Op-Ed: Dangerous Sacramento proposal puts lives at risk

By Vince Fong and Jed McLaughlin

Our law enforcement officers go to work every day knowing they face constant uncertainty and danger on the job serving our community. Any incident and response, whether it is a traffic stop or a domestic violence call, can lead to injury, accident, and even death. Unfortunately, Sacramento has proposed a bill — AB 392 — that will make law enforcement’s job even harder by limiting an officer’s ability to react to situations that require split-second decisions to be made to protect the public. AB 392 would change the definition for when use-of-force is needed from “reasonable” to “necessary.” This small change may not seem like much, but its implications for how it will change a police officer’s ability to react to dangerous situations are huge.

Under AB 392, a police officer’s use of their weapons will be judged from the comfort of hindsight when everything can be explored in detail and not by uncertainty and constantly changing conditions often encountered in life-or-death situations. Instead of relying on their rigorous training, officers will constantly be second-guessed, which will make their jobs even harder. Law enforcement is already trained to use certain tactics and weapons when appropriate. AB 392 assumes that the professional judgement of our peace officers of when to use these tactics should be managed by Sacramento politicians rather than be experts on the front lines.

Recently, AB 392 passed the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee on a party line vote as it moves through the legislative process. We must continue to foster collaboration and improve peace officer training to minimize the use of deadly force. But the bill, in the real world, will make law enforcement’s job even more dangerous and require standards that are not always feasible. At a time when public safety concerns are on the rise, we must work with our law enforcement to protect our communities.

There is no discussion of improving training, techniques or how this legislation will protect the public overall. AB 392 assumes that law enforcement has not attempted alternative actions, such as warnings, verbal persuasion, or other non-lethal methods of resolution. We should support our law enforcement by giving them the resources and the tools to do their job effectively rather than placing undue burdens and mandates that could lead to hesitation on the job and possible injury or death.

Officers do not go to work hoping for violence or confrontation, but that is an unfortunate reality of the law enforcement profession. Police officers have been trained to do everything else first before reaching for their weapon: assess and de-escalate situations, use alternative methods of apprehension, and seek resolutions to hundreds of different scenarios thrown their way.

This divisive legislation is not the solution that helps the safety of our communities. Law enforcement works to protect us each and every day. We must stand together and oppose AB 392.

— Vince Fong is the California state assemblyman representing the 34th district. Jed McLaughlin is the Ridgecrest Chief of Police.