Dueling bills in Sacramento will aim to make it easier to criminally prosecute police officers who are involved in deadly use of force incidents, setting up another showdown between law enforcement groups and civil liberties organizations over the most effective way to address the issue.
One bill, which has yet to be formally introduced by its sponsor, Ceres Democratic Senator Anna Caballero, focuses on improving internal department rules and training, would require officers to deescalate a situation before resorting to deadly force and asks for $300 million in state funding for mental health and homelessness programs.
The other bill, sponsored by San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and backed by the ACLU and other similar groups, would let prosecutors consider an officer’s actions right before an incident resulting in a fatality that might have negligently put the officer in danger. Its other major component would only permit an officer to use deadly force on a fleeing suspect if it’s believed that person committed a violent felony, and that not using force could result in harm or death. This is aimed at pushing prosecutors to look at whether there were opportunities to deescalate the situation before using a service weapon.
Asm. Weber introduced a version of this bill last year, which ultimately ended up being shelved after it was met with strong opposition from law enforcement groups, causing it to be scaled back and eventually shelved after support broke down. Subsequent talks between law enforcement and civil liberties lobbying groups failed to produce joint legislation, which resulted in the competing bills.
We’ll look at the two bills side by side and discuss the potential pros and cons of each.
Robert Harris, director for the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the labor union representing LAPD officers, and an LAPD officer; he tweets @RobHarrisLAPPL