Legislation advancing in Sacramento could reduce the safety of Manteca Police officers as well as citizens.
City leaders made that point last week when they unanimously went on record opposing Assembly 931 titled, “Criminal Procedure: Use of Deadly Force by Police Officers”.
“Should this law change as proposed, our officer’s responses to emergency situations will be greatly compromised,” noted Manteca Police Chief Jodie Estarziau. “Instead of assessing and responding instantly, our officers will be forced to satisfy a number of new requirements regardless if they are in a life or death situation.”
The council concurred.
Councilman Mike Morowit said legislating a “split second decision is ridiculous.”
The current legal standard for using deadly force handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 1989 decision notes there must be “allowance for the fact that police officers are required to make split-second judgments in circumstance that are tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving-about the amount of force that is necessary in a particular situation.”
Estarziau in a memo to the council said “if our officers cannot respond to life and death situations until backup arrives or are forced to employ a checklist during rapidly advancing and extraordinarily dangerous situations, ultimately everyone involved is placed at a higher risk.
“To be clear, the current standard is not a “green light” for officers to use deadly force whenever they please. Our training focuses on resolving each incident with the least amount of force. We expect our officers to preserve life at every call.
“Policies and procedures guide officers to assess any situation they might find themselves in within imperfect time frames, and this legal standard ensures they act only as we would expect any officer to react.
“At the end of the day, none of us want to see force used. It is always a last option, but unfortunately is a part of keeping our community safe.”
Councilman Richard Silverman related when he worked as a reserve officer in the Bay Area he learned to appreciate what law enforcement officers go through when faced with potentially life and death situations.
“Its life and death and we’re talking about your life,” Silverman said of officers placed in such situations.
He added that there he had to draw a gun on a suspect noting that dangerous situations can evolve quickly.
“Luckily I didn’t have to fire my weapon,” Silverman said.
Mayor Steve DeBrum said rank and file law enforcement officers aren’t pulling any punches when it comes to the proposed bill.
DeBrum said he’s heard officers say “if this bill goes through we’re out of law enforcement and leaving California.”
Existing law authorizes a peace officer to use reasonable force to affect the arrest, to prevent escape, or to overcome resistance. Existing law does not require an officer to retreat or desist from an attempt to make an arrest because of resistance or threatened resistance of the person being arrested.
The proposed bill would, notwithstanding that provision, require peace officers to attempt to control an incident by using time, distance, communications, and available resources in an effort to deescalate a situation whenever it is safe and reasonable to do so.
Under existing law, the use of deadly force resulting in the death of a person is justified when it was necessarily committed in overcoming actual resistance to an arrest, when it was necessarily committed in apprehending a felon who had escaped from custody, or when it was necessarily committed in arresting a person charged with a felony and who was fleeing from justice or resisting arrest.
Existing case law prohibits the use of deadly force by a peace officer unless, among other criteria, there is a reasonable fear of death or serious bodily harm to the officer or another.
This bill would limit the use of deadly force, as defined, by a peace officer to those situations where it is necessary, as defined, to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death to the officer or to another person, as specified. The bill would prohibit the use of deadly force by a peace officer in a situation where an individual poses a risk only to himself or herself. The bill would also limit the use of deadly force by a peace officer against a person fleeing from arrest or imprisonment to only those situations in which the officer has probable cause to believe that the person has committed, or intends to commit, a felony involving serious bodily injury or death, and there is an imminent risk of serious bodily injury or death to the officer or to another person if the subject is not immediately apprehended.
This bill would make a homicide committed by a peace officer justifiable only if the use of deadly force by a peace officer was consistent with the aforementioned provisions.
Under existing law, a homicide is justified when a person is acting in self-defense or defense of another, as specified.
The bill would make this defense unavailable to an officer charged with manslaughter whose actions were such a departure from the expected conduct of an ordinarily prudent or careful officer in the same circumstances as to be incompatible with a proper regard for human life.
Police officers argue that the proposed language essentially makes them personally liable for using deadly force even in quickly deteriorating situations of an argument — they call is second guessing — can be made another outcome could have been attained.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com