Infrared image from helicopter of Stephon Clark's body
Infrared image from helicopter of Stephon Clark’s body moments after he was shot. Courtesy Sacramento Police Department

The Assembly Public Safety Committee Tuesday approved a bill co-authored by a San Diego lawmaker that would redefine when law enforcement officers can use deadly force.

The bill would allow the state’s law enforcement officers to use deadly force in the form of self-defense, the defense of another or if it would prevent further death and injury. However, police officers would be held accountable for homicides if they are found to have acted with criminal negligence or if their actions force them to use deadly force on a civilian.

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, co-authored the California Act to Save Lives, officially known as Assembly Bill 392, with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento. According to Weber and McCarty, the goal is to increase the number of situations where law enforcement officers can de-escalate a situation via conversation or other nonlethal methods.

Shirley Weber

“Thanks to the witnesses, the committee and the community for getting us past the huge milestone,” Weber said in a Twitter post after the committee’s 5-2 vote. “But we still have so much to do. Pause for today, but back to work tomorrow!”

Weber and McCarty introduced a similar bill last year after two Sacramento police officers shot and killed an unarmed black man, but it died on the Assembly floor.

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced last month that she would not seek charges against the two officers, finding they were legally justified in killing Stephon Clark because they said they believed they were in immediate danger.

The San Diego Organizing Project, a coalition of 28 local religious groups and congregations, applauded the committee for moving AB 392 forward.

“Today’s good news on the California Act to Save Lives means we are one step closer to a solution to protect our communities,” said Deacon Tom Cartwright, the SDOP leader at City of Hope International Church. “No one should fear for their safety in the presence of law enforcement.”

The Assembly is expected to continue discussions with public safety advocates and law enforcement organizations around the state as the bill continues through the legislature. If passed, the bill would be the first in the nation to limit law enforcement’s use of deadly force.

— City News Service