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New CA law aims to regulate police use of deadly force

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SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A new California law that aims to strengthen the standards for when police can use deadly force goes into effect Wednesday.

The California Act to Save Lives came after months of negotiations between law enforcement lobbying groups and civil rights organizations.

The new law will require police officers to get standardized de-escalation training.

The law was mandated as tensions rise over the use of police deadly force across the nation.

“The safest thing for our community as well as for our officers, is to be able to resolve situations without any type of violence,” said SMPD Patrol Sgt. Nate Totorica.

The Santa Maria Police Department says the bill doesn’t change much for them and their core philosophy already based on de-escalation strategies.

“Our philosophy has remained the same but some of the things we are doing to prepare officers have changed. For instance, every officer in our department is watching a post video that lays out the specifics of the training. We are also doing an eight-hour de-escalation training,” said Sgt. Totorica.

Some civil rights groups say the bill is watered down and won't do much to change the climate of what they call police brutality.

“A lot of the things that have been put in this AB392 Bill are things that we have already been practicing here at the SMPD for quite some time,” said Sgt. Totorica.

Small wording changes were added to the bill.

“Officers were allowed to use force when what was initially stated as reasonable now it's stated as objectively reasonable,” said Sgt. Totorica.

The Santa Maria Police Department took additional steps outside the state mandate.
For example, they plan to hire an officer whose sole purpose will be to respond to mental health calls.

“They will have a mental health professional riding in their car 40 hours a week,” said Sgt. Totorica.

The department added the health care clinician to help those with mental illness when those calls come in.

“This can help…maybe back to de-escalation, maybe being able to de-escalate the situation from a mental health perspective rather than a law enforcement perceptive,” said Sgt. Totorica.

Police hope to roll out the new mental health officer position early next year.

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Naja Hill

Naja Hill is a reporter for NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Naja, click here.

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