The union representing rank-and-file officers in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) says a measure moving through California’s state capitol intends to incarcerate cops.
“This bill will either cost police officers their lives, or their jobs,” said Robert Harris, a director with the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), in a video recently posted across the union’s social media platforms. “This bill was written by the ACLU and other criminal apologists.”
“The ACLU wants cops prosecuted and jailed,” he continued.
California’s “Police Accountability and Community Protection Act,” also known as Assembly Bill 931 (AB 931), would amend the state’s penal code by raising the standard for when law enforcement can use deadly force — a proposed change that the ACLU did, in fact, help craft. Current law allows the use of lethal force whenever an “objectively reasonable” officer would have done so under the same circumstances. This bill would authorize police to use deadly force only when it is “necessary.”
“Reasonable will now be insufficient,” explains Robert Parry, a Southern California-based consultant to law enforcement officers. “Actions that would now be deemed legal because they are reasonable may soon result in jailing cops because they were not ‘necessary.’”
The bill would allow prosecutors and courts to scrutinize police officers’ split-second decisions, examining whether they might have had other options to address a perceived threat that did not require lethal force. A more restrictive use-of-force policy would entail reviewing the “totality of the circumstances” after the fact. If the measure is passed, police departments can discipline or fire a cop who uses deadly force that is later determined to have been unnecessary, and in some cases, the local District Attorney could file criminal charges against law enforcement officers.
“This bill is Monday morning quarterbacking at its worst,” Harris said. “Someone can always argue that there is something else that could have been done prior to a use-of-force incident. It’s that serious.”
Police chiefs acknowledged they were "dumbfounded" by the suggested measure and criticized its authors for not consulting with law enforcement groups before writing the bill. Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), one of the lawmakers who introduced the legislation, says more criminal charges against cops is not the goal. However, co-sponsors like the ACLU and other anti-police activist groups have long advocated for the dismantling of the criminal justice system while demonizing law enforcement agencies — including the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC).
The ACLU recently teamed up with the YJC to sue the City of Los Angeles, stopping the LAPD from enforcing nearly all gang injunctions. Last year, YJC’s lead organizer was caught deceiving California lawmakers while testifying before a public safety committee — misinformation that was repeated by at least two state senators. Still, several elected Democrats continue to work with the group on legislation affecting approximately 40 million residents in California.
The Anti-Police Terror Project (APTP), another co-sponsor of AB 931, is headed by Cat Brooks, a candidate for Oakland mayor who is also involved with the National Lawyers Guild. In 2016, she launched a campaign to defund the Oakland Police Department and “reinvest that money in alternative non-police programs.”
“If we’re ever going to get to a place of abolition, we’ve got to start being brave, risky and imaginative enough to start taking money out of policing and putting it into community based models like restorative justice,” Brooks is quoted as saying.
APTP is part of a statewide alliance established to “respond radically” to police injustices in California. The coalition also includes official Black Lives Matter chapters in the state. It formed earlier this year after the officer-involved killing of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old black man fatally shot by Sacramento police who said they mistook the cellphone in his hand for a firearm.
After almost two weeks of community protests over Clark’s death, California legislators revealed AB 931.
“It always blows me away when law enforcement fear for their life only when they’re facing black and brown people,” said Sen. Steve Bradford (D-Gardena), who is a principal co-author of the bill. “It blows me away when black and brown men and women don’t even get to the jail. They don’t even get a chance to be arrested.”
The ACLU and other progressive groups supporting the bill are planning a day of action in Sacramento on August 13 to lobby government officials.
The measure is opposed by nearly every law enforcement group in California.
Follow Jeffrey Cawood on Twitter @Near_Chaos.