SACRAMENTO, CA --Almost two weeks of protests over the shooting of Stephon Clark has had a result. Today two California legislators revealed a bill that would restrict the police’s ability to use deadly force.
Assemblymember Dr. Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) announced they had co-sponsored Assembly Bill 931, legislation that requires police to use lethal force, only when justified. AB 931 was sponsored by groups such as the ACLU and Black Lives Matter Sacramento. Currently, police are allowed to shoot suspects “if they feel threatened,” which can lead to several gray areas.
Weber, who was surrounded by members of the California Legislative Black Caucus, co-sponsors of the bill and community activists, said recent shootings have shown police seem to have a double standard when it comes to black and white suspects.
“How could Stephon Clark be killed but the Parkland shooter be taken alive?” said Weber.
She was referring to Nikolas Cruz, who killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Fla. recently. Cruz was taken into custody alive. Clark, who was unarmed, was killed within minutes of Sacramento police arriving.
She added that police treatment of Cruz and other non-black suspects proved that they were perfectly capable of using non-lethal force when it was needed.
Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, said police shootings of unarmed black people was not a problem unique to California. He listed several familiar names, such as Oscar Grant, Philando Castile, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice, black men who were killed by police.
Betty Williams, president of the Sacramento NAACP chapter, described AB 931 as a “great step forward.”
Weber added that California, one of the nation’s most progressive states, should be leading the way in changing police policy.
In 2017, police shot and killed 162 people in California, only half of whom were armed with guns. California police departments have some of the highest rates of killings in the nation: Bakersfield, Stockton, Long Beach, Santa Ana and San Bernardino are all in the top 15. Police in Kern County have killed more people per capita than in any other US county, according to a 2015 report.
“It’s time for California to modernize our century-old deadly force standard,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty. “Our current law enforcement use of force threshold does not work. 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 all our communities safe.”