Updated 6:29 p.m., Feb. 6
California lawmakers, community activists and civil liberties groups have proposed a police use-of-force bill, one day after law enforcement groups put forth their own measure.
Asm. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), the bill’s author, says African American and Latino parents fear for their kids’ safety whenever they leave the house.
“They can be in the right place, they can say the right thing, they can have the right attitude when approached by an officer, and still find themselves in situations that take their lives,” she said.
Weber’s bill is nearly identical to one she carried last year that stalled amid law enforcement opposition. It would only allow officers to use deadly force when absolutely necessary.
The rival law enforcement proposal would establish statewide reporting and training requirements, and update California’s 1872 use-of-force law to reflect U.S. Supreme Court rulings. But that standard is based on what a typical officer might “reasonably” do — in contrast to the “necessary” standard in Weber’s bill.
The two sides spent the last several months negotiating but agreed to each introduce their own bills this week.
“We’re always looking for common ground if we can find it,” Weber said. “But we want to make sure that it is a bill that is effective, that it is a bill that works.”
After months of negotiations, law enforcement and civil liberties groups are introducing rival police use-of-force bills.
“We worked all these months, and ultimately it came down to where we both decided to go our separate ways,” said Brian Marvel, the president of PORAC, a peace officer union federation.
Days before the California Legislature adjourned last year, Senate leader Toni Atkins held a bill that would have set stricter rules on when police officers could use deadly force. She then brought the two sides together to talk through their disagreements.
Those talks are now on hold. But, it appears, they’re not dead.
Unlike last year, the two sides are holding their fire against each other — and might well return to the bargaining table.
“I think there are ample opportunities — even now, with us both presenting legislation — where we can have further conversations, trying to maybe reach a compromise,” Marvel said.
In a statement, Atkins said she’ll continue to work with the two sides to “find common ground.”
“I have asked both sides to acknowledge two key principles: We must recognize that peace officers make incredibly difficult decisions in rapidly evolving situations and deserve our protection. And, we must acknowledge that we have a problem with disproportionate police use of force here in California and nationally, and that bias is often involved,” the pro Tem said.
The law enforcement coalition is throwing its support behind a new bill by Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas). It would update California’s use-of-force law, which dates back to 1872, to reflect U.S. Supreme Court rulings and current case law. It would also mandate that law enforcement agencies adopt specific use-of-force policies, and establish statewide reporting and training requirements.
“It’s groundbreaking in how far-reaching it is to create policies and training and strategies around use of deadly force,” said Morgan Hill police chief David Swing, who’s currently president of the California Police Chiefs Association.
Separately, the law enforcement groups are requesting a $300 million grant program in the upcoming state budget to help agencies address homelessness, mental health and drug abuse in the communities they serve.
The author of last year’s bill, Asm. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), and a leading proponent, the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, declined comment until they release their own proposal Wednesday morning.
The disagreement appears to be over updating the 1872 law. Law enforcement groups acknowledge the state’s outdated use-of-force law should be modernized, but want to codify the Supreme Court rulings and leave their interpretations up to the courts. Civil liberties groups want to more specifically define in the law what is and is not legal.
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