Calif. police chiefs 'dumbfounded' by use-of-force legislation

An official said LE groups were blindsided by the bill, and that they found out about it through media reports

By Police1 Staff

FAIRFIELD, Calif. — Several California law enforcement leaders spoke out against legislation that would significantly restrict when officers can use deadly force.

The bill would change the state standard for police use of force from “reasonable”  to “necessary,” the Sacramento Bee reports

Police leaders criticized lawmakers during a Monday press conference for the proposed change, saying that the legislation has left them “dumbfounded.”

“We find ourselves dumbfounded that legislation of this magnitude was introduced without consulting law enforcement stakeholders,” California Police Chiefs Association President David Swing said at the press conference.

Swing said the legislation would cause officers to second-guess their actions and pull back from confronting threats, putting the community at risk. Swing added that law enforcement groups were blindsided by the proposal, and that they found out about the bill through media reports.

“If legislators had come to us prior,” Swing said, “it’s unlikely that we would be here today.”

Law enforcement has generally followed a standard that was established by several U.S. Supreme Court cases where lethal force is considered acceptable if a “reasonable” officer in similar circumstances would have acted in the same way.

The legislation was announced by Democratic Assembly members Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty last week. The announcement came following the fatal police shooting of Stephon Clark, which sparked weeks of protests and calls for police reform.

Last month, Clark was pursued by officers responding to a call about a man breaking car windows. Clark was in his grandmother’s yard when police saw what they believed was a gun and fatally shot him. Police later determined Clark was holding a cellphone.

Weber said she wants officers to try other less lethal options before resorting to deadly force.  Vacaville Police Chief John Carli said there should be more focus on how suspects ignore police commands, which he said puts them in situations where officers have to respond with greater force.

“That’s one of the challenges we’re seeing more and more in policing, is utterly defiant resistant to the authority that police represent,” Carli said. “Our power is vested through a society that trusts its police, so that’s the paramount issue.”

The bill is expected to be published sometime next week and is set to head to the Senate Public Safety Committee, according to CBS Sacramento.

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