‘Don’t Shoot’: Thoughts on California Assembly Bill 931

by on August 7, 2018 · 0 comments

in California

I was just about to write down my thoughts on a meeting I attended a little while back, but I thought I’d check my email first so I could really settle in with what I wanted to say.

One particular email in my inbox got my attention right away: news the San Diego City Council hadn’t taken a step that was necessary in the process of readying an amendment regarding the creation of a Commission on Police Practices for placement on the November ballot.

They just let it drop. And although that’s shocking to me, I’m not the least bit surprised because, and I can only speak for the years I’ve been in San Diego since 1962, our City Councils, on the whole, have never been about much of anything beyond empty “America’s Finest City” kind of platitudes.

On this matter, only councilmembers David Alvarez, Georgette Gomez, Barbara Bry, and Myrtle Cole, supported helping our police department to better “serve and protect” all of us.

Credit: Stephen Melkisethian / Flickr

Chris Ward, a Democrat, voted against holding our police accountable along with his Republican peers on the Council, actions I see as shameful along with tons of other things in this Trump Era of republicanism wherein when all that’s good seems to be under attack.

Well, that takes me to the meeting I just alluded to, a meeting in line with what I’m going on about, one concerning Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s Police Accountability and Community Protection Act (AB 931).

Her ideas, for now, seem to offer about as much protection from the police as we can expect. They were crafted to update California’s deadly use of force standards, considering that more people die at the hands of police in California than in any other state.

In 2017, law enforcement officers shot and killed 162 people, half of whom were unarmed, and more than twenty other people lost their lives by other uses of force.

This says to me that the longer we allow police departments to police themselves the longer too many of us will have to cop, no pun intended, “Don’t Shoot” stances in situations that they shouldn’t have to.

Some will have to pray “Don’t Shoot” when they’re pulled over for some minor infraction like a broken taillight or rolling through a stop sign on an unbusy street.

Others will have to plead “Don’t Shoot” when they’re reaching for their ID.

A few will feel the need to cry “Don’t Shoot” when they’re holding their phone or anything “resembling a gun” or looking suspicious or ambitious or surreptitious or officious – the point is sometimes the police act too vicious…

And “Don’t Shoot” just because somebody committed a crime. Take him or her to jail and let them serve their time.

AB 931 gets at what I’m saying as it will “authorize police officers to use deadly force only when it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious bodily injury or death – that is, if, given the totality of the circumstances, there was no reasonable alternative to using deadly force, including warnings, verbal persuasions, or other nonlethal methods of resolution or de-escalation.”

AB 931 also will “establish that a homicide by a peace officer is not justified if the officer’s gross negligence contributed to making the force ‘necessary.’”

All that seems reasonable to me but the California Peace Officers Association (CPOA), of course, true to the history of many law enforcement organizations, is opposed to this assembly bill. And that, to me, makes its passage even more necessary, because these people, obviously, simply don’t care to improve themselves in the way that citizens want and need them to.

At the meeting, Assemblywoman Weber spoke of the tremendous amount of work that it took to put AB 931 together and the work yet to be done to make it a reality.

“It is past time for change, many lives depend on it,” she says. And other speakers said amen to that: Cephas Johnson (Uncle Bobby) whose nephew was shot in the back by a BART police officer, a case that was documented in the movie “Fruitvale Station”; Theresa Smith, whose son was shot from behind at a traffic stop; Bree (whose last name I can’t remember), a woman whose mentally ill uncle’s life was taken by the police…

I left the meeting feeling that whether or not this bill passes will depend on us citizens.

Everyone’s lives should be valued and anyone who would like to make “Don’t Shoot” passé, so yesterday, must vote on this measure on election day.

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