US

California lawmakers move forward with proposed legislation to restrict use of force by police

Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena) speaks at an emotional hearing for California's AB931. (Image source: Video screencap)

A controversial bill aimed at limiting the use of lethal force by California police officers is moving forward after passing the Senate Public Safety Committee with a vote of 5-1 on Tuesday.

What are the details?

Known as Assembly Bill 931, the legislation would elevate the standard for using deadly force from "reasonable" to "necessary."

During an emotionally-charged first hearing on the bill, Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena) said: "It always blows me away that law enforcement only fear for their life when they are facing black and brown people."

He added later, "We don't have a problem with law enforcement, we have a problem with racism in this country. And until we address that, we're going to continue to have these problems."

Supporters of the measure were present during the committee hearing, some of whom had loved ones who had been killed by police officers.

The ACLU is also behind the bill, and legislative advocate Lizzie Buchen explained that if passed, AB 931 would mean law enforcement could only use deadly force if “there were no other reasonable alternatives.”

But law enforcement groups are adamantly opposed to the measure, saying it would put officers at greater risk.

California State Sheriffs’ Association lobbyist Cory Salzillo said, “We ask officers to run toward danger and sacrifice their safety,” adding that such a rule change would undermine their decisions and put them in an unfair position.

Special prosecutor and Plumas County sheriff’s deputy Ed Obayashi also weighed in against the legislation, saying that its passage would cause officers to hesitate when confronted with a suspect who is a risk to law enforcement and bystanders. Obayashi pointed out that officers are already trained in de-escalating situations and only use lethal force when necessary.

If passed, California would be the first state to impose such restrictions on police officers, although some cities (such as San Francisco) already have similar measures in place.

One last thing…
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