Law enforcement groups are opposing a bill introduced this week by a San Diego lawmaker that would raise the legal standards for police officers to use lethal force.
Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber says her bill, the Police Accountability and Community Protection Act (AB 931), will help save lives.
Under the current law, officers may use deadly forces when it’s “objectively reasonable.” The proposed law would only allow the use of deadly force if it was necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death, but only after non-lethal alternatives have been exhausted.
“Deadly force can be used, but only when it is completely necessary,” Weber said.
Jack Schaeffer, president of the San Diego Police Officer's Association, said the bill is dangerous and irresponsible. He’s worried the bill would add more names and more pictures to the wall of fallen officers in the association’s hallway. Thirty-three names are currently on there — examples of the ultimate sacrifice that officers are asked to do every day.
The bill is “dangerous not only for police officers but for the public,” Schaeffer said. “If the public needs assistance and an officer is second-guessing themselves, that could make the reaction even slower which could lead to somebody else getting hurt."
San Diego County averages about 18 officer-involved shootings per year, with almost all of them legally cut-and-dry by the even the strictest standards, he said.
Weber’s bill was in response the Sacramento shooting death of Stephon Clark, an unarmed, 22-year-old black man who was killed in his grandmother’s backyard last month by police. Her bill was primarily aimed at protecting "black and brown men," Weber said.
“We know police officers have the capacity to do this because they do it every in other communities,” she said.
One of the major changes introduced in AB 931 is that it allows prosecutors to look at an officer’s actions before a deadly shooting to see if they were negligent and placed the officer in harm’s way.
The current law “allows officers to kill community members when they had other options or when they're the ones who created the danger,” Weber said.
Gary Moore, president of the Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of San Diego, told NBC 7 it’s not as simple as Weber makes it out to be. Simply changing “reasonable” to "necessary" is not the answer. It needs to be both, he said.
“Our policy includes the force used must be both reasonable and necessary,” Moore said. “One without the other would not make sense.”