News

Newsom signs landmark police use-of-force bill

Under new law, police may use deadly force only when 'necessary in defense of human life'

Gov. Gavin Newsom and crowd at signing ceremony for police use-of-force legislation. Photo by Dan Morain for CalMatters

California will soon have a tougher new legal standard for the use of deadly force by police, under legislation Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Monday that was inspired by last year's fatal shooting of a young, unarmed man in Sacramento.

Newsom signed the legislation amid unusual fanfare, convening numerous legislators, family members of people who have died in police shootings and advocates including civil-rights leader Dolores Huerta in a courtyard at the Secretary of State's building used in the past for inaugurations and other formal events.

The governor contends that with Assembly Bill 392 in place, police will turn increasingly to de-escalation techniques including verbal persuasion, weapons other than guns and other crisis-intervention methods.

"It is remarkable to get to this moment on a bill that is this controversial. But it means nothing unless we make this moment meaningful," Newsom said after signing the legislation.

He made a point of praising law enforcement, saying the "overwhelming majority are extraordinary and honorable people." He is planning to attend the funeral Tuesday of California Highway Patrol Officer Andre Moye Jr., who was killed by an ex-felon last week.

Newsom also noted that the state's current budget includes an additional $35 million for more police training, including ways to better handle severely mentally ill people. He said as many as a third of people shot to death by police are diagnosed with schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder or some other serious illness.

"That is a tough assignment for law enforcement," the governor said. "What's happening on the streets of California is challenging, and law enforcement is increasingly being called to do social work."

Kori McCoy, who attended the bill signing, was among the family members of people shot to death by police. His brother, Willie McCoy, was shot Feb. 9 while he slept at a Taco Bell in Vallejo. Six officers fired 55 rounds, hitting him more than 20 times.

"I don't think this (legislation) is going to totally change everything, but it definitely is a piece, and we'll take it," McCoy said.

The law reflects a compromise between civil-rights advocates who want to limit when police can shoot and law enforcement groups who said earlier versions of the bill would have put officers in danger.

Under the new law, which takes effect January 1, police may use deadly force only when "necessary in defense of human life."

That's a steeper standard than prosecutors apply now, which says officers can shoot when doing so is "reasonable." One of the most significant changes will allow prosecutors to consider officers’ actions leading up to a shooting when deciding whether deadly force is justified.

"This will make a difference not only in California, but we know it will make a difference around the world," said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the San Diego Democrat who carried the legislation.

The law doesn't go as far as civil libertarians originally proposed and will likely leave it to courts to define what a "necessary" use of force is in future cases. The negotiations led a few early supporters, including the group Black Lives Matter, to drop their support and major statewide law-enforcement organizations to drop their opposition. After a year of contentious testimony over how to reduce police shootings, the final version of the bill sailed through the Legislature with bipartisan support.

Newsom's staff helped broker the compromise, and his signature was not a surprise. In March, after Sacramento's district attorney cleared the officers who killed Stephon Clark in his grandparents' backyard after mistaking the cell phone he was holding for a gun, Newsom signaled support for police reforms that "reinforce the sanctity of human life." And in June, he said he would sign the bill as he praised advocates for "working across their differences" to forge a compromise.

"The bill is watered down; everybody knows that," Stevante Clark, brother of Stephon Clark, told the Los Angeles Times. "But at least we are getting something done. At least we are having the conversation now."

California police kill more than 100 people a year — at a rate higher than the national average and highest among states with populations of 8 million or more. Most of the people police kill are armed with a gun or a knife.

But when California police kill people who are not armed, the impact falls disproportionately on Latinos and African Americans. Together, those groups make up 66% of the unarmed people California police killed between 2016 and 2018, but about 46% of the state's population.

For more on California's attempt to reduce police shootings, please listen to CalMatters' Force Of Law podcast. It's available here on Apple Podcasts or here on other podcasting platforms. CalMatters' video explaining the state's strict gun laws is here.

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California's policies and politics. Read more state news from CALmatters here.

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Comments

13 people like this
Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 19, 2019 at 3:29 pm

The article says "most" Californians that are killed police are armed. Does anyone have exact numbers? "Most" could mean 99.9% or it could be 50.1%. If 49% percent of the deceased were unarmed, there is a big problem.


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2019 at 4:03 pm

I'm all in favor of police being asked to de-escalate if they safely can (we just had an instance of this in Palo Alto recently). But, it doesn't sound like there is any funding associated with this for law-enforcement training in how to deal with the mentally ill. All law enforcement personnel should be trained in how to handle situations involving the mentally ill.

Web Link

This is a link to an incident in which in a suicidal mentally ill person was killed by the responding officer. By some estimates, roughly 1 out of every 4 people killed by law enforcement were mentally ill. Not exactly what "resident" asked though, because the mentally ill person not infrequently has a knife. But, proper training can make incident response safer for both law enforcement and the mentally ill person. Web Link


38 people like this
Posted by Rolling Eyes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2019 at 4:07 pm

Attempting to get the minority votes again. When will the Left Coast learn that Gavin Newsom is ruining our state? Look how he left S.F. a mess with drug addicts and homelessness. He is doing the same with Los Angeles, all in the name of minority votes.

This is an outrage. Law enforcement are not Robocops, they can be killed too. I'm tired of everyone blaming police officers (human beings who try to keep the communities safe). Police officers have to make split second decisions and are risking their lives for the public. People seem to support felons who harm the public rather than law enforcement who are protecting the public.

In addition, oftentimes when these"unarmed" people are killed, it's because they are not following the orders of the police. If everyone would listen to police orders, the situations wouldn't escalate. But so many times, they are defiant and running away. How can the police protect us when everyone is a Monday Morning Quarterback? As Christians preach, DO NOT JUDGE. You have no experience being a police officer; most people are not brave enough to wear the suit, they'd rather point fingers.


16 people like this
Posted by Rolling Eyes
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2019 at 4:19 pm

Remember Rodney King, guy with a record who was being chased by police? What happened to him after he won his $3.8 million? Did he contribute to society? He drowned in the bathtub like his alcoholic father. Cocaine, alcohol, marijuana were found in Rodney's system. Eric Garner's death? He was not listening to police orders and he was illegally selling cigarettes. Not condoning police violence, just making the point that law enforcement officers are contributing positively to the public safety while these criminals are not. There are too many rights for criminals in the U.S.


15 people like this
Posted by Human Rights
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 19, 2019 at 4:23 pm

> There are too many rights for criminals in the U.S.

Then you have a problem with the United States Constitution. What do you want changed? Specifically...


6 people like this
Posted by Latrelle
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 19, 2019 at 7:45 pm

[Post removed.]


33 people like this
Posted by Wake up
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 19, 2019 at 10:25 pm

Great. Limit the effectiveness of the police so they can’t protect us all from the criminals. This is insane.

WAKE UP PEOPLE. This is PC gone too far


10 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Aug 19, 2019 at 10:56 pm

^ Corollary of the state limiting our means to protect ourselves.


10 people like this
Posted by Fair
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 20, 2019 at 8:24 am

[Post removed.]


5 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2019 at 9:46 am

Posted by Rolling Eyes, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> This is an outrage. Law enforcement are not Robocops, they can be killed too. I'm tired of everyone blaming police officers (human beings who try to keep the communities safe). Police officers have to make split second decisions and are risking their lives for the public. People seem to support felons who harm the public rather than law enforcement who are protecting the public.

Please inform yourself regarding the issues of the mentally ill interacting with police. I just posted a couple of references, but, they are all over if you are willing to consider an alternative point of view.

>> In addition, oftentimes when these"unarmed" people are killed, it's because they are not following the orders of the police. If everyone would listen to police orders, the situations wouldn't escalate.

True enough. But, you know what? Mentally ill people often don't do the rational thing. Which is one reason why they are "16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement" . Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by You listening PAPD?
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 20, 2019 at 10:34 am

No more out of control, weak-ego'd cops slamming people into cars after they're already handcuffed, Mmm-kay? Mmm-kay :)


7 people like this
Posted by California is great
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 20, 2019 at 11:49 am

> When will the Left Coast learn that Gavin Newsom is ruining our state?


You're outnumbered 2-1 in CA. Gavin beat the heck out of that non-name who tried to run against him. Yet somehow Gavin has ruined the state in less than a year?

[Portion removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by California is great
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 20, 2019 at 11:50 am

This is a great post:

> There are too many rights for criminals in the U.S.
> Then you have a problem with the United States Constitution. What do you want changed? Specifically...

Where's the answer, @rollingeyes?


8 people like this
Posted by A Kinder Gentler PD Is Needed
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 20, 2019 at 1:07 pm

Though exceptions apply, the police should attempt to treat all suspects with some vestige of dignity & respect rather than attempting to bully them into submission.

In regards to police killings of unarmed suspects, why do they always shoot to kill? Wounding a suspect is just as effective & no one should be shot in the back while fleeing. That is why the PD has police dogs & helicopters.


8 people like this
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2019 at 2:15 pm

Please be honest in your reportage. The legislation was "inspired by last year's fatal shooting of a young, unarmed man in Sacramento."

You left out an important word in that sentence between unarmed and man. It was a young "black" man that was fatally shot.

Wonder if there would be legislation passed had the victim had been a young "white" man given the exact same circumstances ?


8 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Posted by What Will They Do Next, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> Wonder if there would be legislation passed had the victim had been a young "white" man given the exact same circumstances ?

Difficult to answer "what if"s but, a sincere effort to comply with the legislation will save many white lives as well as black lives. It isn't the job of the police to play judge, jury, and executioner. From the highest law in the land:

"Amendment VI

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense."

==

"Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world."


Like this comment
Posted by What Will They Do Next
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 20, 2019 at 5:13 pm

@ anon....I agree with you completely. Just wondering....


6 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2019 at 8:39 am

Governor Newsome continues to ruin the state of California. He will be putting the lives of every California peace officer at risk with this poor excuse of legislation. I predict and even greater exodus of trained law enforcement in the coming months. Many law enforcement agencies are struggling to recruit qualified and competent candidates, now it will be even harder once these potential candidates see this legislation. They will be all fleeing like so many other to neighboring states that still have leadership that support our police, sheriff and other peace officers.


6 people like this
Posted by Curious
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 22, 2019 at 9:17 am

In these reported news incidents of police shooting suspects, why are there so many rounds fired at the suspect? Sometimes 9-10 hits.

You would think 1-2 shots should suffice if the police are adequately trained in firearms usage.





Like this comment
Posted by California is great
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 22, 2019 at 11:11 am

Can't get anybody to carry a gun, and make $100-120k for the rest of their lives (look at those pensions!)

Your prediction is wrong. The biggest problem for PA is getting them to live in town and not Manteca.

Quit reading the various POA propaganda.


> Governor Newsome continues to ruin
You're outnumbered 2-1 in CA. Gavin beat the heck out of that non-name who tried to run against him. Yet somehow Gavin has ruined the state in less than a year?


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 22, 2019 at 11:24 am

Posted by David, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood

>> They will be all fleeing like so many other to neighboring states that still have leadership that support our police, sheriff and other peace officers.

Upholding the rule of law -is the job-. Anyone not committed to upholding the rule of law should find another line of work.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope that more police officers in more departments insist on proper training and department (re-)organization to better handle mentally ill people.


2 people like this
Posted by Manteca Or Bust
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 22, 2019 at 2:02 pm

> The biggest problem for PA is getting them to live in town and not Manteca.

^^^ If such is the case, then some PA PD officers should consider working in Manteca as Manteca offers less expensive housing costs & a closer commute...this is the same logic being applied to the new office workers who will be occupying the newer office developments in PA.

You cannot have your cake & eat it too.


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