Last year, a bill was hastily introduced in Sacramento by Assemblyperson Shirley Weber (D) from San Diego. That bill (AB 931) would have drastically altered our profession as it applies to use of force and would have been in direct conflict with a long established and often challenged United States Supreme Court ruling in Graham v. Connor.
That bill was largely introduced based on a single 2018 Officer Involved Shooting (OIS) in Sacramento that was labeled by some as controversial. Sadly, the legislators who introduced this bill and those who signed on as supporters never reached out to us in law enforcement to fully understand the ramifications or impacts of such ill-conceived language.
Law Enforcement Associations throughout the state have always been willing and ready to meet with elected officials to collaborate on bills and policies that will save lives and protect all in our community, including peace officers, but that just did not happen last year. AB 931 never made it to the floor for a vote mainly due to the efforts of Law Enforcement Associations and Chiefs Associations throughout California that were able to shed light on the flaws of this bill to committee representatives.
Fast forward to February 2019 and here we are again. Assemblyperson Weber along with five other co-sponsors have introduced AB 392. This is nothing more than a resurrection of or a “copy and paste” of AB 931.
AB 392 will change the “objectively reasonable” standard established in Graham v. Connor to a “necessary” standard that will be second guessed and “Monday morning quarterbacked” until an officer is either criminally prosecuted for trying to save a life, including his/her own, or dead because they hesitated or failed to react properly. Here are a few alarming stats:
Violent crime for every 100,000 Californians rose 1.5% from 2016 to 2017.
Officers assaulted in the line of duty in California increased by 837 from 2016 to 2017.
Nationwide assaults with firearms on law enforcement officers increased over 25% from 2016 to 2017.
Part of this increase has to do with a pervasive attitude by offenders, which is often promoted by some elected officials, that those who commit crime should actively resist law enforcement. This has been publicly stated by elected representatives in our own city government. Clearly that is not how our justice system works and it only leads to physical confrontation and injury.
Law enforcement sat down with our legislators at many meetings prior to AB 392 being introduced but it became clear that we could not reach an agreement and we were too far apart on core issues.
Saving lives has always been our priority in law enforcement. The legislators are certainly with us on that, but we cannot continue to save lives if our own lives and safety are sacrificed.
Law enforcement in California collectively decided to take a more reasonable and logical approach. Working with Assemblyperson Anna Caballero (D) from Salinas, a competing bill (SB 230) has been introduced. This measure has already been endorsed and co-authored by over a dozen legislators. Why? Because it is practical and can be applied in real life encounters that peace officers deal with every day and not the fantasy world that some politicians are living in.
This measure focuses in on training, de-escalation, time and distance, and mental health issues of those in distress just to name a few. Many things that SFPD officers are already trained to do.
Law enforcement throughout our country have been begging for more training for years but we are often shut down or dismissed. Why? Training cost money and it removes officers from their assignments on the streets. But after a critical incident it often becomes clear that we are doing more with less, we are forced into mandatory overtime to cover the understaffing in our agencies, we have not received the most advanced training, and we are being pushed to our limits.
As these competing measures make their way through hearings and committees in Sacramento the POA, along with our brother and sisters in law enforcement in California, will be following this. When the time comes we may need to rally and make our voice heard in Sacramento much like we did last year. I thank you for that. If that time comes I intend to make that happen again and I will be seeking your help.
United we shall prevail. Until then, stay safe.