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This item originally appeared in the March 8 Sacramento Report. Get the Sacramento Report delivered to your inbox.
A bill by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber would change the standards for when police can legally deploy deadly force, and its supporters say the need for it was driven home in a heartbreaking way this week.
The Sacramento district attorney announced last weekend she would not press charges against the police officers who killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in his grandmother’s backyard. Soon after, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that his office’s independent investigation of Clark’s death did not warrant any criminal charges.
Weber’s bill, AB 392, would change police standards so that they are authorized to deploy deadly force only when it is necessary to prevent imminent death or serious bodily injury.
The current law guiding when police can kill was written in 1872, and allows police to legally kill people who are fleeing.
“We are disappointed and frustrated – but not surprised – by the recent decision of the Sacramento district attorney not to press charges against the officers involved in the shooting death of Stephon Clark,” the California Legislative Black Caucus, which is chaired by Weber, said in a statement. “We’ve seen this same outcome repeated over and over statewide and nationally for years.… The fact that Stephon Clark, another unarmed black man, was killed at the hands of law enforcement, with no accountability, illustrates why we need immediate reform.”
The DA’s announcement has sparked a flurry of support for Weber’s measure:
- Clark’s family and activists held a rally at the Capitol in support of AB 392.
- Students walked out of classes at Sacramento City College and local high schools and marched to the Capitol.
- A meeting of the Sacramento City Council devolved into chaos as protestors argued with Mayor Darrell Steinberg. They urged the mayor to fire the police chief and expressed support for AB 392.
- At a press conference with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, who wrote the bill with Weber, Steinberg was essentially cornered into voicing his support for the bill.
- The San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee and Los Angeles Times editorial boards endorsed the bill this week.