ACalifornia state Senate bill that seeks to end the shoot-first mentality of cops in the Golden State cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday. If approved, it could become a national model.
Members of the California Senate Public Safety Committee passed the proposed legislation in a 5-1 vote, the Sacramento Bee reported. If it clears all the hurdles to become a law, the measure would raise the standard for the use of lethal force from “reasonable” to “necessary.”
Under the current standard in California, as well as just about every other state, officers can justify shooting a suspect if they had a so-called reasonable fear for their life.
The bill seeks to solve the pervasive racial bias problem among police officers across the state that leads to the disproportionate killing of Black people.
“It always blows me away that law enforcement only fear for their life when they are facing Black and brown people,” Democratic Sen. Steve Bradford said.
Stephon Clark was on the minds of the lawmakers who supported the bill. San Diego’s state Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a Democrat, introduced the measure in April after two Sacramento police officers gunned down an unarmed Clark, 22, killing him in a hail of 20 bullets, including some that hit his back. The officers said they believed the father of two had a gun, which actually turned out to be a cellphone.
Police officers across the nation were on pace to fatally shoot about 1,000 people in 2018—which would make this the fourth consecutive year in quadruple figures, according to the Washington Post. The shooting deaths of unarmed Black men has declined slightly since 2015, but criminologists warned not to read too much into that data.
The bill now heads to the full Senate for hearings and a possible vote. Of course, it faces strong opposition from powerful police unions, which have argued the bill would endanger the lives of officers.