Sacramento, CA – A coalition of Black Students has announced that it has organized a mass student walkout to demand legislation that would limit the situations in which police would be justified in using deadly force.
“March For Our Lives Too is a march in solidarity that distinctly addresses the thousands of victims of gun violence at the hands of the police departments across the nation,” Black Students coalition member Christine Hunter told the Davis Vanguard.
“This march is to call for policy and legislative reform,” Hunter declared.
Hunter said that the group has decided to hold the walkout at 12 p.m. on Thursday, in honor of the Black Panthers’ march 52 years ago.
The date was selected “to reiterate the demand the Black Panther Party initiated on May 2, 1967…when they marched on the Sacramento Capitol [building] to protest and demand an end to police murder and brutality in our communities,” Hunter said. “Over 50 years later we are reiterating this demand.”
The coalition of Black Students said its goal is to push for the passage of California Assembly Bill 392, knows as the “California Act to Save Lives.”
The bill would make it easier for prosecutors to charge law enforcement officers who use lethal force if it is determined that there were other options available, by changing the standard from “reasonable” force to “necessary” force, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the bill’s main author, said that the proposed law change would “clarify law enforcement’s obligations” in order to prevent “unnecessary deaths,” according to the paper.
Instead of using lethal force, officers should verbally persuade offenders to surrender, or should utilize crisis intervention skills or other de-escalation techniques, Weber’s team declared.
“This is an act to save lives,” Sacramento State University graduate Khalil Ferguson told the Davis Vanguard.
“The use of deadly force as it stands does not equally protect the lives of citizens and law enforcement…laws and policies protect the lives of officers above the lives of the citizens they are tasked to protect,” Sacramento City College student Josh Johnson added.
Johnson alleged that the current law perpetuates “inequity,” because officers are permitted to take another life to save their own.
Police then “claim” to have been in fear for their lives so they can avoid prosecution, he said.
Keishay Swygert said that law enforcement officers need to be held accountable for what occurs during their interactions with citizens.
“We can’t rely on citizens to follow the laws if the police aren’t even doing so,” Swygert continued. “Police need to report their [actions], and drug testing [of officers] should be mandatory.”
The “Blue Lives Matter” flag should also be “abolished to respect Black lives,” she added.
“We demand police demilitarization to create safer communities,” Swygert declared. “A peaceful protest should not escalate police force in riot gear in a military force manner.”
Hunter said that police need to be particularly gentle when dealing with mentally ill citizens who are “triggered” by the presence of law enforcement officers.
California Fraternal Order of Police lobbyist Shane LaVigne pointed out glaring flaws in the proposed legislation, and said it would establish an “impossible standard” that could only be applied in “hindsight,” The Sacramento Bee reported.
LaVigne noted that police frequently face “tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving” situations that require immediate action in order to save the lives of themselves or others.
The bill calls for “superhuman decision making” abilities that are “simply not possible,” he said.
“That hesitation will result in a loss of life,” Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey told The Sacramento Bee. “And I don’t think anyone wants that.”
The California State Sheriff’s Association (CSSA) said that the bill would also “discourage proactive policing.”
“Fearing repercussions ranging from employee discipline to criminal prosecution based on this new standard, it is possible that officers who today would purposefully put themselves in harm’s way to do their job might tomorrow decline to act,” the CSSA said.
The bill passed out of the public safety committee with a five-to-two vote on April 9.