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California bills could impact deadly use of force

A police car. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Two competing deadly use of force bills are now tied together in the California legislative process, and local law enforcement personnel are still concerned about officer safety.

Senate Bill 230 – authored by state Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas) – would require the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to implement use of force policies and that local agencies require periodic training that complies with its policies and guidelines developed under the bill.

Assembly Bill 392 – authored by Assembly members Shirley Weber (D- San Diego) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) – would change the legal standard for use of deadly force from “reasonable” to “necessary,” also providing more power in prosecuting police in officer-involved shootings.

Though the bills were once competing – police unions backed SB 230 – they’re now tied together; 392 provides the legal standard, while 230 requires the supporting policy and training.

SB 230 was amended in the Senate April 30 and was due for a committee hearing last week. Instead, it was sent to the Suspense File within the Senate Appropriations Committee. Suspense File bills are considered at a hearing after the state budget has been prepared and the committee has a better sense of available revenue.

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Sutter County Sheriff Brandon Barnes said he and his staff continue to monitor both bills, but his support hasn’t changed since the bills became supporting measures.

“I certainly support better training standards but do not support changing the legal standard established by Graham v. Connor,” Barnes wrote in an email Tuesday. “Use of force decisions are based on reasonableness, given the totality of the circumstances known to the officer, and changing that creates significant concerns. Any impact to our department has yet to be decided. The State Sheriff’s Association continues to oppose AB 392.”

Yuba County District Attorney Clint Curry shared the same sentiments, saying that the two bills now being linked doesn’t change his concerns.

“I’m still concerned that changing the standard for use of deadly force will have grave consequences for public safety,” he wrote in a text message Tuesday.

Yuba County Sheriff Wendell Anderson was not be reached for comment, but in a March story about the legislation, he said changing the standard would require second-guessing of an officer’s decision – likely with information unknown at the time of the encounter – putting them and the public in danger.

The California Peace Officers’ Association has been a vocal opponent of SB 392, instead throwing its support behind SB 230. In a post on its advocacy page May 1, the association said the amendments surprised many stakeholders. Strategy and policy negotiations are taking place, it said, though the final version of AB 392 is yet to be seen.

Advocates of the bills say it will improve accountability among law enforcement. The bills – particularly AB 392 – were sparked by recent officer-involved shootings, notably the shooting death of Stephon Clark in Sacramento last spring.

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© 2019 the Appeal-Democrat (Marysville, Calif.)

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.