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In January 2020, the California Act to Save Lives (AB 392) took effect. This law is an important step forward in reducing police shootings in California—one of the most pressing forms of police violence affecting Black and brown communities in the state. In fact, police kill more people in California than in any other state—and at a rate 37 percent higher than the national average per capita.

AB 392 saves lives by addressing the use of deadly force by police officers. Prior to the passage of AB 392, police could use deadly force even if they had other options—so long as the use of force was deemed "reasonable."

Now, with implementation of the California Act to Save Lives, police officers may use deadly force only when necessary to defend themselves or others from immediate harm. For example, if a suspect is fleeing the scene of a suspected crime but is not judged a danger to others, the officer is prohibited from using deadly force to capture them. In addition, an officer is required to use de-escalation techniques, crisis intervention tactics, and other alternatives when feasible. In short, AB 392 holds officers accountable when deadly force isn't necessary.

As members of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action—a social justice organization dedicated to issues such as immigration reform, civil rights, and criminal justice reform—we have been concerned that the city of SLO was not in compliance with California state law because the policy continued to use the language of reasonable instead of necessary force. Why is this important? Because continued noncompliance puts our citizens at risk, especially those from our Black and brown communities. Noncompliance also puts our police at undo risk: Studies show that officers at agencies with stricter use of force policies are actually less likely to be killed or assaulted.

With the help of the ACLU and other community partners, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action SLO has worked alongside San Luis Obispo City Attorney Christine Dietrick and Chief of Police Rick Scott to bring SLO city policies into compliance with state law. Two years later, we all agree that our collaborative efforts have produced a much better policy. This revised policy also promotes de-escalation techniques and specifies more clearly when the use of deadly force is allowable.

We at Bend the Arc: Jewish Action SLO are proud of our collaborative efforts and we are hoping that other local police jurisdictions will use the city of San Luis Obispo's Use of Force Policy as a model in their own departments. We will continue to advocate for laws and policies that make our communities safer and more equitable for all people. To get involved, you can sign up at slo.bendthearc.us/sign_up. We hope you will join in our efforts. Δ

Elie Axelroth, Barry Price, Susan Dressler, Brynne Speizer, Ariela Gottschalk, Sari Dworkin, and Rabbi Micah Hyman are members of Bend the Arc: Jewish Action SLO. Send a response for publication to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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