports.

While the change is mostly welcomed by the families of victims of police violence, there were last-minute changes that watered it down, upsetting some. Police groups ultimately won a small victory when a definition of “necessary” was removed and language was added that said a police officer’s use of force would be “evaluated” “based on the totality of the circumstances.”

“Another person is going to have to die before we can prove that this bill is not going to do what you think it’s going to do,” Laurie Valdez, whose partner, Antonio Guzman Lopez, was shot by San Jose State police in 2014, told the New York Times. “It’s like a slap in our face.”

California has seen high-profile cases of deaths by police officers, especially Black men. Sacramento’s Stephon Clark in 2018 and San Francisco’s Mario Woods in 2015 both sparked national outrage.

Clark was a 22-year-old unarmed Black man shot by police while holding a cellphone in his grandparents’ backyard. Woods, also a Black man, was shot while walking down the street.

California is still behind on the times in comparison to other states. According to the San Diego Times-Union, Delaware and Tennessee both have laws on the books that go beyond A.B. 392 by requiring police to use all other alternatives before their gun.  Washington state requires cops to de-escalate if at all possible, language not used in California’s bill.

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