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California proposal wants to severely restrict when police can open fire

Police car lights. (Alexandru Cuznetov/Dreamstime/TNS)
April 04, 2018

A controversial proposal that would severely restrict when police officers can open fire was offered Tuesday in California.

If this proposal were to become law, police standards would no longer be “reasonable force,” but instead “necessary force,” the Associated Press reported.

The proposal would allow police to shoot only if “there were no other reasonable alternatives to the use of deadly force,” to prevent imminent serious injury or death, said Lizzie Buchen, legislative advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which is supporting the proposal.

One lawmaker, the legislation’s co-author Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, said the proposal is to make sure police try to diffuse situations or “use less deadly weapons,” the AP reported.

The new proposal would warrant that police officers hold off on approaching a suspect who could possess a weapon until backup arrives, or it could force police to give explicit verbal warnings that suspects will be killed unless they drop the weapon, Buchen said.

Officers who don’t follow the proposed protocol would be reprimanded, fired or could face criminal charges.

Ed Obayashi, a Plumas County Sheriff’s Deputy and special prosecutor who trains officers and testifies in court on police use of force, said the new proposal would make it harder to hire and retain police officers, and it would be unsafe for police and bystanders, the AP reported.

The Peace Officers Research Association of California said in a statement that the proposal is a “dangerous rush to judgment.” The association is the largest law enforcement organization in California.

The statement also said: “We are concerned that this reactionary legislation will handcuff peace officers and their abilities to keep communities safe. Uses of force incidents occur quickly, and while we have always supported greater training and body cameras, this legislation takes a dangerous new step.”

If California adopts the proposed bill, they would be the first state to do so.

Officials said that police shot and killed 162 people in California last year, only half of whom had guns, the AP reported.

The proposal came from various policy makers, along with the family of 22-year-old Stephon Alonzo Clark, who was fatally shot by Sacramento police when holding a cell phone they thought was a weapon earlier this month. Police fired 20 shots at Clark.

Clark’s uncle and family spokesman Curtis Gordon said changing the legal standard might mean that more people confronted by police “could go home.”