Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Shouts, Tears, Votes Push Police Use-of-Force Standard Through Assembly
gvw_calmatters
By CalMatters
Published 5 years ago on
May 31, 2019

Share

For an hour and a half Wednesday morning, California lawmakers lined up to speak for or against (but mostly for) one of the most high-profile bills of the year. One member of the Assembly, a former state cop, choked back tears as he wrestled with the implications of his vote.

by Ben Christopher
CALmatters

But when the rolls opened on AB392, which would make it harder for police to legally justify killing a civilian, the tally wasn’t close. The Assembly passed the bill, 68 to 0, with 12 members abstaining.

Wednesday’s vote pushes California one step closer to enacting use-of-force standards that would be among the strictest in the country. If AB392 is signed into law, police would only be able to use lethal force if “necessary” to defend human life.

The current standard, established by the U.S. Supreme Court, allows the lethal use of force if the split-second decision to pull the trigger is “reasonable.”

Introduced by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber from San Diego, the bill is a product of a long political tug-o’-war. On one side are criminal justice advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union, which has argued that current law allows police officers to justify all but the most flagrant misconduct. On the other are law enforcement groups, which have said that a stricter use-of-force standard would allow prosecutors to second-guess difficult policing decisions in often dangerous situations.

But most of the state’s major law enforcement groups are no longer actively opposing the bill, the result of an amendment last week. An earlier version of the bill defined “necessary” use of force as lacking any “reasonable alternative,” but that phrasing was stripped. Police groups argued that the “no reasonable alternative” would give prosecutors too much leeway to question every decision after the fact.

It Offers Balanced Approach

At a news conference after the vote, Weber insisted that the amendments had not substantially weakened the bill’s civil liberty safeguards. But the change seems to have helped clear the way for Wednesday’s vote among officials ordinarily allied with law enforcement, with most moderate Democrats and 9 of the chamber’s 19 Republicans voting in favor.

“In my entire elected experience never has a bill consumed my thinking as this has,” said Assemblyman Tom Lackey, a Republican and former California Highway Patrol officer, who paused a number of times throughout his speech to collect himself.

He recalled a former colleague, “someone who was a very big part of my life,” who had killed someone while in the line of duty and, struggling with the guilt, later took his own life. But Lackey said that he would support the bill because he argued, it offered a balanced approach.

Jim Gallagher, a Republican from Yuba City, also spoke in favor of the bill, saying that with the new amendments it represents a “reasonable compromise.”

Devon Mathis, a Republican from Visalia, was initially the only Republican to vote “no” before switching his vote to an abstention. He argued that a lack of respect for police officers was the source of many civilian killings.

“We teach our youth ‘no means no,’” he said. “But when are we going to teach them, ‘stop means stop,’ ‘freeze means freeze’?”

 

Fierce Response From Assemblyman Mike Gipson

That argument prompted a fierce response from Assemblyman Mike Gipson, a Democrat from Compton.

“I listen to all of you with your commentaries and words, but you don’t have to have my kind of experience,” said Gipson, who is African American, his voice reverberating around the chamber. “You don’t live where I live or grow up where I grew up.”

“I listen to all of you with your commentaries and words, but you don’t have to have my kind of experience. You don’t live where I live or grow up where I grew up.” — Assemblyman Mike Gipson

Weber, also an African American, said that the bill was part of a “400-year challenge” for racial justice in the United States. She closed by dedicating the bill to her two grandchildren. When the vote was called, criminal justice advocates stood in the balcony and sang “This Land is Your Land.”

The bill now progresses to the Senate, where a similar version of the proposal died in committee last year. But this time around, the bill has the public support of the Democratic President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego, who stood beside Weber at Wednesday’s news conference.

Earlier this week, the state Senate passed a police-backed “companion” bill unanimously. The proposal by Democratic Sen. Anna Caballero from Salinas would provide more use-of-force training to police.

Learn more about these two bills and about the legal, political and human dimensions of this debate by subscribing to Laurel Rosenhall’s podcast, Force of Law.

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

DON'T MISS

Your Fresno Address Will Determine If a Yes Vote for a School Bond Raises Your Taxes

DON'T MISS

What Polls Tell Us About Biden’s Chances

DON'T MISS

A Prison Union Is Spending Big on Gavin Newsom. Is It an ‘800 Pound Gorilla’ or a Threatened Species?

DON'T MISS

Local Dems Outshine GOP in Latest Congressional Fundraising

DON'T MISS

Iran Threat Prompts Trump Protection Boost; Saturday Attack Unrelated, Officials Say

DON'T MISS

Authorities Nab Suspected Serial Arsonist. They Think She Torched More Than Fresno

DON'T MISS

Fresno Unified Provides Immunizations, Sports Physicals for Students

DON'T MISS

Who Is Carrying the Olympic Torch Through Paris? A BTS Star, a Garbage Collector and More

DON'T MISS

Sen. Bob Menendez Convicted in Trial That Featured Tales of Bribes Paid in Cash, Gold and a Car

DON'T MISS

Global Music Streams Are up in 2024. Latin Music Dominates and Multiple Releases of Same Album Sell

UP NEXT

Fresno State Psych Professor Offers 10 Tips for Effective New Year’s Resolutions

UP NEXT

California’s Farmers Give Great Gifts to Us All – During the Holidays and All Year Long

UP NEXT

California’s Farmers Give Great Gifts to Us All – During the Holidays and All Year Long

UP NEXT

Someone Will Need to Proofread the Work of Fresno Unified’s High-Priced Copy Editors

UP NEXT

Someone Will Need to Proofread the Work of Fresno Unified’s High-Priced Copy Editors

UP NEXT

California Is Throwing Kids, Parents and Taxpayers Under The E-Bus

UP NEXT

California Is Throwing Kids, Parents and Taxpayers Under The E-Bus

UP NEXT

Maui Climate Massacre Was the Result of Low Energy Leadership

UP NEXT

Maui Climate Massacre Was the Result of Low Energy Leadership

UP NEXT

Farmers Flush With Water Now, But State Still Hasn’t Prepared for the Next Drought

Local Dems Outshine GOP in Latest Congressional Fundraising

1 hour ago

Iran Threat Prompts Trump Protection Boost; Saturday Attack Unrelated, Officials Say

2 hours ago

Authorities Nab Suspected Serial Arsonist. They Think She Torched More Than Fresno

3 hours ago

Fresno Unified Provides Immunizations, Sports Physicals for Students

4 hours ago

Who Is Carrying the Olympic Torch Through Paris? A BTS Star, a Garbage Collector and More

4 hours ago

Sen. Bob Menendez Convicted in Trial That Featured Tales of Bribes Paid in Cash, Gold and a Car

4 hours ago

Global Music Streams Are up in 2024. Latin Music Dominates and Multiple Releases of Same Album Sell

4 hours ago

Gareth Southgate Says He Will Step Down as England Manager

5 hours ago

At Least 70 People Killed in a Militia Attack in Western Congo

5 hours ago

Bronny James Finishes With 2 Points, Lakers Lose to Celtics at Summer League

5 hours ago

Your Fresno Address Will Determine If a Yes Vote for a School Bond Raises Your Taxes

November’s ballot could be the first ever to include bond measures from each of the four school districts that serve parts of the city...

51 mins ago

51 mins ago

Your Fresno Address Will Determine If a Yes Vote for a School Bond Raises Your Taxes

58 mins ago

What Polls Tell Us About Biden’s Chances

1 hour ago

A Prison Union Is Spending Big on Gavin Newsom. Is It an ‘800 Pound Gorilla’ or a Threatened Species?

1 hour ago

Local Dems Outshine GOP in Latest Congressional Fundraising

2 hours ago

Iran Threat Prompts Trump Protection Boost; Saturday Attack Unrelated, Officials Say

3 hours ago

Authorities Nab Suspected Serial Arsonist. They Think She Torched More Than Fresno

4 hours ago

Fresno Unified Provides Immunizations, Sports Physicals for Students

4 hours ago

Who Is Carrying the Olympic Torch Through Paris? A BTS Star, a Garbage Collector and More

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend