December 9, 2023

California adopts country’s strictest law to curb police killings

In a major victory Monday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the nation’s strictest law into legislation in a call to tighten parameters on police use of deadly force. Link to Bill AB 392

Sparked by nationwide outrage and protests after the death of Stephon Clark in Sacramento, California last year it sets a larger precedence where deaths of unarmed Black men are concerned.

On the night of March 18, 2018 Sacramento police officers Terrance Mercadal and Jared Robinet chased the 22-year-old Clark into what they later learned was his grandparents’ backyard. They fired 20 times when he turned around with something in his hand that turned out to be his cellphone.

Black Lives Matter and numerous organizers and citizens took to the streets that lead to a shut down of interstate highways and fueled months long calls for justice by players of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and Boston Celtics.

According to the private autopsy ordered by the family, Clark was shot 8 times including 6 times in the back which was heavily inconsistent with the Sacramento County Coroner’s report.

The Clark family retained National Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump of Ben Crump Law, PLLC.

On March 2, 2019 Sacramento County District Attorney announced that no charges would be filed against the officers in the shooting death of Clark and that the use of deadly force was legally justified.

Attorney Ben Crump looks at a diagram showing gunshot wounds to Stephon Clark during a news conference at the Southside Christian Center on March 30, 2018 in Sacramento, California. The legal team for the family of Stephon Clark, who was shot and killed by Sacramento police, held a news conference to announce their findings of an independent autopsy performed by renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu. The autopsy showed that Clark was shot eight times.  [Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
Attorney Ben Crump looks at a diagram showing gunshot wounds to Stephon Clark during a news conference at the Southside Christian Center on March 30, 2018. [Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

The bill’s lead author, Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, said the major elements of the bill “are still there, and they will make a difference in California and the nation.”

The new law will allow police to use deadly force only when “necessary” to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious injury to officers or bystanders.

It passed with bipartisan support after major police organizations won concessions and ended their vehement opposition.

“This is Stephon Clark’s law,” said his brother Stevante Clark, according to the Los Angeles Times. “The cost, the price that had to be paid for this, it hurts. I hate that this had to come out of such a tragic situation, but at the same time, it helps the healing process to know his name could possibly prevent something like this from happening again.”

It’s been more than past time that we wage a war against police brutality in more actionable ways and the Stephon Clark Law begins to implement more just measures and standards.

It may not save a life but it may shift the needle.

To the organizers and citizens who pushed and failed to relent against Black men being gunned down unjustly by Law Enforcement may the fight continue.

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