California signs into law tighter standards for police use of lethal force

California signs into law tighter standards for police use of lethal force
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A new California law imposes stricter standards on police use of deadly force, authorizing officers to kill only as a “necessary” response rather than an “objectively reasonable” one, according to NPR.

Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin Christopher NewsomCalifornia, 23 other states sue Trump over vehicle emissions rule On The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills Federal judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns MORE (D) signed the law Monday, telling the crowd at a Sacramento ceremony, “I’m ready to sign this damn thing.”

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"As California goes, so goes the rest of the United States of America," Newsom added, according to the outlet. "And we are doing something today that stretches the boundaries of possibility and sends a message to people all across this country, that they can do more."

The law is intended to satisfy both civil rights activists and law enforcement advocates who say police safety is dependent on a clear definition of when they can use deadly force.

“Right now, deadly force is justified if a reasonable officer would have acted similarly in that situation. So in other words, what a typical officer would have done based on his or her training,” said Ben Adler of Capital Public Radio. “When the law takes effect in January, that standard will change to when the officer reasonable reasonably believes deadly force is necessary."

The law does not offer a specific definition of “necessary,” which likely means Golden State courts will take the lead on interpreting the word’s legal meaning, according to NPR.

The push for the new rule emerged from the killing of Stephon Clark, who was shot in 2018 in his grandmother’s backyard, as well as from other high-profile police shootings, such as that of Oscar Grant, who was killed on a Bay Area Rapid Transit train in Oakland in 2009. Grant’s killer served less than a year in jail, while no charges were brought against Clark’s.

Activists have said the incorporation of feedback from police associations into the creation of the bill may make its provisions too close to the status quo to achieve meaningful change. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, after endorsing an early version of the bill, withdrew its support from later versions they said were compromised.

"Unfortunately, in efforts to get law enforcement to lift their opposition, the bill was so significantly amended that it is no longer the kind of meaningful legislation we can support," Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM’s Los Angeles chapter, told NPR.