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Editorial: Will police deadly force reform bill pass? Your voice can help decide

The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Op Eds

Heads up: It's crunch time for Assembly Bill 392, the proposed law to reform the rules for when police can use deadly force.

The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, and introduced in its original form shortly after the killing of Stephon Clark, appears stalled in the California Legislature. Despite public support from powerful leaders, passage is not assured.

"There's less than two weeks for AB 392 to clear a floor vote in time to meet the house of origin deadline," according to a Sacramento Bee story by Hannah Wiley. "Weber's office hasn't publicly announced any movement on the bill, and there's been no formal press release on a compromise from law enforcement. As of Monday night, there's no amended version of AB 392 for a floor analysis."

We can't let this bill go down without a fight. In the aftermath of Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's decision to file no charges against the officers who shot Clark in his grandparents' yard last year, many in our community channeled their anger and disappointment into support for AB 392.

AB 392 offers hope for avoiding future tragedies. In 2017, 172 people were shot and killed by police in California. The bill seeks to reduce this number by establishing new rules for when police can use deadly force, allowing them to use lethal tactics only when necessary to defend themselves from deadly threats. It would set clear guidelines and deter officers from resorting to lethal force when non-deadly tactics are the better solution.

In March, hundreds of Sacramento residents, many of them students, launched an impromptu march on the State Capitol to demand action on AB 392. In April, hundreds of people lined up at an Assembly committee hearing to speak in support of the bill. Only a handful of people, mostly law enforcement lobbyists, spoke in opposition.

Citizen action also succeeded in winning revisions to Senate Bill 230, a law enforcement bill designed as a decoy to undermine real reform. SB 230 was pared back to deal only with providing new training for officers, and the section designed to undermine AB 392 was removed in committee. It was a big victory, but nothing in the Capitol is finished until the governor signs a bill.

Law enforcement groups succeeded in stopping a previous version of AB 392 last year. Now, the conversation around the new bill has gone quiet and the clock is ticking. The coming days are critical.

Here's who to call:

-- Gov. Gavin Newsom: The governor has been quiet on this issue, but it's not too late for him to bring some of his trademark "courage for a change" to the debate. As the most powerful politician in the state, he holds a tremendous amount of sway. He must not duck on this. Reach his office at 916-445-2841 or gavin.newsom@gov.ca.gov

 

-- Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins: When a previous version of the bill failed last year, Atkins pledged to spearhead a reform of the deadly force law this year.

"We need to end preventable deaths and to do so without jeopardizing the safety of law enforcement officers," said Atkins last year. "I know that this is what the author, my friend, Assemblymember Shirley Weber is committed to achieve. I too am committed to this work from now until we return for the next legislative session to get this right and have a bill before the Legislature in January that will make California a model for the rest of the country."

Will she honor her pledge? Reach her office at: 916-651-4039 or Toni.Atkins@Sen.Ca.Gov

-- Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon: To his credit, Rendon has strongly endorsed reform, saying "The tragic death of Stephon Clark is more evidence that we still have far to go to ensure justice for all ... Now we must move forward to change policies on the use of force in order to protect unarmed Californians as well as law enforcement officers." Yet getting the bill passed by a full Assembly vote remains a challenge. Reach his office at 916-319-2063 or anthony.rendon@asm.ca.gov

If you believe California should make it harder for law enforcement officers to kill unarmed civilians, now's the time to make your voice heard. Lives are on the line, and time is running out.

(c)2019 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

Visit The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) at www.sacbee.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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