For many, Stephon Clark was the last straw.
In March, police who were responding to a 911 call regarding a person breaking car windows fired 20 rounds at Clark because they believed he was holding a gun. According to reports, eight bullets hit Clark in the back and neck. As the facts would later show, the object Clark was not a gun – it was his cellphone.
Clark’s death is the latest high-profile incident in which police have killed unarmed persons – many of whom were young, black men – through the use of what the officers believed was “reasonable” use of deadly force.
Law enforcement agencies have defended the use of deadly force as a method of keeping the general public and the officers they employ as safe as possible. However, California legislators working just a few miles from where Clark was killed have decided that it is time to rethink when the use of deadly force by police is justified.
Recently, California lawmakers introduced the Police Accountability and Community Protection Act (AB 931), a measure that would change the law so that the use of deadly force is only legal “when necessary” instead of the current standard of “when reasonable.”
Reining in the Use of Force
Police have generally been allowed to use lethal force in order to protect their own lives or the lives of others. Over the last few decades, the standard for legal use of deadly force has widened to include the shooting of a fleeing suspect because of the potential risk to the community.
However, a bill recently introduced by California Assembly members Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty could change when police are legally allowed to use deadly force. Assembly Bill 931 would restrict law enforcement officers to the use of deadly force only when the person poses an imminent threat of serious injury or death to another, and only if there are no other reasonable means of taking the person into custody.
Law enforcement groups are arguing that such a restriction would put their lives and the lives of innocent people in the community in jeopardy, but proponents of the bill believe that police training has left officers too quick to pull the trigger and that the only way to fix the problem is to make it less likely that officers will be cleared when a police shooting leads to the death of an unarmed person.
The bill is still in the Assembly. If it passes, it will create a new standard for police training. Officers may be required to wait for backup before confronting someone believed to be armed or to give multiple warnings to surrender before taking action.
Share Your Opinion With Us
We would like to know what you think about this proposed law. Should law enforcement officers in California be restricted from using deadly force unless it is the only way to stop an imminent threat? Would creating this new standard for the use of deadly force by police pose a threat to the safety of law enforcement officers and the public? Let us know what you think in the comments section below.