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California Plan To Limit Police Use Of Force Stalls, ‘Felony Murder’ Bill Ekes Forward

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Demonstrators engage with police officers at a protest in downtown Sacramento over the death of Stephon Clark.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Two controversial public safety bills advanced and one stalled for the year on a busy — and late — Wednesday night of action in the California Legislature.

Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) announced that she is holding a measure that seeks to change the rules governing when police officers can use deadly force. The bill, AB 931 by Asm. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), emerged this spring after the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police.

“Make no mistake: we have a critical problem that remains unaddressed. We need to end preventable deaths and to do so without jeopardizing the safety of law enforcement officers,” Atkins said in a statement late Wednesday, vowing to continue negotiations with law enforcement groups this fall and present a new bill when the next Legislature convenes in January.

“Unfortunately, the legislative calendar does not provide the necessary time to clearly resolve the concerns that need to be addressed,” she added, referring to the midnight Friday deadline for lawmakers to adjourn for the year.

But other public safety measures moved forward Wednesday night.

SB 1437 by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), which seeks to rewrite California’s “felony murder” law, eked through the Assembly with the bare minimum 41 votes. Skinner argues current law “irrationally treats those who didn't commit murder the same as those who did.”

The Assembly also approved SB 1391 by Sens. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) and Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), which would prohibit 14- and 15-year-old criminal defendants from being tried as adults and sent to adult prison.

Both measures return to the Senate for a final vote. 

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