What lawmakers said about bill to set rules around deadly use of force by police
The use of force by police officers is one of the most serious issues facing America today. It’s also one of the most divisive issues, impacting families, officers and communities throughout both our country and our state.
Often, this division becomes the sole focus of this serious issue. But I want to focus on solutions that create meaningful change. In order to do that we have to work together, and we have to employ a fact-based approach grounded in best practices and proven results for our communities.
California’s law enforcement officers willingly put their lives on the line to serve and protect us. We are grateful for their public service and sacrifice. We also rightly expect these officers to serve not only with skill and professionalism, but also with compassion, sound judgment and respect for human life.
The rarely reported truth is that California’s peace officers come into contact with millions of people every year and very few of those interactions result in the use of any type of force. When force is used, it is not taken lightly. Officers who do use excessive force are rare, and they should not be peace officers.
I believe adamantly that the best way to reduce the number of times that force is used – while continuing to protect our peace officers and communities – is through stepped up and standardized training based on science and research.
Our law enforcement experts all say the same thing: in a tense, life-threatening situation it is muscle memory that peace officers use to make those critical split-second decisions. Those decision-making skills are built and reinforced through training and education.
Rigorous training programs have effectively and significantly reduced use of force complaints in cities throughout California and across the nation, and California law enforcement agencies have asked the Legislature to bring these evidenced-based best practices to every law enforcement agency in our state, and provide funds for retraining.
I have introduced legislation – SB 230 – that would provide resources for uniform, standardized law enforcement training utilizing state-of-the-art best practices that would create a culture shift in police agencies.
The legislation would establish the most comprehensive use-of-force policies and guidelines in the nation. These would be used by California’s 500 law enforcement agencies to include de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention teams, alternative approved strategies and devices, new officer duties to report and intercede, supervisor duties to report and review use-of-force complaints and the duty to render medical assistance.
All this while setting clear and enforceable thresholds for authorizing the use of force – the same thresholds affirmed time and again by the U.S. Supreme Court.
My bill is a common-sense approach based on reason, best practice and collaboration. In fact, as a result of this continued collaboration, I recently announced amendments that make this legislation even stronger and reflect direct feedback from community leaders, the Attorney General and stakeholders throughout California. SB 230 now not only finds common ground, but also provides the most effective means to minimize the use of force.
California’s peace officers have a passion for public service. They willingly put the uniform on, and willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve. We owe them the resources to be able to fulfill their oath of office capably, with compassion and professionalism – including putting the resources of the State of California at their disposal to ensure they have the most rigorous and effective training available.
By working together, we can raise the national standard and set a new precedent for use of force policies, practices and training. We can work to create real change and minimize the use of force, while protecting our peace officers and our communities.