New Bill Limits When California Police Can Use Deadly Force

As a nation, we must address the brutal reality and deadly consequences of police violence. We have seen far too many people, particularly Black and brown people, killed by police. We have seen too many families and communities shattered by loss and tragedy. Enough is enough. We must limit when police officers can use deadly force and take someone’s life.

Current laws in California fail to protect against unnecessary killings by police officers. Officers here — and in much of the country — can use deadly force regardless of whether it was necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury. They can kill even when alternatives to deadly force — like issuing a verbal warning, repositioning and calling for backup, or using lower levels of force — are available, safe, and feasible.

It is unacceptable that today in California police officers can legally kill someone even when they don’t have to.

Preserving and protecting human life must be the top concern for law enforcement officers, and our laws should likewise reflect that. Unfortunately, that is not the case. According to the California Department of Justice, police officers killed 172 Californians in 2017 alone, and they did so with startling racial disparities. Of the 172 people killed, more than two-thirds were people of color. Of those who were completely unarmed when killed by police, three quarters were people of color.

California police officers are not only killing people of color at disproportionate rates; they are also killing more people than most departments in the country. California police kill people at a rate 37 percent higher than the national per capita average. A 2015 report by the Guardian found that police in Kern County killed more people per capita than in any other county in the U.S.

The course of action is clear. California lawmakers must start by changing the standard for when police can use deadly force.

That’s why the ACLU of California affiliates — together with our partner organizations, including those led by people directly impacted by police violence — are supporting AB 392: The California Act to Save Lives. The legislation introduced on Wednesday specifically addresses police violence by updating California’s deadly use-of-force law.

AB 392 is a common-sense bill that is modeled after best practices already in place in some departments in the U.S. We know these practices work to reduce killings by police. As with these other bills, AB 392 will clarify that police officers can use deadly force only when there are no alternatives that would prevent death or serious bodily injury. Officers’ conduct leading up to a shooting will also be considered when determining whether deadly force is justified — not just the moment the officer pulls the trigger.

The California Department of Justice recently released a report recommending that the Sacramento Police Department update its use-of-force guidelines following the shooting death of Stephon Clark in Sacramento. Their guidelines align closely with AB 392. Specifically, they call for Sacramento police to more clearly define when force is authorized, require that officers use de-escalation whenever possible, and mandate that officers exhaust all reasonably available alternatives before using deadly force. 

Research shows that officers at agencies with stricter use-of-force policies kill fewer people and are less likely to be killed or seriously injured themselves. After Seattle implemented a new use-of-force policy that contains some of the same key elements that AB 392 does, a study by a federal court monitor showed that the policy significantly reduced mid-level and serious uses of force without any increase in injuries to officers or the crime rate.

There is no reason for California lawmakers to shy away from establishing stricter policies on deadly use of force that can prevent unnecessary shootings, keep officers safe, and ensure public safety. AB 392 is urgently needed because every day that goes by without addressing California’s epidemic of police violence is another day that a police officer may violently take another life.

View comments (49)
Read the Terms of Use

Anonymous and ...

Thank goodness for you guys st ACLU. I am an American whether you like me or not and whether you like legal or illegal immigrants at all, and whether you value us in any way.! I am an American and part of your future world so eat that. One has to wonder who interviews these police before that get such a responsible job? One also wonders how our fine country breeds such a high percentage of brutal people who see immigrants and people of color as dispensable and justify and dismiss murder in this unacceptable and in humane way. In the poor rural isolated community I reside in, people take positions in police due to lack of other job opportunities which also does not advocate for the best choice of hire. As an observation maybe police should be vetted better prior to entering the police force and be vetted by someone who actually has good non racist ethics outwith the local jurisdiction. What specific sickness have we created here that police and republican GOP have such distaste for the fantastic immigrants and powerfully wonderful people of color who add such greatness to our white male and unfortunately also white entitled female supporters of racism. How can we change this racist arrogant and entitled populace at a deep level?


Kinda makes you ask, what vetting process would work to handle such oversight. It would have to be comprehensive. Look at the situation in Virginia concerning Fairfax, it's sure that both Kavanaugh and Trump themselves are under investigation for sexual assult based on women coming forward from many years ago. Since the vetting wasn't thorough enough, we see there is only one call to action: Fairfax, Kavanaugh, and Trump MUST resign from their government positions immediately. Senator Franken established the ethical standard for voted members to government, that even a joking photo of pretend sexual contact on a woman ten years earlier -- is wrong and required resignation. How you change an arrogant and entitled populace is, you hold those behaviors to a higher standard that are required for all in positions of responsibility in high office.


OK let take all police away what do you got who do you call for help
Understand like prison the staff go in to help with a good heart
By the end of the first month . Things change you see there is no reaching
Them . And yes even illegal immigrants are in there 25 to 30 % or more
After that month you feel like prey hunted watched word play becomes your new best friend
The threat of lock down or removing something from them is the only thing you can do
You change trust no one head on a swivel . It does transfer over to your personal life
Friends wife even your children. So how do police officers feel in a bad area
Do you trust hesitation could get you hurt or worse. How do you deal with a kid that is screaming kicking having a fit well as a father put them in his or her room until
It stops or spanking. Controlled no threat .
Now how about a man or woman you don't know same situation. Do you walk away
Let someone else deal with it. try to reason with a wall you can get through
Spank ? Room ?
Handcuffs are always best that should be step 1 for all calls
It would protect the person and the officer


I had a very well worded and thought-out reply to your opinion, however there was trouble with the website and it would not post my response. Because I do not feel like re-creating my previous response, this time I will make it short and sweet. I think you are full of cow poop. You are completely biased, you failed to take in to consideration the other side’s point of you, and that there are social and environmental causes to many of the problems between the police and society.


This article has to be a joke. Have you ever been a police officer, do you know what it feels like to have people try to take your life and your partners life. These people go to work daily not knowing if they will come home alive. Show some respect to law enforcement.


Bootlicking does nobody any good. Effective policing requires effective oversight. Nobody is above the law, and allowing those officers authority comes with the responsibility that they act accordingly. In other words: do your job better, and prove it.


Luke...obviously you have never been under any deadly threat (real or perceived). No one and it is literally “not one person” can say how they will respond when “they” feel like “their” life is being threatened (whether real or preceived) and certainly (because no one understands the physiological things that are going on at that moment, can tell someone else exactly “how” to respond. Training and continuous practice can help but will never give into “specific behavior achieved “ as you suggest. Your only option to achieve the so called removal of “police brutality” and “police murder” is to get rid of all police and anyone who is hired to promote peace and structure in a society. However, without peacekeepers the criminal preys heavy on those who are weak minded and have no protection. Luke if you ever feel like your life is being threatened please...please don’t call 911 and certainly don’t call a police officer (those murderers) call for support from one of the perpetrators peers maybe he’ll lend you a hand.


This article is misleading...I’ll just leave it at that.


blah blaH BLAH!!!!!!

Miley Cyrus

Great Article it its really informative and innovative keep us posted with new updates. its was really valuable. thanks a lot.


Stay Informed