Signal file photo of the state's Capitol building ion Sacramento

Use of force bill heads to governor

Legislation looking to reduce the number of officer-involved shootings across the state received bipartisan support from Santa Clarita Valley lawmakers, and now heads to the governor’s desk for approval.

Assembly Bill 392, the California Act to Save Lives, seeks to change the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers. The bill also clarifies that de-escalation techniques should be used by law enforcement agencies in California so long as it’s reasonably safe and feasible to an objectively reasonable officer, according to the bill’s text.

Some residents might think this standard is already the law, but that’s not the case. 

“Current California Penal Code standard (says) police are authorized to use deadly force on any person charged with a felony who is fleeing or resisting arrest — whether or not the person poses a danger to the officer or someone else,” according to leg.info.

But AB 392 would change the wording to say law enforcement agencies are only justified in using deadly force on a person when the officer reasonably believes that such force is necessary to apprehend a fleeing person who’s wanted for any felony that threatened or resulted in the death or serious injury of another, according to the Senate’s analysis of the bill. Law enforcement agencies will also be able to use force if an officer reasonably believes that somebody will cause death or serious injury to another person if they aren’t immediately apprehended.

The Assembly bill additionally requires that an officer’s conduct prior to and during the use of deadly force must be considered when evaluating whether or not the use of deadly force was justified, according to the Senate’s analysis of the bill. 

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, introduced AB 392 in February, and by the end of Monday, the legislation had received support from senators Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, and Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, as well as Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, and Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale.

Stern and Lackey could not be reached for comment, but Wilk said Thursday that it was the right move to support the legislation.

“(AB 392) underscores our concern with the use of deadly force, while protecting an officer’s discretion in a life-threatening situation,” Wilk said. “It represents a balanced approach.”

Smith added that she has been focused on a solution that speaks to the needs of the community and still allows law enforcement the safety they deserve and the resources they need. 

“I am pleased to see the amended version of this bill addresses these concerns and is now awaiting the governor’s signature,” Smith said.

“AB 392 is about turning a new page in police-community relationships, bringing together law enforcement and the people they’re sworn to protect,” said Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park. “Our current situation is a lose-lose that doesn’t make anyone safer, and our hope is that this legislation and this year’s major investments in training will begin to heal the divide and set a new tone.”

Officials with the ACLU of Southern California said in a news release this week that they expect Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has expressed strong support for the bill, to sign the legislation into law.

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