By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – Several hundred people – including lawmakers, family of victims killed by police and celebrities – rallied for passage at the State Capitol Monday for what is being called the strongest use of force legislation in the nation. It has its first real political test Tuesday in an Assembly Committee.
AB 392 would reform how law enforcement officers respond to street situations, requiring them to use lethal force only when necessary to save their lives or the lives of others. It requires law enforcement to use alternatives – like warnings, de-escalation or other nonlethal methods before lethal force.
According to 2017 statistics, 172 Californians were killed by law enforcement – 47 percent of them Latino, according to Assemblymember Jose Medina (D-Riverside), a co-author.
“It hurts,” said actor Kendrick Sampson (of “How to Get Away with Murder” television show), in describing the feelings of those in communities of color who have been killed by law enforcement, often unarmed.
“All we are asking is let us live,” he said. “ It’s an epidemic,” Sampson said about police killings.
“They blame the victims, and there’s no accountability,” he said, adding “the deaths” make “us feel less safe.” He complained that communities of color are “overpoliced and criminalized” while in Beverly Hills “you can’t find a cop…like in the hood.”
Describing how those in some poor communities are “one cell phone, or wallet mistake” away from being killed, Sampson said it’s more about accountability than “just one bad apple” on the police force.
AB 392 will “preserve life…and stop state sanctioned violence” because it’s a “Black and Brown and White problem. This is gun control; police are shooting our families. Let us live,” Sampson said again.
Principal author Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) Monday implored a virtual army of ACLU sponsored lobbyists to talk to every lawmaker, and “challenge” the legislators by telling them voters “expect more of us.
“This is our time. The time is now,” said Weber, remarking that “this is an old, old story (and while) change is not easy….intimidation of our communities must stop.
“Don’t cry for me anymore,” Weber said to her colleagues in the Legislature. “I just need your finger to push that green button. Our heroes and Sheroes would be disappointed if we fail to stand up.”
She noted that the Black Caucus had made AB 392 a “priority bill,” and asked that the women, Latino, LGBT and other caucuses do the same.
“If they do, then this is a done deal,” said Weber, who admitted the bill is “not perfect….but nothing here is. The bill respects life (and it’s smart (because) law enforcement should never use lethal force unless it is to save a life.”
Ciara Hamilton, cousin of Diante Yarber, who was killed by Barstow police last year in a 30-shot hail of gunfire, was direct in her criticism of law enforcement.
“I knew police were racist in Barstow, that they planted evidence (but) they can now kill based on the color of your skin,” said Hamilton, who is Black.
AB 392 joint-sponsor Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) quipped “law enforcement would have you believe they would have to walk around with squirt guns if this bill passes…that’s a lie just like their television ads are a lie.
“Ninety-nine percent of officers don’t cross the line, but the laws protect those who do…we have to change the (law) books,” said McCarty, referencing those holding banners of the Black men killed in Sacramento over the past few years by law enforcement, including Stephon Clark, gunned down about a year ago holding only a cellphone.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert refused to prosecute officers, claiming the law was on their side.
Protest hit some kind of a peak when 22-year-old Clark was shot eight times (20 shots were fired) as he tried to enter a family house where he lived with only that cellphone.
The shooting of Clark sparked nearly daily protests at City Hall, and through the street of Sacramento and the NBA arena (two NBA games shut down with only a few 1,000 attending after protestors blocked entrances). To fan the flames, a Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff ran down a Stephon Clark shooting protestor and sent her to the hospital.
Law enforcement has been roundly criticized, from people in the streets to editorial boards of major newspapers, for not doing enough – or anything – to stop rogue officers who shoot first and ask questions later, using their weapons, often against unarmed civilians, without taking steps to de-escalate tense situations.