Changing Lethal Force Law Will Make Things Worse, Warn Valley Sheriffs

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims (left) and Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux (right)

FRESNO (KMJ/AP) — A proposal by California lawmakers to restrict law enforcement’s use of lethal force, is being branded unrealistic by a pair of Central Valley Sheriffs.

The suggestion was put forward on Tuesday in the wake of the killing of 22 year old unarmed man Stephon Clark. He was shot by officers with Sacramento Police Department in March after officers thought he was holding a gun; it was later established that he was holding a cell phone.

The legislation would change the current “reasonable force” rule to “necessary force.” The goal is to have more confrontations defused with less-lethal weapons.

“I understand that it’s just proposed at this point, but speaking for myself as the Sheriff, I stringently oppose the idea of the law,” said Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux.

“But having said that we’re in positions that we have to enforce the laws that are put in place. I can tell you that the training will completely change to the point that it will really, in my opinion, potentially endanger the community.”

Sheriff Boudreaux expressed concern that it would remove law enforcement’s ability to make snap decisions when necessary.

“I myself have been placed in situations where I in fact had to use lethal force and I can tell you that it doesn’t come easily. For those that think that these decisions are made easily when it’s time to use lethal force – it’s not.”

The proposed legislation could require officers to delay confronting a suspect until backup arrives, require explicit warnings to the suspect, or force de-escalation techniques to be attempted first.

“What they’re trying to do is legislate to the exception. That’s a problem when you do that,” said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims.

“That means you’re going to create a law for every single minuscule situation that there is, and that’s the wrong way to pass laws.”

Sheriff Mims added that lawmakers should consider the suspect in the scenario as well.

“Most of the time what we find out is if somebody had followed directions, it could have ended up in a situation where he might have been under arrest – but that would have been it.”

Hear the report from KMJ’s Dominic McAndrew as it aired: