Ciara Hamilton (center left) and Liz Medrano (center right), who both lost family members in police shootings, testify on AB 392. / Photo courtesy of the California Assembly

This post initially appeared in the May 31 Sacramento Report. Get the Sacramento Report delivered to your inbox.

The fate of AB 392, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill to limit police use of deadly force, was all but sealed last week when she struck a deal with law enforcement groups, who removed their opposition to the measure.

But the vote on the bill last week nonetheless represented the first chance most lawmakers in the Assembly had to publicly weigh in on the bill, which meant the vote was preceded by hours of intense emotional speeches.

A few noteworthy moments:

  • Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer said he still fears for his life every time he is pulled over by police and grips his steering wheel in the 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock position. He said when he turned 16, he took traditional driver’s training – and after that, he learned “black drivers’ training.” “I have a 1-year-old grandson,” he said emotionally. “I do not want to teach him 10 o’clock, 2 o’clock 15 years from now.”
  • Assemblyman Devon Mathis called himself a “proud white guy” and said that as a society, we teach children “no means no” but that we should also teach them that when dealing with police, “stop means stop” and “freeze means freeze.” He was one of two lawmakers who initially voted against the bill, but later changed his vote to abstain.
  • Assemblyman Mike Gipson, who is black and a former police officer, made a fiery and emotional speech in which he said, “we have to get it right – the first time.”
  • Assemblyman Tom Lackey, a Republican former CHP officer, choked up recounting his experiences. “Deadly force is something very few people can really understand, and I hope that you never have to understand it.” He thanked Gov. Gavin Newsom for taking an interest in the issue, and said the compromise reached was something he could support.
  • Weber got the last word. In a rousing speech – even from someone known for her oratory – she told lawmakers that “my community deserves the luxury of being able to call the police and knowing that life gets better as a result of them coming.” She said she was moved to carry the bill forward by thinking of her two young grandsons: “Their life is idyllic. They have great friends of all colors. They enjoy life, and they believe at this point that they have just as much right and respect as any other child in this nation – and that should never change.”

Sara Libby

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

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