Newsom’s Folly

California has just passed a law that endangers every law enforcement officer in the state. Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law Monday and said it will “change the culture of policing.”

The main change is the word “reasonable” to “necessary.”

Supposedly the driving event behind the passage of this law was the justifiable shooting of Stephon Clark in Sacramento in March of 2018.

Police suspected Clark of breaking into cars (as reported to them by a PD helicopter overhead), and after catching him in the backyard of his grandmother’s house, they ordered him to show his hands. Instead he pointed something at the officers and moved toward them, and believing it to be a gun, officers shot and killed him. It turned out Clark was pointing a cell phone.

Of course, the protests started immediately. Black Lives Matter blocked Highway 5 and prevented fans from entering a Sacramento Kings game, and one week later players on the Kings wore warmup jersey’s with Clark’s name on them and the words “accountability” and “we are one.”

So now this new law is supposed to prevent the same thing happening again– remember, this was ruled a justifiable shooting by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.

Newsom said it was necessary to change the use of force standard because it “was so unnecessary from the perspective…of the vast majority of objective observers…”

At this point I have to question “the vast majority of objective observers.” The thing is, most people, including the “observers” have never been in a situation where they are faced with making split-second decisions involving the use of deadly force.

If you’ve never been in that situation, you have no right to judge. Period.

Then Newsom played the race card: “If you looked like me…” that situation never would have occurred. He is saying if Clark had been white and in the very same situation, he would not have been shot.

Yes, he would have.

Newsom is making the same judgment as those “objective observers.” And it’s not objective at all.

Newsom said officers shouldn’t be worried about this change in wording (from reasonable to necessary) unless they do not receive the training needed to support them in the change. Apparently California is ready to invest tens of millions of dollars in doing so.

You can train and train and train for about any given situation, and the first time it happens there’s no time to stop and think “let’s see, what do I do now?” In a deadly force scenario hesitation kills; it is very likely someone is going to die, and every cop knows this, and every cop hates this. But he must protect himself as well as the public from whatever life-threatening act is occurring to the best of his ability.

Susan Jones of CNSnews asked Newsom “What is the difference … when you’re training an officer to use deadly force only when it’s necessary as opposed to when it might be reasonable? What’s the difference?”

“Well, we’re about to explore that,” Newsom said, “because we’re going to invest an unprecedented amount of money, tens of millions of dollars, to move through a process of going, step by step, through de-escalation and focusing, now, with much more specificity, on changing the culture of policing.”

The new law says a police officer is “justified” in using deadly force “only when the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances that such force is necessary…”

And there’s the rub: The “totality of circumstances” is IMPOSSIBLE to know during the incident!!

Allow me to say that again: The totality of circumstances surrounding any deadly-force event is impossible to know or predict by the officers involved at the time of the event!

Only after the event is over and the investigation begins can all circumstances be discovered, if even then. Anyone or any law that implies otherwise is grossly misguided and misinformed. Most of all, people – lawmakers, lawyers, and observers – are inexperienced in deadly force circumstances, and that skews their ‘objectivity’.

Part of the law that gives the reasons (?) for lethal-force use says:

“Where feasible, a peace officer shall, prior to the use of force, make reasonable efforts to identify themselves as a peace officer and to warn that deadly force may be used, unless the officer has objectively reasonable grounds to believe the person is aware of those facts.”

I know most criminal types are not the smartest bunch of homo sapiens. But if a police officer in uniform is standing in plain site with his gun drawn and pointed at you, and says something like “Police! Don’t Move!” or “Show us your hands!” what should you conclude? What should you do?

If you do something stupid and make a threatening gesture with anything in your hand, there’s a chance of getting shot. And if it occurs in the dark, say about 9:30 PM in March, it increases that chance, and the color of your skin won’t matter, regardless whether the cop is black or white or purple.

Cops and deputies and sheriffs are not hired or elected to be social workers, but a lot of them do a good job even at that. They are there to enforce laws, reduce crime, protect the public, and promote the general welfare of citizens. Most of them do so and still maintain a respect for people even while seeing the seamy side of humanity day in and day out. Many of them are parents, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, even grandparents. They deserve better from the public they serve.

They don’t need laws, new or changed, that makes their job harder.

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