SACRAMENTO – It was a historic day as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a bill that was created to address the number of Black and brown people who are killed at the hands of law enforcement officers.

“392 is now law in the state of California,” Newsom said as he put pen to paper outside the Secretary of State’s office, a stone’s throw from the State Capitol. 

Gov. Newsom was flanked by lawmakers who pushed the legislation and families who have been demanding change since losing loved ones.

Among them were Assemblymembers Dr. Shirley N. Weber (D-San Diego) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), who co-authored the bill and the family of Stephon Clark, the 22-year-old father who shot and killed by two local police officers in Meadowview on March 18, 2018 after they mistook his cell phone for a gun. It was in the weeks following Clark’s death that Dr. Weber and McCarty brought forth their original bill, AB 931, saying that “enough was enough,” that far too many people were dying throughout California and beyond.

“We had the responsibility to do something,” Dr. Weber said.

“It was not enough for these young people just to be marching in the streets…and for families to be caught in a circle of pain, and us to do nothing,” she continued.

The new law, she says, “changes the culture of policing in California” in that it says that an officer can only use lethal force when it is absolutely necessary to prevent imminent or serious bodily injury or death to the officer or to someone in that immediate community. Under current law, most officer-involved shootings are found to be justified when an officer simply states that he or she opened fire or used lethal force because they “feared for their lives.”

McCarty said people questioned their sanity at taking on the bill and taking on law enforcement.

“We knew this was a reasonable proposal to restore and build public trust in our communities across California and it wasn’t crazy,” he shared.

McCarty spoke of Rodney King, whose brutal beating by officers in Los Angeles was caught on videotape and shown across the world. He also spoke of local Black men who have been killed at the hand of local law enforcement, including Joseph Mann, Mikel McIntyre and Stephon Clark. 

“We can’t get his life back, but the Clark family was committed to make sure that he didn’t die in vain and fought for this measure,” McCarty shared.

While the Clark family did not speak during the signing ceremony, beside calling out his name while pumping their fists and holding his photo, his mother Sequette Clark and brother Stevante Clark, were among the families who met with the governor beforehand. Other families included those of Willie McCoy, recently shot 55 times by Vallejo police officers; Oscar Grant, who was killed by a BART police officer in Oakland and is the inspiration behind the film “Fruitvale Station;” and James Rivera, a 16-year-old shot 29 times by Stockton police in 2010.

“The road to enact AB 392 has been winding and full of obstacles, but the need for us to go down that road has been quite clear,” shared Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, who helped introduce the bill.

“As the list of the dead grew longer and longer, their voices grew stronger and stronger. The cries of those who never got an opportunity to seek justice became deafening and their voices and the voices of their loved ones and their neighbors overcame the protests of those who had delayed our arrival up to this point,” he continued.

Like Rendon, Gov. Newsom admitted that there is much work that remains.

“Program passing is not problem solving,” Newsom said.

“It’s one thing to sign a piece of paper, pass legislation. It’s another to change hearts and minds, to change culture, to change the way people conduct themselves, to hold themselves to a higher standard. That’s the work that’s in front of us. That’s the work that’s inside of us. That’s the work that we collectively as a community need to manifest at the peril of missing this moment and missing the point of this moment.”

For the full story and photos, see this week’s issue of the Sacramento OBSERVER.

By: Genoa Barrow | Senior Staff Writer

Photo by Russell Stiger, Jr.