Introducing AB 392 : The California Act to Save Lives: Clark's shooting was one of the main factors that motivated California lawmakers to improve the state's criminal justice system. But this shooting is far from the only catalyst, as it is just one of the latest incidents in a long and sad history of police brutality. A notable case occurred in February of this year when six officers shot at an aspiring rapper who was just taking a nap in his car in California. And in June, two Los Angeles Officers approached an unarmed man in his parked vehicle and shot him 34 times. He was one of four victims of police shootings in Los Angeles on that day alone. The police brutality in California has taken its toll on the residing citizens
In an effort to not only bring healing to the community but also prevent fatalities caused by improper police culture in California, Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 392 (AB 392 The California Act to Save Lives) into law last August 19.
AB 392 The California Act to Save Lives is one of the country's strictest laws to tackle the issue of police brutality, as it regulates the use of force used by police. In the past, one of the biggest criticisms regarding police brutality was that the California Penal Code, which dates back to 1872 and hasn't been updated since 1957. It also has loose regulations that allow officers to inflict lethal force.
And once AB 392 The California Act to Save Lives comes into effect right at the start of 2020, much of the language of that law will be amended. The new law redefines when law enforcement agents are permitted to use deadly force, as it states they can only do so when "necessary." In contrast, the current definition of when force is allowed is when it is deemed "reasonable."
What is the Public’s Reaction on " AB 392 - The California Act to Save Lives"?
The bill is said to be a pioneering force against the police brutality epidemic in the country, but not everyone is happy. Critics of AB 392 The California Act to Save Lives, which includes social activists and the families of victims, claim that it is not comprehensive enough to bring powerful reforms to the state's police culture. Many find that the language of the new law is still too vague and that it would still be difficult to criminally charge officers who exert unnecessary lethal force.
The bill has been criticized as having muddled terminologies that will not really affect law enforcement in a substantial way, and only serves to pacify grieving communities. Its main contribution — and one drawing the most backlash — is that it changes the police's ability to act based on “reasonable belief” to use deadly force only when absolutely "necessary." Many believe that this will not make a real difference in the widespread police brutality in California, and accuse policymakers of being scared of "being too tough on police."
In fact, Mother Jones reports that the prominent activist group Black Lives Matter has withdrawn its support for the bill since it believes that it won’t bring about substantial change. These are all important factors to consider, as Brandon Sample notes that state courts can still erroneously deny rights to individuals and not uphold the spirit of the law.
On the other hand, although Stephon Clark's brother, Stevante, agrees that the bill is "a little watered-down with the changes," he still believes that this small step is a sign of progress. To him, the new law opens up the conversation around this pressing public issue.
Will it Be Effective Against Police Brutality?
Across the country, police brutality remains a puzzle that many states are trying to solve. Arizona, for instance, has also been taking legal steps towards fighting police brutality, as their state legislators have made it a requirement to document any time an officer points a firearm at someone. Meanwhile, the New York police department's commissioner dismissed the officer who held Eric Garner in a chokehold, which eventually led to his demise.
Police brutality is a global problem as well, with countries like Kenya, Brazil, and the Philippines facing complications with police enforcement every single day. The Economist notes that police brutalities in these countries "are as common as water," and are even celebrated by the general public. The steps taken in California are minuscule compared to the global policies needed for regulating police enforcement, but they are, for many, still steps in the right direction.
Although it falls short on some elements to aid the epidemic, this bill passed by California is a great stepping-stone towards healing the nation's police brutality-inflicted wounds. We cannot forget that these wounds are deep, which is why it is crucial for states to implement laws that address these problems in police culture. If they prove to be successful, further measures to support the fight against this epidemic can be undertaken at the federal level, too.
Contributed By: Holly Thea
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