California Gov. Gavin Newsom Signs Bill Meant To Curb Deadly Police Shootings

The new law raises the standards for police officers’ use of force.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday signed a bill aimed at reducing the number of fatal police shootings by raising the standard for when law enforcement can use deadly force.

“This one basically changes the culture of policing in California,” Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), the bill’s co-author, said at the signing event in Sacramento. 

“People of color have often had a different kind of justice than others in this nation,” Weber said. “We deserve fairness and justice.” 

The legislation, Assembly Bill 392, replaces the previous “vague standard” ― as Weber put it in remarks on the floor in May ― that officers could use deadly force “whenever reasonable” with a stricter one allowing for deadly force “only when necessary.”

It also encourages law enforcement to use de-escalation techniques, like verbal persuasion and other methods, per the governor’s office. 

The bill overwhelmingly passed in the state Assembly in May and then the Senate in early July.

The new law defines the circumstances under which law enforcement can justifiably use deadly force as only when the “officer reasonably believes ... that deadly force is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury.”

There have been several high-profile fatal police shootings of unarmed Black men in California in recent years, including that of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit officer in 2009, and Stephon Clark, who was killed in his grandmother’s yard in Sacramento last year. The families of both Clark and Grant were at Monday’s signing with the governor. 

“The people of color of California are fed up … [with] the violence perpetrated by police officers when they’re supposed to protect us,” Marc McCoy said at the signing. Earlier this year, his younger brother Willie McCoy, a 20-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by Vallejo police after he was found sleeping in his car at a Taco Bell drive-thru. 

Marc McCoy said the legislation will “force officers to think more about situations before they pull the trigger.”