New bill proposed to change law regarding police use of deadly force
SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — Police use of deadly force is once again front and center in California following the death of Stephon Clark in Sacramento last month.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego has introduced a landmark change in the law to address deadly police shootings.
Last year, police shot and killed 162 people in California, only half of whom were armed with guns. Clark did not have a gun. He was holding a cellphone.
Shirley Weber’s bill is called the “Police Accountability and Community Protection Act.” Its purpose is to change the law to somehow ensure there are reasonable alternatives to deadly force.
“We’re not saying people can’t use lethal force but we’re saying oftentimes there are alternatives that can be used. I think we saw that with the video that we saw last week, that there were other alternatives,” Weber said.
The alternatives include warnings, verbal persuasion or other non-lethal methods of resolution or de-escalation. It also establishes that a homicide by police is not justified if the officer’s gross negligence contributed to making the force deadly, as claimed in the case of Stephon Clark.
“People weren’t facing each other, people were behind a house, they could have employed a number of things that are there,” Weber said.
The video Weber referred to was police chasing Clark into a backyard where he was shot several times. Police say he was approaching them in a threatening way and thought he had a gun.
An autopsy showed Clark was hit eight times in the back.
“The proposition that he was assailing the officers, meaning he was facing the officers is inconsistent with the prevailing forensic evidence as documented by autopsy,” said Dr. Bennet Omalu, a forensic pathologist.
The autopsy report sparked widespread protest demonstrations and rallies for justice.
The ACLU is supporting the change in the law, relying on recommendations from legal experts and policing experts.
Weber said the legal standard is very permissive to police officers who use deadly force, and in many cases, no matter whether the individual was unarmed or even cooperative, it ended with the death of a civilian.
A representative from the San Francisco District Attorney’s office agrees.
“Our current legal standard, as you’ve seen nationwide, very few police are charged with illegal use of deadly force and even fewer are convicted,” they said.
Weber said the existing law gives cover to police killings and it has widened the rift between grieving communities, especially communities of color.