Stephon Clark shooting: California legislation would limit when officers can open fire

Frederick Owens
April 6, 2018

PERF recommended police agencies adopt a standard that focuses on whether deadly force is necessary, and "proportional" to the threat an officer faces.

Shaun Rundle, of the California Peace Officers Association, told Capital Public Radio that his organization will evaluate the bill, but criticized the lawmakers' view that "reasonable" didn't equate to "necessary".

Tinkering with legal protections for police could make it more hard to hire officers and is unsafe because they may hesitate when confronting an armed suspect, threatening themselves and bystanders, Obayashi said.

Leslie McGill, executive director of the California Police Chiefs Association, and Cory Salzillo, a lobbyist for the California State Sheriffs' Association, said they hadn't seen the proposed bill and couldn't comment. The legislation will require officers in every rapidly advancing, extraordinarily risky situation to employ a checklist that ultimately places everyone at risk.

"The killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and so many others since, have laid bare this truth: our country's laws protect the police, not the people", he said in a statement.

Police at the time said officers fired 20 shots at Clark.

A pathologist hired by Clark's family said last week that seven of eight shots that hit him entered his body from behind; an official autopsy has been completed but has not been released pending toxicology results.

California cops now can use deadly force if they have "reasonable fear" that they are in danger. Frequently it's because of the doctrine of "reasonable fear". The Associated Press first reported the legislation, which is supported by the ACLU and other groups.

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Two California lawmakers proposed a bill Tuesday that would redefine in what circumstances a police officer is allowed to use deadly force. "It doesn't mean there has to have been a threat".

Officers could shoot only if there were no reasonable alternatives, such as first trying to defuse confrontations or using less-deadly weapons.

The new proposal would warrant that police officers hold off on approaching a suspect who could possess a weapon until backup arrives, or it could force police to give explicit verbal warnings that suspects will be killed unless they drop the weapon, Buchen said. In that case, SMPD said officers also tried to subdue and arrest the man with less-lethal weapons before firing their guns. "They may be able to wake up" the next day, said Clark's uncle, family spokesman Curtis Gordon.

The bill would make California the first state to restrict when officers can open fire.

Cities's strict standards are generally for situations where there is time to deescalate volatile situations, such as with people who are mentally unstable, Obayashi said. They cited studies showing blacks are far more likely than whites to die in police shootings, and that California has five of the nation's top 15 police departments with the highest per capita rates of police killings: Bakersfield, Stockton, Long Beach, Santa Ana and San Bernardino.

In video captured by the officers' body cameras, they corner Clark in his grandmother's backyard, and one shouts "gun" repeatedly before they open fire.

Demonstrations have broken out in California since reports of the shooting.

Other reports by Free-Prsite

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