In my April 6 column here on PJ Media, I mentioned the legislative effort in California to address police shootings and change the legal standard by which they are judged. Assembly Bill 931, bearing the Orwellian title of Police Accountability and Community Protection Act, would make it unlawful for a police officer to use deadly force unless it was “necessary.” It sounds reasonable, of course. After all, don’t we want police to refrain from shooting people unless it’s necessary?
But the question then arises: Necessary to whom? At their April 3 press conference introducing the legislation, the bill’s authors and other speakers made it clear. If a police officer’s use of deadly force is deemed to be unnecessary to them and to people who share their beliefs, that officer can expect to be prosecuted and, if not imprisoned, run through a years-long ordeal that will ruin him physically, emotionally, and financially. And this, they promise, will protect the community.
It will not.
In previous columns I have referred to the U.S. Supreme Court case of Graham v. Connor, which, along with Tennessee v. Garner, governs how any police use of force should be evaluated. For our purposes, the key passage of Graham is this: “The ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.” It bears reminding that the decision was written by then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist; there were no dissenting votes on the Court. In the world of the courts, this is as close as one gets to receiving the law at the top of Mount Sinai.
As of this writing, there is no text of AB 931 to be found on the Assembly’s website, but at their press conference we were informed that the utopians in the California State Assembly find the standard set forth in Graham to be unsatisfactory and thus now propose their own. Under ordinary circumstances, legislation that affects the police so significantly is drafted after consultation with organizations like the Police Officers Research Association of California. To date, no such consultation has occurred.
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