Because police shootings are on the rise in California, a bill called AB931 has been created. In 2017, there was 707 use of force incidents that resulted in serious injury or death throughout California, according to The California Department of Justice.
This year, 625 people have already been shot and killed by police across the nation. California has the highest number of deaths by police shootings-66, says the Washington Post.
AB931 is a bill that was first enacted in March 2017, by Assembly Members Shirley Weber of San Diego and Kevin McCarty of Sacramento. It was written to change the legal standard governing police use of deadly force. According to the California Legislative Information, existing law allows a peace officer to use reasonable force to effect an arrest, prevent escape, or to overcome resistance.
Existing law also states that homicides are justifiable with self-defense, but AB931 would deny this defense to an officer charged with manslaughter and limit the use of deadly force.
“It’s time for justice for victims and families like the Clark family here, like the Clark families all across California and our nation,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty at the AB931 Press Conference at the Capitol in April; a month after Stephon Clark was killed by two officers in Sacramento.
Stephon Clark died at the age of 23. He was unarmed when officers chased him until they shot him 20 times, in his grandmother’s backyard and mistook his phone for a weapon. Community members such as Black Lives Matter Sacramento have been organizing events and protesting his murder, demanding charges to be placed on the two officers, as well as the SacPD officers from past shootings that still have not faced any punishment for unjust shootings.
Police shootings involving the murders of unarmed black men have infuriated the families of Sacramento, and community members throughout the California; causing an uprise in fights for justice; for accountability.
Lizzie Buchen, a legislative advocate at the ACLU of California who works to reduce police violence and misconduct, also spoke at the conference.
“Clearly, the current standard where they can use deadly force when they fear a serious threat, isn’t enough to prevent unnecessary deaths of members of the community, particularly people of color’ said Buchen.
Others worry that enacting AB931 will change policing in a negative way; endangering the public and officers.
“AB931 will turn policing in California on its head,” says Deputy Director Shaun Rundle of the California Peace Officers Association.
“The bill could further erode and compromise both public and officer safety by further emboldening criminals to commit crime with relative impunity, while simultaneously diminishing both the ability and desire of police officers to exercise their lawful discretion when making crucial decisions whether to equitably enforce the law or turn a blind eye to criminal behavior.”
Officers fear that enacting this bill will put the public in danger, with new use of force standards; lower their current standards of de-escalation. But is this the kind of change our police departments need?
“It’s time for California to modernize our century-old deadly force standard,” says Assemblymember Kevin McCarty.
“Revising California’s use of force standard will help law enforcement transition to a police system that can prevent the deaths of unarmed individuals and build much needed public confidence in how we keep our communities safe.“
AB931 will be acted upon by August 17th, if approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. The full State Senate and State Assembly will vote on the bill by August 31, according to Assemblymember McCarty.