California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the most restrictive use-of-force law of any police organization in the US Monday.
The bill, AB392, heavily revises the ability of officers to use deadly force and the scrutiny under which force is evaluated. Under the new law, officers will only be allowed to use deadly force in the necessary defense of human life. This force will be allowed both to defend against the threat of death or serious bodily injury and to apprehend a person fleeing a felony that resulted in death or serious bodily injury if the officer reasonably believes that further death or serious bodily injury will occur if the individual is not immediately apprehended. If an officer is found to have improperly used deadly force, they may be open to civil liability, criminal liability and disciplinary action.
The bill was introduced in the California Assembly by Assembly Member Shirley Weber who was present with the governor at the bill signing. The bill was introduced in response to widespread concern over police use-of-force and officer involved deaths across the country particularly in African-American communities. It has faced some criticism both from police organizations who were concerned about its application and rights activists who believed the bill was watered down, but all parties agree that the bill is a good step forward. A related bill, SB230, is stuck in committee in the State Senate over concerns that it will further weaken the new use-of-force law.
The new law will officially take effect in January and will require new training for the state’s 80,000 officers.