Unprecedented Police Accountability Bill Advances in California
California would lead the U.S. in significantly changing the standard for when police can fire their weapons under legislation that cleared its first hurdle Tuesday after an emotionally charged debate over deadly shootings that have roiled the country.
It’s time to change a “reasonable force” standard that hasn’t been updated in California since 1872, making it the nation’s oldest unchanged use-of-force law, said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a San Diego Democrat who introduced the measure.
“It must be guided by the goals of safeguarding human life,” she said.
A state Senate committee advanced the legislation that would allow police to use deadly force only in situations where it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious injury or death to the officer or another person.
Now, California’s standard makes it rare for officers to be charged after a shooting and rarer still for them to be convicted. Frequently it’s because of the doctrine of “reasonable fear”: if prosecutors or jurors believe that officers have a reason to fear for their safety, police can use deadly force.