Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez take part in a Politifest panel. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

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:

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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