On Tuesday, California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill that permits adults to refuse to help a police officer who needs help making an arrest.
The bill, SB 192, sponsored by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, (D-LA), was written to repeal the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872; Hertzberg called the old bill a “vestige of a bygone era” that forces citizens into “an untenable moral dilemma,” as reported by The Sacramento Bee.
The bill states:
Existing law makes an able-bodied person 18 years of age or older who neglects or refuses to join the posse comitatus or power of the county, by neglecting or refusing to aid and assist, as described, in making an arrest, retaking into custody a person who has escaped from arrest or imprisonment, or preventing a breach of the peace or the commission of any criminal offense, after being lawfully required by a uniformed peace officer or a judge, guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to punishment by a fine of not less than $50 nor more than $1,000.
This bill would repeal that provision and make conforming changes.
The California State Sheriff’s Association, which opposed the bill, stated, “There are situations in which a peace officer might look to private persons for assistance in matters of emergency or risks to public safety and we are unconvinced that this statute should be repealed.”
The Bee noted, “The law was cited as recently as 2014, when the Trinity County Sheriff’s Office invoked posse comitatus in its defense during a lawsuit filed by a man and woman alleging they were deceived into responding to a dangerous 911 call on the office’s behalf.”
Existing law authorizes a peace officer to use reasonable force to effect the arrest, to prevent escape, or to overcome resistance. Existing law does not require an officer to retreat or desist from an attempt to make an arrest because of resistance or threatened resistance of the person being arrested.
This bill would redefine the circumstances under which a homicide by a peace officer is deemed justifiable to include when the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that deadly force is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person, or to apprehend a fleeing person for a felony that threatened or resulted in death or serious bodily injury, if the officer reasonably believes that the person will cause death or serious bodily injury to another unless the person is immediately apprehended.
The word “necessary” was the key change; as the San Francisco Chronicle noted of Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, (D-San Diego), who introduced the bill, “Weber argued that current law on when police could open fire was too broad. That standard, established by the U.S. Supreme Court in a pair of cases, considers whether a ‘reasonable’ officer in a similar situation would have acted the same way.”
The Chronicle continued, “Law enforcement organizations lobbied against the bill’s language directing police to use deadly force ‘only when necessary in defense of human life.’ They said it would put officers in danger by causing them to second-guess themselves in circumstances that call for split-second decisions.”