SF Prosecutor Supports AB 392 and Changing the Law Regarding the Use of Deadly Force

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon speaks in 2015

While many police, law enforcement officials and prosecutors will be fighting against the passage of AB 392, an exception is outgoing San Francisco DA George Gascon.

Under AB 392 introduced by Assemblymember Shirley Weber, police should only use deadly force when they don’t have other options.  The measure is similar to a bill that did not get to the Senate floor in 2018, but in the aftermath of the decision not to charge the officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark, this bill has gained momentum.

The following is a letter from DA George Gascon dated March 5, 2019, to Assemblymember Shirley Weber.

RE: AB 392 (Weber) – Peace officers: deadly force – Support

Dear Assemblymember Weber:

I was pleased to see that you have re-introduced your legislation to amend officer use of force law in California. As the District Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco, and as a former beat cop and Chief of Police with over 30 years of experience in law enforcement, I was proud to support AB 931 last year and am proud to support AB 392 now.

By requiring that police only use lethal force when necessary, AB 392 will reduce fatal shootings. Such a change will require officers to use tactics that prioritize time and distance, which not only reduces the likelihood of a lethal force situation, it will also enhance officer safety. The vast majority of police officers are hardworking women and men who will never find themselves in a lethal use-of-force situation. Officers who are confronted with such a situation, however, are often inadequately trained in modern police tactics, and that can lead to the unnecessary use of lethal force.

Studies have revealed that jurisdictions with more restrictive use-of-force standards have the fewest officer-involved shootings per capita. Officers in jurisdictions with more restrictive use-of-force standards are less likely to be assaulted or killed. That’s what makes AB 392 a win-win; it will save lives by ensuring police are trained to only use force when necessary, thereby reducing the risk of serious harm to the public and police officers alike. Ultimately, it is both dangerous and difficult to police communities that do not trust you. This has been my personal experience, but the available research also confirms this.

Public safety is compromised when community members do not trust officers, and mistrust makes the job of being a police officer more difficult and more dangerous. AB 392 is a necessary to saving lives. Fewer police shootings and fewer police injuries is what makes AB 392 smart policy. I encourage you to contact me if I can be of assistance as I believe this is important policy that will enhance equity and safety for all.  California has the opportunity to lead the nation on use of force, and I am thankful for your continued leadership on this difficult issue.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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