Updated March 23, 8:42 a.m.–
Sentinel staff report– The city’s mayor and at least three other council members directed the police chief during a March council meeting to draft a resolution and letter opposing proposed state legislation that seeks to narrow the circumstances for when police officers can use deadly force.
Although the item did not appear on the council’s March 14 meeting agenda, Councilman Bret Daniels suggested in concluding comments during the meeting that the council take a position to oppose Assembly Bill 392, which he called a “very misguided, flawed effort to change the use of force standard.”
The legislation was introduced last month by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) and has gained the backing of the American Civil Liberties Union. It seeks to raise the current standard for when deadly force can be used by an officer from “reasonable” to “necessary,” which advocates say will help save lives and reduce police shootings involving unarmed suspects.
“AB 392, if it does continue on (and) gets passed, will get officers killed. There’s no doubt about it,” said Daniels, who has a law enforcement background as a former Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy. “This is just a horrible effort to fix something in a wrong approach.”
Daniels said he believed the legislation would result in officers not being able to use deadly force if someone pointed an unloaded weapon at them.
According to a summary of the bill by the nonpartisan Office of Legislative Counsel, AB 392 “would redefine the circumstances under which a homicide by a peace officer is deemed justifiable to include when the killing is in self-defense or the defense of another, consistent with the existing legal standard for self-defense, or when the killing is necessary to prevent the escape of a fleeing felon whose immediate apprehension is necessary to prevent death or serious injury.”
Vice Mayor Jeff Slowey echoed Daniels comments, but added a recommendation that the council additionally take a position in support of Senate Bill 230, which is a law enforcement-backed bill that would add more training requirements regarding de-escalation and use-of-force, but would maintain the “reasonable” standard for when officers can use deadly force.
The legislative counsel’s summary of SB 230 says the bill would refine the circumstances for justifiable homicide by an officer “to those situations in which the officer reasonably believes the suspect poses an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer, or others, or when a fleeing suspect has committed a forcible and atrocious felony.”
“[AB 392] changes verbiage and that’s really all it does,” said Slowey. “It doesn’t provide any additional training, (it) replaces ‘reasonable’ with the word ‘necessary’, and to me that is just… really for the lawyers so they can turn around and sue departments and officers.”
Under the council’s direction, Citrus Heights Police Chief Ron Lawrence is to draft a letter to oppose AB 392 and support SB 230, which council members are to sign. A resolution to be formally voted on by the council will also be drafted, if there is sufficient time. The council’s next meeting on March 28 has been cancelled, so some concern was expressed by council members about whether the resolution would still be timely if passed at the council’s first meeting in April.
As of March 20, Chief Lawrence told The Sentinel a letter had not yet been drafted, but is expected by early next week. He told the council AB 392 could be heard by the State Assembly’s public safety committee later this month, or in early April.
Councilwoman Porsche Middleton, the newest member to join the five-member Citrus Heights City Council, did not comment on the use-of-force issue during the meeting and did not return phone and email messages left by The Sentinel on Wednesday.
Want to share your thoughts on the council’s position on use-of-force legislation? Click here to submit a letter to the editor for publication.
*This article was updated to include a correction on the date of the City Council’s next meeting.