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New California Law Says Police Should Kill Only When 'Necessary'

Published: August 20, 2019
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Source: npr.org

Police officers in California will be required to use lethal force only as a "necessary" response to a threat — not merely as an "objectively reasonable" one — under legislation that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Monday. Under the tighter standard, deadly force is legal only in instances where there are no other options.

"I'm ready to sign this damn thing," Newsom told the crowd at a ceremony in Sacramento. But before he did so, he invited the family members and loved ones of people who advocated for the measure to stand alongside him.

"I would be honored if you would join us up onstage," Newsom said.

Surrounded by dozens of people, the governor said he hopes the law, which takes effect in January, will become an example for other states.

"As California goes, so goes the rest of the United States of America," he said. "And we are doing something today that stretches the boundaries of possibility and sends a message to people all across this country — that they can do more."

The legislation emerged from a push for new rules in response to police killings of unarmed black men such as Stephon Clark, who was shot last year after a police chase that ended in his grandmother's backyard. The officers in that shooting said they believed Clark had a gun; he was found to have been holding a cellphone, and prosecutors said in March that the officers would not face criminal charges.

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