Settlement requires Pomona police to weigh alternatives to deadly force – Inland Valley Daily Bulletin

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The Pomona Police Department must instruct its officers to use more restraint in employing deadly force under the terms of a lawsuit settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union announced Tuesday, Nov. 22.
The department must follow a state law that took effect in 2020 that says deadly force may be used “only when necessary in defense of human life” and when alternatives are not safely available.
Previously, U.S. Supreme Court rulings dictated that officers could use deadly force only when it was “objectively reasonable.”
The ACLU sued Pomona in 2020 because, according to the lawsuit, the Police Department told its officers that “nothing has changed” as a result of the law, known as AB 392. Pomona was acting on the advice of the Police Officers Research Association of California, which had told the officers it represents that the law does “not significantly impact” the use of force, the ACLU said.
Pomona is required to inform officers that there is a “significant change in use of force threshold per AB 392” and that while objectively reasonable force may be used to prevent escape or overcome resistance to arrest, the standard becomes “only when necessary” when deadly force is required.
“We’re hoping that this settlement puts that question to rest,” Adrienna Wong, a senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California, said in an interview.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Police Oversight Starts Today, an activist organization whose members have been critical of some fatal shootings by Pomona police.
Pomona Police Chief Michael Ellis, in a written statement, said the city challenged in court the ACLU’s assertion it was not following state law.
“This settlement agreement memorializes our commitment to applying the most up-to-date (Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training) learning materials for our personnel. Additionally, our officers receive additional training that goes above and beyond POST-mandated hours, to include comprehensive de-escalation training and training on how to respond to those in a mental health crisis,” Ellis said.
Ellis added that the judge in the case ruled that the ACLU failed to prove that the department’s use-of-force policy contradicted state law.
The federal standards set by the Supreme Court decisions remain in effect, Wong said.
“It sets a higher standard for police officers in California,” she said. “The law says that in the lead-up to the potential use of force, an officer needs to consider whether there is anything he can do to maintain the safety of the situation without taking a life” such as de-escalating it or not unnecessarily putting himself in harm’s way.
The ACLU is hopeful that the higher standard will be applied in the field and not just on paper, Wong said. The Judicial Council, which is the policy-making body of California’s courts, and the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training, have both issued guidance on the new law that reflects a higher standard for using deadly force, she said.
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