California legislators have announced a new bill that could change that could “prevent unnecessary loss of life.” Assembly Bill 931, which is proposed by Democratic State Assembly members Kevin McCarty and Shirley Weber, and backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, would restrict officers from using deadly force unless there is “no other reasonable alternative.”
The bill, which was formally introduced by Weber an McCarty last week alongside the family of Stephon Clark the 22-year-old unarmed father gunned down by Sacramento Police officers in his grandmother’s backyard, is being met with swift backlash from law enforcement.
#AB931 would authorize police to only use deadly force when necessary to prevent unnecessary loss of life, increase accountability of our law enforcement, and provide justice for families across California.
— Asm. Kevin McCarty (@AsmKevinMcCarty) April 4, 2018
In a statement to Bay Area news station KTVU, Webber revealed that an analysis of nearly 100 of the “largest police departments found that departments that used restricted use of force and de-escalation and other less-lethal tactics, save not only civilian lives, but also saves the lives of police officers.”
During a meeting at the Fairfield Police training facility on Tuesday (April 10), Morgan Hill Police Chief David Swing joined other police chiefs in lambasting the bill.
“This legislation as proposed puts communities at risk,” said Swing, who is also president of the California Police Chief Association. “Evaluating the use of deadly force from the perspective of hindsight and narrowly justifiable homicide defense would lead to officers pulling back on proactive policing.”
Watsonville Police Chief David Honda said that the bill attempts to hold officers to an “unreasonable standard that measures in hindsight” and could “only hurt the communities we serve.”
The current standard allows for officers to use “reasonable force,” but as the ACLU point out that a number of white suspects, including domestic terrorists, no matter how harsh the crime, are met with a different fate. The glaring racial discrepancy shows a disproportionate targeting of people of color, specifically black men and women, many of whom were weaponless and did not commit a crime upon being gunned down by police.
“The killings of people like Stephon Clark in Sacramento, and far too many others, have laid bare a painful truth: our laws protect the police, not the people — and especially not people of color,” writes the ACLU.
“What’s more, California is one of the most secretive states in the country when it comes to releasing basic information about how departments investigate these killings and confirmed police misconduct.”
According to a running tally by the Washington Post, there have been just over 300 fatal police involved shootings in 2018. California also boasts some of the nation’s largest rates of police killings in the nation. Lawmakers said that half of the 162 people who were shot and killed by cops last year did not have guns, with Kern County officers holding the record for killing “more people per capita than in any other county in the U.S.”
Last Monday (April 9), the Kern County Detention Officers Association brought attention to what it says is a “sheriff’s office in desperate need of positive changes” by releasing a 12-year-old video of current Kern County Sheriff Danny Youngblood recorded during the year that he was elected. In the footage, Youngblood can be heard answering a question about whether he thinks it’s more cost-effective for the sheriff’s department to “kill” or wound suspects. Youngblood chose the latter explaining, “Because if you cripple them you gotta’ take care of them for life, and that cost goes way up.”
Reacting to the video release, Youngblood said that he wishes that he would’ve used different wording, but that his comments were taken out of context, according to CNN. “When you listen to the verbiage, it doesn’t sound good. But I think the people of this county know that’s not what I mean,” he said.
In a message on Facebook posted alongside the 2006 video of Youngblood, the KCDA noted that it’s time to elect a new sheriff who will bring a “fresh approach and new ideas to tackle long standing issues facing department administration.”
See footage of the interview below.