Charting a New Path Forward

The battle over police use of force has taken a surprising turn. SB 230 and AB 392 — the state’s two competing use-of-force measures — are rivals no more. Lawmakers recently decided to link the two bills in an attempt to reach a compromise and bring law enforcement organizations and civil liberties advocates back to the negotiating table.

To recap: SB 230, authored by Senator Anna Caballero, presented a comprehensive package of changes to California’s use-of-force statutes, law enforcement agency policies and training. LAAPOA, along with our statewide partner PORAC and other law enforcement groups, backed the measure, which would have ensured officers would not be criminalized for using force in life-or-death situations. AB 392, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber and supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), offered a rehash of last year’s AB 931 that aimed to raise the state standard for officers’ use of lethal force from “reasonable” to “necessary” and create a subjective lens for evaluating officers’ use of force based on hindsight.

In a Senate Public Safety Committee hearing at the end of April, legislators removed SB 230’s provision to adhere to the use-of-force standard established in Graham v. Connor and tied the bill to AB 392, making it so that the law enforcement-backed measure can only exist if Weber’s bill passes. When linked this way, the two bills become complementary; if AB 392 passes, it would change the state’s use-of-force standard, and if SB 230 passes, it would address training and policy guidelines.

LAAPOA views this unexpected development as progress toward reform and agrees with PORAC President Brian Marvel’s assertion that compromise and collaboration are the only way forward. At the hearing, Marvel said the bill’s revision “was something that we felt needed to be done in order to have fruitful conversations moving forward.”  

His views were expressed further in a joint open letter authored by PORAC, the California Police Chiefs Association and the California Association of Highway Patrolmen. “At a time when America is so deeply divided that progress appears out of the question, Californians must come together and rise above,” the letter read. “We must replace fear and anger with empathy and understanding. It’s an aspirational vision that is within reach.”

The associations went on to say they were committed to advancing SB 230 in its newly amended state and charting a new path forward, stating that even in its revised form the bill would still go further than any other bill to minimize use of force in our communities.

In order for that to happen, Weber, the ACLU, the attorney general and legislators must meet at the table once more to craft a solution that everyone can agree on. “We have the opportunity and obligation to come together, to lead and to get this right,” the letter closed.

But as of this writing, it’s unclear whether Weber is on board. Past experiences have shown a lack of cooperation between Weber and law enforcement. According to PORAC, during last year’s negotiations over AB 931, she never responded to law enforcement-backed proposals and falsely claimed that law enforcement never came to the table. (She did, however, push back against law enforcement lobbying efforts against her legislation.)

“Use of force is not a new issue — rather, it is one that has been plaguing our country for decades,” says LAAPOA President Marshall McClain. “If law enforcement and civil liberties advocates can rise above their differences, come to an understanding and solve this problem, it would have many positive effects.

“It would, first, require consistent policies and mandatory training standards for the state’s law enforcement agencies. Second, it would minimize the use of force and third, most importantly, keep our communities and officers safe,” McClain continues. “If we do this right, together we can create lasting change — not only in California, but across the country. All eyes are on us to set a national standard for use of force.”

LAAPOA will continue to work closely with PORAC, monitor use-of-force legislation and update our members on the developments that affect them.