Police Use of Force Bill Heads to Newsom’s Desk

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — A bill that sets new standards for when police can use deadly force is awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom's signature.

Assembly Bill 392 passed the Senate with a 34-3 vote. It previously cleared the Assembly 67-0.

The bill was introduced in the aftermath of the 2018 death of Stephon Clark, who was unarmed when he was fatally shot by Sacramento police officers in his grandmother's back yard. Officers were in the neighborhood investigating reports of a man breaking into cars.

Since Clark's death, his brother Stevante has fought for reform -- even after the two officers who opened fire were cleared of any wrongdoing by the Sacramento County district attorney and the state attorney general.

"Not one day have I stopped, so it gets depressing. It’s a lot," he said.

Stevante Clark says he's finally seeing results in the form of AB 392.

"Like I've always said, slow progress is better than no progress," Clark said. "We'll take whatever at this point. We're kind of desperate."

If Newsom signs the bill, it will set some of the strongest use of force standards in the U.S.

Law enforcement can only use deadly force when necessary, not reasonable.

AB 392 initially faced opposition from law enforcement groups like the Sacramento Police Officers Association.

"What it did is allowed officers to be Monday morning quarterbacked. You could look at the entire call and if you could find even one thing the officer could have done differently, that would have resulted in there not being a loss of life, the officer could be charged with murder," SPOA President Tim Davis said. "We thought that was completely unreasonable."

Law enforcement groups and the bill's authors came to a compromise. Instead, officers will be judged by their mindset during the shooting and they are not required to try all non-lethal options before firing.

But the police union says more training is necessary for officers to follow this new use of force standard. They back another bill, SB 230, to make it happen.

"Our officers will be able to go in with better training and hopefully we will reduce the number of lives that are lost," Davis said.

While Clark says he's grateful AB 392 passed, he doesn't think it would have saved his brother.

"I don’t believe this law in its current form would hold police accountable in the way the Clark family would like to see it. It’s a watered-down bill, In its original form is where we had the most accountability," Clark said.

It's why Clark says his fight for justice is far from over.

"Stephon’s legacy is bringing people together," Clark said. "His legacy is making sure something like this never happens again."

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