- The Washington Times - Monday, August 19, 2019

California has enacted one of the country’s most stringent regulations on police use of force, hoping to curb the high-profile law enforcement shootings of unarmed minority men that have caused outrage across the nation.

In an emotional ceremony Monday in Sacramento, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 392, which changes the standard for police to justify the use of deadly force from “reasonable” to “necessary” and encourages the state’s nearly 80,000 sworn officers to use de-escalation techniques and crisis-intervention methods more frequently.

“We are doing something today that stretches the boundary of possibility and sends a message to people all across this country that they can do more and they can do better to meet this moment,” said Mr. Newsom, a Democrat, standing alongside relatives of people killed by police.

Leaders from California’s law enforcement community welcomed the move, but warned that significant training is needed in order for the new provisions to have teeth.

“We want to continue to see our profession professionalized. We are in a constant state of evolution. But it must be done reasonably and rationally,” said Robert Harris, a leader of the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union that represents about 9,900 officers.

The debate to change California’s use of force standards, some of which dated back to 1872, saw months of negotiations and scrutiny of the state’s policing of minorities, who were being killed by police at a rate higher than the national average.

Initially, law enforcement groups including the California Highway Patrol and the California State Sheriffs’ Association opposed the measure for fear that it would further cloud community interactions and endanger officers.

The issue took center stage in March 2018, when Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old black man, was shot and killed in the backyard of his grandmother’s house by two Sacramento police officers. Clark’s death exposed rifts between black communities and police.

The new law takes effect Jan. 1, and stemmed from negotiations between Mr. Newsom, state lawmakers and law enforcement leaders, with a key focus on viewing the actions of police and suspects — with equal objectivity — in any instances involving deadly force.

Mr. Harris told The Washington Times that a “legislative process and process of compromise” ultimately resulted in “something that will continue to improve police interactions with communities.”

On Monday, the law’s author, state Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, expressed hope it would improve the nation’s ability to debate the sensitive topic of policing minorities.

“This will make a difference not only in California but we know it will make a difference around the world,” the San Diego Democrat said.

Ms. Weber also thanked the families of those killed in police encounters for trusting her to negotiate the final proposal.

Nationally, the use of force issue has been central to America’s broader debate about race, especially after the 2014 death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Experts have called Brown’s death by a white police officer Darren Wilson a seismic moment in the country’s race relations.

Ripple effects include increased scrutiny of police behavior; the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement; Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling at NFL games; the march on Charlottesville, Virginia; and more divisive racial rhetoric from leading Washington politicians.



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