On September 12, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law SB 230, marking the end of a more than year-long process to amend the state’s use-of-force policies and the beginning of a new era for California law enforcement — one that sets a national precedent in community policing.
The landmark bill presents a comprehensive new policy that goes further than any bill in the country to reduce the use of force, as it mandates law enforcement agencies to establish policy guidelines that comply with the new state standard to use deadly force only when “necessary.” It also establishes uniform use-of-force training programs that reflect the new standard; requires that officers be trained on de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention tactics and alternatives to force, as well as when deadly force can be employed; and makes use-of-force policies and procedures accessible to the public. (See the bill’s analysis for more details.)
Our statewide partner, PORAC, worked tirelessly and closely with lawmakers to ensure that the bill would benefit officers and not make their already challenging jobs more difficult. PORAC, along with representatives from their law enforcement coalition (California Association of Highway Patrolmen and California Police Chiefs Association), lawmakers and SB 230 author Senator Anna Caballero, was in attendance during the private bill-signing ceremony in the governor’s office, and President Brian Marvel was able to share a few words before the assembled dignitaries.
“Now that SB 230 has been signed into law, we are committed to ensuring its successful implementation, which will have a far greater impact on minimizing use of force in California,” Marvel said. “In addition to setting a new precedent, SB 230 also serves as a commitment by our state’s leaders to providing the best possible training for our peace officers and standing up for the safety of our communities.”
“LAAPOA has long been calling on lawmakers to amend the state budget so we can invest more in public safety,” LAAPOA President Marshall McClain adds. “SB 230 will ensure that the state allocates much-needed funding to law enforcement so that our officers will receive updated training that will help them not only minimize the use of force, but also better protect our communities and themselves.”
The bill will set aside up to $450,000 for the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to strengthen training guidelines, and it will provide more than $10 million for officers to attend POST training.
While still considered a victory for law enforcement, it’s important to note that the SB 230 that’s now law is different from the SB 230 that was first introduced as a law enforcement-backed counterproposal to AB 392. As we covered previously, SB 230 originally included a provision to adhere to the use-of-force standard established in Graham v. Connor, but during the committee process, lawmakers worked closely with law enforcement advocates and those across the aisle to revise the bill so that it focused on training and could only pass if AB 392 did. As a result, the once-competing bills were revised to complement each other and create a comprehensive legislative package that would amend the state’s use-of-force standards.
To that end, SB 230 works in tandem with AB 392, which was signed into law by the governor on August 19. As a reminder, AB 392 changes the state standard for when officers can use lethal force from “reasonable” to “necessary” and prohibits police from opening fire on fleeing felons who don’t pose an immediate danger (as mentioned above, officer training must now reflect these standards). According to the Los Angeles Times, the law also changes how use of force is handled in the courtroom. Under current law, prosecutors only consider the moment when lethal force was used to determine whether the officer acted within the law. The new standard makes it so that prosecutors consider the actions of both the officer and the alleged offender leading up to the use of force to determine whether the officer acted within the scope of law, policy and training. Supporters of the bill believe this change will encourage officers to opt for de-escalation tactics or other alternatives before pulling their weapons.
“We will be working closely with PORAC and our partners in law enforcement to ensure SB 230’s success,” McClain says. “The state’s nearly 80,000 peace officers will now be given the tools they need to effectively reduce use of force, improve community policing practices and set an example on successful policy change for all law enforcement across the country.”