Newsletter: After an emotional fight, new rules governing police use of force

Gov. Gavin Newsom, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and others gather on stage with families who have lost a loved one to police violence as the governor signs into law AB 392, a reform of California's use-of-force rules for law enforcement, on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019.
(Anita Chabria / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Aug. 20, and I’m writing from Modesto.

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On Monday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law that will change the standards for when police in the state can use lethal force. The signing of Assembly Bill 392 capped the end of an emotional legislative battle that “laid bare the chasm between California’s communities of color and police,” as my colleague state politics and policy reporter Anita Chabria wrote. (Chabria covered AB 392 extensively throughout the legislative process.)

The legislation, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, was prompted by police killings of unarmed black men, and the death of Stephon Clark in particular. Clark — an unarmed black man holding a cellphone — was fatally shot by Sacramento police in March 2018, sparking widespread protests and outrage. Clark’s brother Stevante Clark stood by Newsom’s side at the bill’s signing.


“The bill is watered down, everybody knows that,” Stevante Clark told Chabria. “But at least we are getting something done. At least we are having the conversation now.”

The law will give California some of the toughest police use-of-force standards in the nation. But a compromise that pacified law enforcement opposition earlier this year also led some of the bill’s earliest champions to drop their support, including Black Lives Matter Los Angeles.

“For 400 years, people of color have often had a different kind of justice than others in this nation,” Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), the law’s author, said. “And after 400 years of demonstrating our commitment and our humanity to this nation, we deserve fairness and justice.” Weber also said that the law could stand as a model for other states.

Here’s a quick primer written by Chabria:

What does the law do?

The new language will require that law enforcement use deadly force only when “necessary,” instead of the current wording of when it is “reasonable.” In large urban law enforcement departments that already train for deescalation and crisis intervention, day-to-day policing will probably not noticeably change.


The law also prohibits police from firing on fleeing felons who don’t pose an immediate danger, an update from California’s original code that dates back to 1872.

How will it help curb the use of lethal force?

Under current law, prosecutors can only consider the moment lethal force was used when determining if an officer acted within the law. Did an officer reasonably believe his or her life or bystanders’ lives were in danger in those seconds?

Under the new standard, prosecutors can also consider the actions both of officers and of the victim leading up to a deadly encounter, to determine whether the officer acted within the scope of law, policy and training. Opening up those tactics to scrutiny, supporters believe, will encourage departments to train officers in deescalation and other strategies that could decrease the use of lethal force and provide a potential path to accountability when it is used.

Weber, the bill’s author, said recently that AB 392 will be an “aggressive effort to retrain our officers and change the culture of police.”

[Read the full story: “Newsom signs ‘Stephon Clark’s Law,’ setting new rules on police use of force” by Anita Chabria]

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:



Deliberations in the closely watched Ghost Ship criminal trial will restart after the judge booted three jurors on what would have been the 10th day of deliberations. Those jurors have been replaced with alternates, and the renewed panel must disregard all earlier deliberations. The two defendants each face 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter stemming from the deadly Oakland warehouse fire that killed 36 people. San Francisco Chronicle

On Monday, a judge overturned Sheriff Alex Villanueva’s controversial decision to reinstate a deputy who had been fired for violating department policies regarding domestic violence and lying — a dispute that ended up pitting some of Los Angeles County’s most powerful elected officials against one another. The ruling settles the narrow question of whether the sheriff had overstepped his legal authority in this case. But it also bolsters the view of the L.A. County Board of Supervisors that it has authority to weigh in on controversial county employment decisions. The supervisors took the highly unusual step of suing the independently elected sheriff and his department in March, saying his rehiring of the deputy, Caren Carl Mandoyan, was unlawful. Los Angeles Times


A $100,000 bribe got a teen a UCLA soccer scholarship without even playing. Los Angeles Times

The Laemmle Theatre chain, Southern California’s 81-year-old, family-run arthouse cinema exhibitor, is reportedly up for sale. Los Angeles Daily News


Sweeping change is coming for L.A. County voters. If things go wrong, this man will get the blame. Los Angeles Times

More people are flying, but TSA lines at LAX are shorter. How did this happen? Los Angeles Times

“The room was like a vampire, forever hungering for fresh blood to suck.” A look inside the regular 14- to- 16-hour days, professional dynamics and all-night comedy alchemy of the “Friends” writers room. (Yes, “Friends” was written and produced in Burbank, not New York.) Vulture

And speaking of Hollywood writers... The Writers Guild of America has moved to dismiss its own state lawsuit against several talent agencies, as the union takes the case to federal court. Los Angeles Times

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Chicken pox and flu: Migrants are getting sick at the U.S.-Mexico border. San Diego Union-Tribune


California’s own House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is “emerging as an alternative ambassador abroad,” with a presence that resonates on the global stage. Associated Press

For 80 years, Frank Fat’s has been a “home away from home” for politicians in Sacramento. Los Angeles Times

Several Bay Area cities are poised to follow Berkeley’s natural gas ban. Berkeley became the first U.S. city to ban the installation of natural gas lines in new residential buildings last month. Now, San Jose, Santa Rosa and Petaluma are looking into phasing out natural gas in some new buildings, and San Francisco also has legislation on the horizon. San Francisco Chronicle


This Fresno councilwoman is challenging a fellow Democrat, incumbent Rep. Jim Costa, for his House seat. GV Wire

The fire-ravaged town of Paradise has hired a new disaster recovery manager. Laura Page, who will help coordinate the many projects identified in the town’s long-term recovery plan, previously served as a senior aide to Rep. Doug LaMalfa. Chico Enterprise-Record


The former mayor of Palm Springs has been indicted on corruption charges. The Desert Sun

A retired Cal State Fullerton administrator was stabbed to death on the first day of the university’s academic year in what authorities believe was a targeted attack. Los Angeles Times



A Salton Sea odor alert was issued for the Coachella Valley. The rotten-egg smell is caused by elevated levels of hydrogen sulfide. It could cause temporary headaches and nausea in sensitive individuals but no long-term side effects. The Desert Sun

Authorities are searching for a man who disappeared after riding his horse into the Merced River. Merced Sun-Star


A video showing a group of Orange County teenagers giving a Nazi salute as a German World War II-era song plays in the background has sparked outrage. Los Angeles Times

A domestic cockatiel made its way into Santa Barbara County Jail. And no one knows how the bird got into the fenced secure area. San Luis Obispo Tribune

UC Berkeley has only a single parking space with access to an electric charger, despite the school’s eco-conscious reputation — and 6,000 total parking spaces in university lots. (There are an additional eight EV charging stations in Stadium Garage, which is not operated by the university or included on the campus parking permit.) East Bay Times


The first dedicated “kombucha bar” has opened in the Bay Area. Berkeleyside

There are seven types of ads you won’t see on BART. Here’s why. SFGATE

Uber’s San Francisco office reportedly spent more than $200,000 a year on helium balloons to mark employees’ “uberversaries” (corporate lingo decoder: “Uber” plus “anniversary) at the company. They will be switching to stickers. Crunchbase News

A year after veteran mail carrier Peggy Frank died of overheating in her mail truck, here’s what U.S. Postal Service employees say is different at the Woodland Hills post office. Los Angeles Daily News

Arriola’s Tortilleria in Indio has sold tortillas longer than anyone in Southern California. KCRW



Los Angeles: sunny, 82. San Diego: partly sunny, 76. San Francisco: sunny, 70. San Jose: partly sunny, 77. Sacramento: partly sunny, 89. More weather is here.


Today’s California memory comes from Fred Gibson:

“In July 1960, I was a young soldier serving in San Pedro, California. My daughter had just been born in the San Pedro Hospital which is situated on a high hill. I was driving home after a long night with my wife at the hospital, and for the first and only time I ever remember, the air was totally — and I mean totally — clear without a particle of dust or smog in the air. I could see the entire section of California from the ocean to the mountains and thought I could almost touch the mountains. The colors and scenery were one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.