Bill aimed at reducing use of lethal force introduced in California following shootings by police

Posted at 4:05 PM, Apr 03, 2018

California lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday aimed at making "significant changes" to how police deploy lethal force.

The proposed bill states that police could only use deadly force when necessary and when there are no other alternatives.

The bill would make California the first state to restrict when officers can open fire.

“We have these incidents too often in our county,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, (D) 7th District, who introduced the bill.

The Police Accountability and Community Protection Act would change the current “reasonable force” rule to a “necessary force” standard.

“This policy authorizes officers to use deadly force only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death. There is no reasonable alternative to using deadly force,” said Assemblymember Shirley N. Weber, (D) 79th District.

Advocates of the bill say they want police to think of possible alternatives, which include warnings, verbal persuasion or other non-lethal methods.

“I think deadly weapons on a police force are important to have but that being said, I think many more alternatives can be found with non-lethal force,” said San Luis Obispo resident Sam Flood.

The proposal comes after the shooting of 22-year old Stephon Clark by Sacramento police. Officers said they thought he had a gun but investigators found only a cellphone.

In 2017, 162 people were fatally shot by officers in California and only half were armed with guns, according to lawmakers. 

“We are not saying that a law enforcement officer can never use deadly force. I want to stress that. Deadly force can be used but only when it is completely necessary,” Weber said.

The bill would also require officers to delay confronting a potentially armed suspect until backup arrives.

“If an officer is in a situation and he has to wait for backup, then that leaves him vulnerable because he is in a situation where he can get killed,” said Michelle Kirk of Avila Beach.

Local law enforcement officers KSBY reached out to did not wish to comment on the proposed bill at this time.

Opponents of the bill have expressed concern that limiting the use of force could make an officer’s job more dangerous.

Advocates of the legislation say they hope the bill will spur local agencies to review their own policies on use of force.