California’s new law to stop police shootings
August 25, 2019 8:26 AM   Subscribe

And why some civil rights groups are worried that the bill doesn’t go far enough. The bill aims to “affirmatively proscribe” — as in, explicitly limit — the instances when police officers can use deadly force, changing the standard from one based on a “reasonable belief” that the officer or another person is in imminent danger to one that requires police officers to use deadly force only when necessary. The legislation — AB 392, or The California Act to Save Lives — came as the result of months of negotiation between law enforcement lobbying groups and civil rights organizations, and some advocates of police reform view the new law as a watered-down effort.

But other groups, and the families of victims of police shootings, have praised the bill, several of whom were invited onstage alongside Gov. Newsom as he signed it into law. In comments made to the Los Angeles Times, Stevante Clark, the brother of Stephon Clark, who was shot to death by police in March 2018, said, “The bill is watered-down, everybody knows that. But at least we are getting something done. At least we are having the conversation now.”
posted by Homo neanderthalensis (20 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
We won't solve the police shooting problem until there is a presumption of misconduct when an officer shoots a person not wielding a weapon.

LEO unions and lobbying groups portray the notion that police who are afraid of losing their jobs would hesitate to defend themselves, and risk losing their lives in the process.

I contend that if you are afraid of losing your job for shooting someone, you're not in that moment afraid of losing your life for NOT shooting them.

They know they won't lose their jobs because the police unions will get them brought back after anything short of a criminal conviction -- and sometimes even after that.

So, I have 2 propositions to address police shootings. First, presume misconduct if the person shot is unarmed. Second, abolish police unions.

This doesn't mean I oppose AB392. I agree that it's a step in the right direction. But so long as police unions carry the sway they have, we won't address the problem at its core: officers know that short of blatant criminality that their job is safe, and their pensions secure.
posted by tclark at 8:56 AM on August 25 [10 favorites]


The other thing I'd like to see is cracking down hard on police lying (whether it's about their actions or to cover for another officer's mistakes), planting or messing with evidence, and such, which often happens after an unwarranted shooting. I don't understand how this could possibly be controversial, yet it seems our justice system often looks aside when this happens, even when it's fairly widely publicized.
posted by aubilenon at 9:04 AM on August 25 [25 favorites]


cracking down hard on police lying

Yes. Perjury should 110% mean dismissal.
posted by Your Childhood Pet Rock at 9:06 AM on August 25 [25 favorites]


I've listened to a lot of local NPR coverage about this bill this week. Two themes come out. One, it's a compromise law, something that civil rights activists and police agreed to after months of negotation. Two, they left the definition of "necessary" out of the legislation (despite early drafts defining it), thus leaving it up to courts for the next few years to actually define what the law means.

The actual text (emphasis mine)
(c) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (b), a peace officer is justified in using deadly force upon another person only when the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that such force is necessary for either of the following reasons:
(A) To defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.
(B) To apprehend a fleeing person for any felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless immediately apprehended. ....
posted by Nelson at 9:34 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Yes. Perjury should 110% mean dismissal.

Perjury about goings-on at the workplace should mean dismissal from any job held anywhere by anyone. Perjury by a goddamn POLICE OFFICER should carry a ten-year minimum sentence, and a crimson 'L' branded on the offender's forehead.
posted by Mayor West at 10:17 AM on August 25 [12 favorites]


Police unions are almost universally terrible, but unions are also important. Getting rid of them is not tenable or just, so they're going to need to be reformed. Ideally that comes from the inside -- that may not always be feasible, but I do get the sense that some of the worst police unions (e.g. NYPD) are ... not speaking for a lot of their membership, so there may be an opening at some point.
posted by feckless at 11:09 AM on August 25


> Police unions are almost universally terrible, but unions are also important. Getting rid of them is not tenable or just, so they're going to need to be reformed.

police unions aren’t unions because police aren’t workers. they’re management. specifically, they’re management’s enforcement branch. break their fake unions. leave a smoking hole in the ground where they once stood.

> So, I have 2 propositions to address police shootings. First, presume misconduct if the person shot is unarmed. Second, abolish police unions.

fixed that for you.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 11:18 AM on August 25 [21 favorites]


There should straight up be a presumption of misconduct if you fire your weapon at all. Like if your gun leaves your holster you fucked up. I mean like a week suspension and a full inquest. Pulling a gun means you're escalating the situation and that's not how we should want police acting.
posted by Uncle at 12:05 PM on August 25 [9 favorites]


cracking down hard on police lying

Yes. Perjury should 110% mean dismissal.


Broken Windows Policing theory only applies to other people's windows.
posted by srboisvert at 12:21 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


police unions aren’t unions because police aren’t workers. they’re management. specifically, they’re management’s enforcement branch. break their fake unions. leave a smoking hole in the ground where they once stood.

This actually isn't true as we have recently seen police openly oppose management when/if management attempts to rein in the abuse of police powers. From NYPD rank and file turning their back on New York's mayor over the investigation of the murdering of Eric Garner to CPD's current publicity campaign against Cook County's publically supported attempts at bail reform.

Police are enforcement when it suits them. Opposition when it does not.

So I'd say they are more like a mercenary occupation force similar to the US army contractors in occupied Iraq.
posted by srboisvert at 12:27 PM on August 25 [8 favorites]


(c) (1) Notwithstanding subdivision (b), a peace officer is justified in using deadly force upon another person only when the officer reasonably believes,

And there's the problem. The courts could turn this back into the same old thing by making it more about the officer's claimed subjective fear. Or, they could take this opportunity the change gives them to go heavy on the REASONABLE part and make it more about the objective situation that actually existed. I'm not holding my breath that we aren't going to hear about how the officer "reasonably believed" he was in danger all the fucking time.
posted by ctmf at 12:46 PM on August 25 [4 favorites]


Cal Matters has been comprehensively covering this legislation for a while (starting withprevious failed attempts at similar bills). Laurel Rosenthal has been presenting her work in their Force of Law podcast. She interviewed Newsom about the bill this week.

(I know Vox is great as a general explained type source, but don't overlook the local media who have the attention to follow stories for more than a minute. Cal Matters is wonderful in this regard.)
posted by kendrak at 12:54 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Perjury about goings-on at the workplace should mean dismissal from any job held anywhere by anyone.

That's a really weird thing to suggest, and definitely something that would be immediately misused. The fact that I once told my boss my grandmother was sick when she wasn't is in no way even vaguely comparable to lying about a murder.
posted by Acid Communist at 2:30 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]


Acid Communist, perjury is not just any lie, but lying in court under oath.
posted by aubilenon at 2:44 PM on August 25 [9 favorites]


Reasonably believed is the standard outlined in Graham v Connor back in 1989 and we can see how much that standard helped Dethorne Graham, much less the myriad people who came after him.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 3:08 PM on August 25


I'm aware of that, I don't care. I'd assume it already is a fireable offence anyhow.

I still find it really bizarre to suggest we should crack down harder on regular workers.
posted by Acid Communist at 3:13 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Or, sorry, to be clearer, not necessarily crack down harder, but nonetheless the suggestion as I read it is that regardless of what the consequences were, perjury should immediately be not just grounds but a mandate for dismissal.

Which again, I doubt anyone's specific future employment prospects look good by the time they're in court, but I don't see why we should do anything to reinforce employer's power.
posted by Acid Communist at 3:21 PM on August 25


I'm at the point where I just want to ban police shooting anyone or anything, for any reason. Take away the guns. Oh, you say, that makes policing more difficult because they can't defend against people shooting the police? Well then I guess it's time to do something about all those guns.
posted by medusa at 8:25 PM on August 25 [8 favorites]


the suggestion as I read it is that regardless of what the consequences were, perjury should immediately be not just grounds but a mandate for dismissal.

Already is, where I work. My radiological controls technicians have a great deal of autonomy and authority and I have to be able to believe if they say a thing, no matter how inconvenient that thing is for me or how much that thing is going to cost or impede production, then the one thing I can count on is that thing is true. When it turns out someone knowingly lied about something, anything, including the sick grandmother scenario, I need to find them a new job. It's pretty much the only thing headquarters will not make me give someone a dozen "second-chances" or lesser penalties on. In fact, the opposite - if I want to keep someone who's involved in an integrity-compromise situation, I've got a serious uphill fight on my hands justifying that. You can make all the honest screw-ups in the book, but once you lie about it - gone.

It's because of the authority we give them and need to give them. We're very up-front about that when we hire people, and constantly reinforce it in every little thing. If we can do that, I don't see why police departments (and the municipal governments they theoretically work for) can't.
posted by ctmf at 12:04 AM on August 26 [8 favorites]


[Reminder that the post is about the California law to limit police shootings.]
posted by taz (staff) at 12:17 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


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