As many of you may recall, last year was tough for law enforcement on the legislative front. Assembly Bill 931 — which sought to limit officers’ use of force and ultimately criminalize you for split-second decisions under tense and rapidly evolving incidents — led the pack of measures that were not friendly to peace officers and public safety. We fought tooth and nail to make sure that AB 931 would not be passed. The final two weeks of the previous legislative session were some of the toughest in my life, but we succeeded in making sure that bill never made it to the governor’s desk. As expected, the proponents of AB 931 are trying again this year, with AB 392.
PORAC, in collaboration with a law enforcement coalition, is putting forth a comprehensive legislative plan that will set a clear legal standard for use of force, ensure robust officer training, bring in professional mental health professionals and launch California to the national forefront in use-of-force policies and procedures, training and addressing mental health incidents — all while maintaining public and police safety.
I am pleased to say that a group of law enforcement advocates — which included PORAC, LAPPL, ALADS, CAHP, Sheriff’s, and Chiefs — has announced the sponsorship of Senate Bill 230. The legislation, authored by Senator Anna Caballero, incorporates smart approaches used by various agencies and is the result of six months of collaboration by law enforcement, mental health professionals, use-of-force experts and our Legal Defense Fund panel attorneys throughout the state.
“Our goal through SB 230 is to reduce the tragic loss of life in our communities through a policy that protects the public and our peace officers,” Senator Caballero said.
Our intent in sponsoring this legislation is to ensure our officers can continue protecting human life while building on the community trust so many of our agencies enjoy. Just as peace officers can’t anticipate what they will encounter on any given day, our laws governing their engagement must account for the vast, unpredictable threats they face. SB 230 does that.
This bill updates the fleeing felon language that was written in 1872. Needless to say, the statute does not reflect the use-of-force standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Graham v. Connor and Tennessee v. Garner.
Conversely, the opposition’s AB 392 seeks to mandate a hindsight analysis of whether any other lesser use of force could have been reasonably deployed. It fails to consider the fact that other options may pose greater risks of death or injury to the officer or others and that the alternatives may not be as effective. As a result, reasonably necessary use of deadly force in self-defense or in defense of others could be stripped of legal protections under the justification statutes. In essence, you would be criminally prosecuted for protecting yourself or someone else by their standard for every deadly force incident. This, in my opinion, is their goal!
In the 1989 case of Graham v. Connor, the Supreme Court set the legal standard governing use of force. It aptly stated there must be an “allowance for the fact that police officers are required to make split-second judgments — in circumstances that are tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving — about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.” We should do everything in our power to make sure this stays the standard.
While updating the outdated statute language, SB 230 also includes minimum standardized use-of-force training and internal use-of-force guidelines while providing additional funding to POST. SB 230 addresses each of these issues with the goal of better protecting both individuals and law enforcement officers.
Training is a big component of our plan. Training makes situations safer. Officers and deputies gain confidence with continual, quality training. That confidence leads to a better sense of when to use force and when not to. This is a proven fact. Yet the opposition never pursues a comprehensive training proposal. Why is that?
You also never hear the opposition offering ideas on how to cut down our violent crime rates, how to get guns off of our streets or reduce gang violence. They offer no voice for the hundreds of murder victims in the state of California. With the vocal anti-police sentiment out there, one might think that the number of law enforcement-related deaths has increased. In fact, 2018 saw a 34% reduction from the year before. However, any death is one too many — thus, the need for SB 230.
To learn more about the law enforcement coalition and our plan, visit protectca.com.
As I have said repeatedly, and will continue to say, it is more important than ever that we unite and make our voices heard, individually and collectively. I call again for all 70,000 PORAC members to step forward, make that first move, send that email, make that phone call to your local elected officials and tell them why it’s crucial that they support SB 230. They are your representatives and we live in their community, too. So let them know it matters to you. It could be a matter of life and death.
Have your family, friends and public safety advocates call, too!