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California lawmakers seek change in police lethal force standard

California lawmakers proposed a dramatic change Tuesday in the standard under which police officers can use deadly fo...

Posted: Apr 4, 2018 9:17 AM
Updated: Apr 4, 2018 9:17 AM

California lawmakers proposed a dramatic change Tuesday in the standard under which police officers can use deadly force, in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark.

Joined by the grandfather of the 22-year-old unarmed black man whose death last month has sparked days of protests in Sacramento, legislators announced a bill replacing the current "reasonable force" rule with a stricter "necessary force" standard.

The legislation would authorize officers to use deadly force "only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death -- that is, if, given the totality of the circumstances, there was no reasonable alternative to using deadly force, including warnings, verbal persuasion, or other nonlethal methods of resolution or de-escalation," according to Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, a co-author of the measure.

The bill is known as the Police Accountability and Community Protection Act.

"We're not saying that law enforcement officers can never use deadly force," Weber told reporters in Sacramento. "I want to stress that. Deadly force can be used but only when it's completely necessary."

The proposal also would establish that a homicide by an officer is "not justified if the officer's gross negligence contributed to making the force 'necessary,'" according to the proposal.

Question of 'necessary' or 'reasonable' force

"This reasonable modernization (in the law) focuses on 'only when necessary' as opposed to 'when reasonable,' which is very different in the eyes of the beholder," Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a co-author, said in a statement.

Lizzie Buchen, a legislative advocate for the ACLU of California, which is pushing the measure, said the current law has long provided "legal cover" for police officers involved in fatal shootings. Under the law, use of force is permitted if officers have a reason to fear for their safety.

"Clearly, the current standard where they can use use deadly force when they feel a serious threat isn't enough to prevent unnecessary deaths of members of community, particularly people of color," she said.

"Deadly force can longer be the first response to a perceived threat. It can only be the last resort."

Proponents of the change called the legislation groundbreaking.

A representative for San Francisco District Attorney George Gasc-n said the former police chief supports the measure.

Law enforcement organizations have staunchly opposed previous legislative attempts to strengthen the use of force standard.

Leslie McGill, executive director of the California Police Chiefs Association, said the organization is reviewing the bill.

The lawmakers said police shot and killed 162 people in California last year, only half of whom were armed with guns. Police departments in the state have some of the highest rates of killings by police in the nation, they said.

"Existing use-of-force laws have made an encounter with law enforcement -- no matter how ordinary and no matter whether an individual is unarmed or even cooperative -- into one that ends in the death of a civilian," Weber said in a statement.

"The worst possible outcome is increasingly the only outcome, especially in communities of color."

Clark's shooting death caused outrage among residents who took to the streets to demand the officers be held accountable. Sacramento police have said the officers fired only because they thought their lives were at stake.

Clark was shot by police on the evening of March 18 in his grandmother's yard after they responded to a 911 call about a man who was breaking car windows.

The officers told investigators they opened fired after Clark turned and advanced at them holding what they believed was a gun, police said. A cell phone -- but no weapon -- was found near his body.

Police at the time said officers fired 20 shots at Clark.

An independent autopsy found that Clark was shot eight times, and six of those wounds were in his back, according to Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist retained by Clark's family to conduct a second autopsy.

Clark also received a gunshot wound to his side and another to his left thigh, Omalu said.

Clark's death was "not instantaneous," Omalu told reporters, estimating the father of two died between 3 to 10 minutes after being shot.

"You could reasonably conclude that he received seven gunshot wounds from his back," Omalu said. Each of those bullets possessed "a fatal capacity," he said.

"Meaning that, out of all the seven, all he needed to have died was just one of the seven."

An autopsy conducted by the Sacramento County Coroner determined the cause of death as multiple gunshot wounds, and the manner of death was homicide, according to a preliminary report. But authorities have not released the full report.

The fatal shooting was recorded by two officers' body cameras and from a police helicopter.

The videos showed a brief encounter between police and Clark, lasting less than a minute, from the moment one of the officers spotted him in the driveway and yelled, "Hey, show me your hands. Stop. Stop."

In the dark, the two officers chased Clark into the backyard of his grandmother's home.

"Show me your hands!" one of the officers yelled. "Gun, gun, gun."

Police then opened fire. Clark crumpled to the ground, momentarily tried to crawl before falling motionless as more shots erupted around him.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is holding an independent investigation into the shooting and a review of police procedures.

Two officers -- one of whom is black -- have been placed on administrative leave amid a use-of-force investigation.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 153270

Reported Deaths: 3807
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10249104
Hinds10095199
Harrison7173111
Jackson6440124
Rankin5705103
Lee517095
Madison4902107
Forrest385986
Jones361788
Lauderdale3567147
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Washington3197108
Lamar294750
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Panola224852
Neshoba2225118
Marshall219450
Leflore206891
Pontotoc202429
Monroe201078
Lincoln192865
Sunflower191955
Warren177757
Tate175351
Union169526
Copiah165440
Pike163958
Yazoo157940
Scott156630
Itawamba155635
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Alcorn152828
Coahoma151043
Simpson150353
Prentiss148431
Adams143151
Grenada141445
Leake138344
Holmes131561
Tippah126730
George126225
Covington124639
Winston123726
Hancock122840
Wayne119023
Marion117346
Attala116134
Tishomingo110042
Chickasaw108332
Newton107529
Tallahatchie97427
Clarke92453
Clay92327
Jasper83522
Stone78515
Calhoun77713
Walthall76929
Montgomery75425
Carroll73815
Lawrence72614
Smith72116
Yalobusha72028
Noxubee71917
Perry67726
Tunica61819
Greene60822
Claiborne58816
Jefferson Davis57817
Amite55214
Humphreys54319
Benton49618
Quitman4947
Webster45014
Kemper44218
Wilkinson40122
Jefferson35711
Franklin3485
Choctaw3457
Sharkey31717
Issaquena1174
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 247229

Reported Deaths: 3577
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32718500
Mobile19904362
Madison13425148
Tuscaloosa13167154
Montgomery12380236
Shelby1046577
Baldwin882098
Lee778566
Morgan675150
Calhoun6366121
Etowah635166
Marshall630955
Houston532338
DeKalb489736
Cullman447442
Limestone430245
St. Clair425755
Lauderdale413354
Elmore409464
Walker3689111
Talladega353554
Jackson327123
Colbert314642
Blount294640
Autauga275142
Franklin254233
Coffee246515
Dale234454
Dallas226532
Chilton225038
Russell22313
Covington220334
Escambia198631
Chambers177250
Tallapoosa177091
Pike159214
Clarke158919
Marion141336
Winston134423
Lawrence129636
Pickens124218
Geneva12378
Marengo122524
Bibb118817
Barbour117511
Butler117342
Randolph103821
Cherokee102924
Hale97731
Fayette92216
Clay92024
Washington91619
Henry8676
Lowndes79929
Monroe79011
Cleburne77414
Macon74522
Crenshaw71230
Bullock70019
Perry6896
Conecuh68514
Lamar6838
Wilcox63918
Sumter58422
Greene42718
Choctaw42613
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