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New 'Stephon Clark's law' tightens rules, says police can use deadly force only when absolutely necessary


'As California goes, so goes the rest of the United States of America'

Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

California's governor signed the newly passed "Stephon Clark's Law" bill Monday. The legislation tightens rules for when police officers can fire on suspects and is one of the strictest use-of-force laws in the U.S.

The law, which will go into effect Jan. 1, is named after Stephon Clark, who died in 2018 after being fatally shot by police officers in the backyard of his grandmother's home. The cops reportedly believed the 22-year-old Clark was armed, but he was discovered to be carrying only a cellphone.

What are the details?

The law mandates police are to "use deadly force" only when "necessary in defense of human life" and must use all other avenues of de-escalation instead of pulling their service weapons and firing on a suspect. The new law, however, does not concretely define what is considered "necessary" with regard to defending human life.

During a Monday ceremony, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said, "I'm ready to sign this damn thing," and called those families who advocated for the measure to stand up alongside him as he signed the bill into law. "I would be honored if you would join us up on stage," he said.

"As California goes, so goes the rest of the United States of America," he promised. "And we are doing something today that stretches the boundaries of possibility and sends a message to people all across this country."

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D) introduced the bill in 2018 because she believed the permission to fire on suspects were too murky and broad. On Monday, Weber said that the new law will change the "culture of policing."

"Significant change is never easy, but those who voted today looked to their conscience and found the courage to do the right thing for California," Weber said. "I have to thank the families who have lost loved ones to police violence. They have been the energy and the moral compass for making this possible."

The ACLU said of the new law, "It is a common-sense bill modeled after best practices already in place in some departments — and that we know work to reduce police killings and save lives."

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