California’s new lethal force law: Should it be nationwide?


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — It’s been a month since California passed a new law changing the legal standard for when law enforcement officers can use lethal force.

Civil rights group believe the law should be the national standard but the National Sheriff’s Association worries the move will put officers and communities at risk.

Jonathan Thompson, executive director of the National Sheriff’s Association, said it can cost lives when law enforcement spends time second-guessing a decision.

“In a split second, he’s going to have to make a decision: Do I pull my gun and do I pull the trigger? And protect those behind me or do I let it sit and potentially let those behind me die?” Thompson said.

California’s new law changes the legal standard for using lethal force from when reasonable to when necessary.

Some believe the state’s law could spark changes nationwide.

“It’s very hopeful that this will lead a domino effect across the country; obviously it’s incredibly hard,” said Justin Mazzola with Amnesty International USA. “This was the byproduct of at least several years’ worth of work.”

Complete national data on the use of force is unavailable because, until this year, the FBI wasn’t keeping track of officer-involved shootings.

And even now, law enforcement agencies aren’t required to submit their data.

But the Washington Post documented 992 police shootings in 2018 and 614 deadly police shootings so far this year.

Mazzola said officers should stop to think before pulling the trigger. He said shootings like the Stephon Clark case in Sacramento that sparked the law change in California disproportionately affect communities of color.

“I hope that there aren’t 50 similar cases, or 49 similar cases, across the country to make each state have to do this,” he said.

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