After Clark Shooting, California Debates New Police Use-of-Force Standard

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Although the Sacramento officers who killed Stephon Clark won’t face charges, his death could lead to a new use-of-force standard for police in California, the Sacramento Bee reports. Top lawmakers and the governor say the law should change, although most haven’t endorsed specific proposals. Discussions are unfolding at the Capitol as demonstrators march through Sacramento streets protesting decisions not to indict the two police officers who shot Clark last year. The Clark case “will have a big role,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat. “It’s a worldwide story, and the people have seen the images with their own eyes. They see that there probably was an alternative to utilizing non deadly force.”

Lawmakers are weighing competing proposals. One bill would restrict when officers can shoot to kill. Another would simply require police departments to have a use-of-force policy. “This must be a time for change,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said after Sacramento County’s district attorney announced she wouldn’t charge the officers. “We need to acknowledge the hard truth – our criminal justice system treats young black and Latino men and women differently than their white counterparts. That must change.” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon urged his colleagues to not “just nibble at the edges of what is a systemic problem” but to “change policies on the use of force in order to protect unarmed Californians as well as law enforcement officers. Attorney General Xavier Becerra suggested he’d favor a new approach. On Tuesday, he released an investigation that cleared the officers who killed Clark of criminal wrongdoing but said he would work to prevent future tragedies. Clark, 22, was among 115 people police shot in California last year. California officers averaged more shootings per capita than states like Alabama, New York and Illinois.

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