Assembly Bill 931, which may be going to the full assembly soon, is a progressive bill that will raise the legal standard under which police may use lethal force. At the current time all an officer needs to say after a killing is that it was reasonable in his/her eyes. The new standard requires that lethal force be deemed necessary in the context of the situation and that deescalation protocols or non-lethal methods must be considered first.
The state of California in its intermittent push toward criminal justice reform-1 and half steps forward followed by 1 back–such as moves to end money bail, to monitor police brutality after being the least transparent state in the country, and to restore some programs for the formerly incarcerated, is now working toward a fundamental reform on the use of deadly force when police officers encounter suspects, otherwise known as the public, in AB 931. It is sponsored by Assemblymembers Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty of San Diego and Sacramento respectively.
The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, a progressive Democratic Club with members in the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and parts of Contra Costa County, has long advocated for police reform and against the mass incarceration state. As such, we sent this letter to our Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond. We urge our readers to contact their Assemblymembers and demand they vote for this important reform.
Here is a copy of the letter that was sent to both Assembly Members:
August 8, 2018
To: Assembly Member Rob Bonta
Dear Assembly Member Bonta,
The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club strongly supports AB 931 which should come before you shortly. Our club has been on the forefront of advocating for police reform as we did with Oakland’s Measure LL which authorized an independent police commission in Oakland, a city that has paid out millions in settlements over police brutality and wrongful deaths.
But the issue of wrongful death at the hands of local police forces is not just an Oakland problem. According to an ACLU report, “California departments have some of the highest rates of killings in the nation.” https://www.aclusocal.org/en/news/california-can-reduce-number-police-shootings-heres-how
Additionally, the report states that, “AB 931 authored by Assembly Member Shirley Weber, would enshrine that rule in state law and help ensure that police use deadly force only as a last resort……These requirements are becoming more and more common across the country. A number of individual police departments have already implemented variations of AB 931’s provisions, including the FBI, and some have adopted all of them. The San Francisco Police Commission recently approved a use of force policy with a necessity standard. The policy requires that officers use de-escalation techniques and alternatives to deadly force.”
Seattle and Chicago have adopted similar use of force policies but this bill would make California the first state in the country to pass a law that covers all its law enforcement agencies.
As you have led the nation on so many important social justice issues, please consider putting the full force of your office behind enshrining this best practice into law.
Pamela A Drake
State & Local Politics Coordinator for the Wellstone Club