This week a California Senate public safety committee advanced legislation that would restrict police from using deadly force first. The death of Stephon Clark, killings of unarmed Blacks and the repeated instance of excessive force used against Black men is the motivation behind the Police Accountability and Community Protection Act.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a San Diego Democrat who introduced the measure, is aiming for the standard to become requiring de-escalation first and fostering better police-community relations. The committee vote was 5-1. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Black Lives Matter have also put their support behind it.
More than half of the country’s police force is not mandated to be trained in de-escalation techniques. California’s standard on reasonable force hasn’t been updated in California since 1872. Two states, Delaware and Tennessee, require all other means to be exhausted before deadly force is allowed.
Opposing lobbyists argued that the move could discourage people from becoming police officers, or from responding, or make officers afraid to approach suspects because their actions might be scrutinized.
“It always blows me away when law enforcement only fear for their life only when they’re facing Black and brown people,” said Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford of Gardena. “We don’t have a problem with law enforcement, we’ve got a problem with racism.”
At the meeting, Randy Perry, a representative of the police union’s 90,000 officers, said the proposed legislation is “a radical departure from criminal and constitutional law.” Funding for retraining officers was also brought up as an issue, yet funding was available for training officers for mental health.
Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat, questioned whether a lack of resources was really standing in the way of this bill because when “law enforcement makes it a priority, we find a way.”