California Currents

New 2020 law #3: California limits when police can use deadly force

A Black Lives Matter protester stares at a California Highway Patrol officer during a protest in Sacramento following the police shooting of Stephon Clark in 2018. California lawmakers have struck a deal that will impose the nation's highest standards for use of police force on the state. (Photo by Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group, via CalMatters)

California police officers will soon have a new legal standard tightening the rules about when police can use deadly force.

Starting Jan. 1, police can legally use deadly force only when “necessary in defense of human life.” That’s a higher standard than prosecutors apply now, when officers are permitted to use such force when it is “reasonable.”

An iteration of the change was first introduced in 2018 after unarmed Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento police. The bill stalled until civil rights groups and police struck a compromise, securing passage in the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.

In this video, CalMatters political reporter Laurel Rosenhall  — who closely tracked the battle all year — breaks down the new law in 1 minute.

Between now and the end of the year, watch as CalMatters video producer Byrhonda Lyons and the CalMatters reporting team explain how various new laws will influence the lives of Californians. You can subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

* For more on California’s attempt to reduce police shootings, listen to Rosenhall’s “Force Of Law” podcast, available available on Apple Podcasts or other podcasting platforms.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.