Is the Standard for Law Enforcement to Use Reasonable Force About to Change in California?
A California State Senate committee has recently moved forward a piece of legislation that could affect when police are legally allowed to use deadly force. If it passes, officers could only use fatal force in a situation where it is necessary to prevent imminent injury or death. In a state – and country – where the use of deadly force by police officers has come into question, this should be a heated debate.
A look at the current standard
One of the reasons that people believe the standard for using force needs to be updated is because it has been so long since it was instituted. How long? The last update was in 1872. That makes California the leader in having the longest-reigning use of force doctrine in the country.
The way the law is written today, an officer is hardly ever charged or even punished if they are involved in a shooting. When they are charged, there is rarely a conviction, partially because the standard for using deadly force is “reasonable fear.” Essentially, this means that if an officer can be found to have a reasonable fear that they should be afraid for the safety, then they can use deadly force.
It is not surprising that this can leave a lot of room open for debate. Most people have heard about recent cases, such as that involving a man holding a cell phone who was gunned down by police who believed it was a gun. Activists pushing for an update to the hope that changes can help keep both officers and suspects safer.
Lawmakers are aiming for less escalation
Those who are against making any changes to the reasonable force law, or who at least do not support today’s suggested reforms, say that police officers will be less likely to take action even when it is necessary due to a worry that their action will be perceived badly. They say this could put both the officers and the public at risk.
Lawmakers who support the changes readily acknowledge that officers have difficult jobs. They say that the new law would make their jobs easier and put them in fewer life-threatening situations because it would involve less escalation – which reduces the chances that the suspect would use force against the officer.
Where do you stand?
If you have been affected by police actions and are currently charged with a crime, The Mattern Law Firm can help. Contact our offices at 310-342-8254 now for a free legal consultation. Whether a charge of murder, a charge of a theft crime, or anything in between, we are here to help. We will consider all aspects of the alleged crime, the police behavior, and all other relevant factors to find the best possible outcome for your case.