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AB 392

Each week, LA Progressive’s editors pick what they regard as a particularly insightful comment from one of our readers, both to draw attention to one particular reader’s thoughts and to encourage more readers to weigh in with their opinions. This week’s pithy "Feedback Friday" response comes from Richard Latham, who commented on the article by Dahlia Ferlito, "The Road Toward Justice Is Long: AB 392 Is One Step Along the Way.

I cannot support AB 392 or those who do. A much, much better approach to reducing police use of force is SB 230.

AB 392 is a danger to police and the community at large. AB 392 allows an officers action to be judged by facts that come to light after a use of force. A officer should not have to wait to see the muzzle flash of a suspects gun. In low light situations, like the Stephon Clark shooting, when pursuing a suspect who has already tried to evade, refused orders to stop and show hands, but instead ran down a driveway and around the corner of a house when confronted, an officer must make a decision in a millisecond. Mistaking something in a suspects hand for a gun is easy to do and waiting could cost you your life.

The Clark shooting is sad, and repeated too often. But under AB 392 the officers involved would be judged by facts that were not available to them in the moment.

The Clark shooting is sad, and repeated too often. But under AB 392 the officers involved would be judged by facts that were not available to them in the moment. For those who think that is fair I say then don’t be concerned if criminals are not pursued and are left on the street to harm innocent people.

I am already aware of police officers having second thoughts about pursuing suspects if they can’t determine immediately that they pose a danger. AB 392 will cause more harm than good. SB 230 would standardize use of force policy statewide and provide much need training in de-escalation and dealing with mental health issues.

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The facts are if Clark had stopped running when officers first came in contact with him, if he had obeyed and showed his hands as ordered while he was still in the driveway in plain sight, he would be alive today.

As you may suspect this issue is personal to me. My son-in—law works in law enforcement. I have done ride-alongs with him many times. I have seen him convince a suspect to drop a gun, another to drop a replica gun, all without shooting the suspect. These events don’t ever get headlines. In the small fraction of police interactions that result in use of force judgements are made all too often after the fact, or worse by people who have a cause (credible or not).

A case in point is Michael Brown. The Black Lives Matters movement got much of its start from that incident. To be clear, I am totally opposed to unjustified use of force as are overwhelming men and women in law enforcement. I suggest anyone who thinks the Brown incident was not justified to read the US Attorney Generals report on the incident.

The evidence clearly shows Brown tried to reach for the officers gun while the officer was still in his patrol car. When Brown charged the officer once the officer was outside the car he was shot. The department did not issue tasers to its officers and the officer was not going to go one-on-one with a large suspect who had already tried to get his gun once.

I would be the first to admit that there are too many tragic police shootings and some may need to be pursued as a crime if the evidence warrants. But it is unfair to base the decision on evidence that came to light after the fact, rather than use the standard of what did the officer know in the moment.

Certain segments of society, and in general the media, judge the actions of police from a preconceived perception that the police always act with malice. This is simply not true and only serves to perpetuate mis-trust.

I know of an officer who shot a suspect who turned out was not armed, but who had pointed a black pistol grip hose nozzle at the officer. Once again it was a low light situation and I strongly suspect it was suicide by cop. The individual had a long history of drug issues and his family had been estranged to the point of filing a protective order to keep him away. The suspect was killed and the officers life has been racked with debilitating guilt.