By DON THOMPSON Associated Press
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A grieving mother choked up as she questioned why police didn’t use other tactics instead of killing her son. A deputy recalled the terror of second-guessing herself as she traded fire with a suspect who killed her partner.
The emotional testimony Tuesday came before California lawmakers advanced a first-in-the-nation measure restricting when police can use deadly force, one of two radically different legislative proposals seeking to cut down on deadly shootings in the nation’s most populous state.
The measure faces a tougher fight in the full Assembly. Even some supporters on the public safety committee said it goes too far and will require changes as lawmakers try to balance the safety of officers and those they’re tasked with protecting.
Last year’s police shooting of unarmed vandalism suspect Stephon Clark in Sacramento inspired the legislation that would allow officers to kill only if there is no reasonable alternative, such as verbal persuasion or other non-lethal methods of resolution or de-escalation.
“It’s time to make clear that the sanctity of human life is policing’s highest priority,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego.
The committee’s chairman, Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, said a tougher standard will do little good without buy-in from law enforcement organizations.
Those groups are supporting a different plan, which is also before lawmakers, to require that every department have policies on when officers should use de-escalation tactics and other alternatives to deadly force.
Weber’s measure got party-line support. The eight-member panel’s two Republicans opposed the measure they said could make officers hesitate for a fatal second if they have to consider alternatives to lethal force.
A Senate committee is expected to consider a police-backed alternative in two weeks. That measure would enshrine court standards into law, allowing officers to use deadly force when they have a reasonable fear of being harmed. The standard has made it rare for officers to be charged and rarer still to be convicted.