Police reform push in California stops short of 'defunding the police' suggestion

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- California's top lawyer is pushing for some police reforms, but stopped short of joining a call for "defunding the police."

For nearly nine minutes, a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on George Floyd's neck.

As the man gasped for breath and died, three other officers let it happen.

California's attorney general wants to make sure police in this state don't act like any of those four officers.

"We're urging law enforcement statewide to immediately develop and implement policies as appropriate to require peace officers to intervene to stop excessive or unnecessary force by a fellow officer," said Xavier Becerra.

The state attorney general says he'll work with legislators and law enforcement to remove some of the deadly violence from policing.

He wants peace officers to give a verbal warning when feasible before shooting. He wants to prohibit officers shooting at or from moving cars. And he wants to require officers to use deadly force only as a last resort after other methods are exhausted.

Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said she's all for training to de-escalate and avoid violence, but she says her deputies should have maximum flexibility to use whatever methods they need to control suspects.

"It's a continuum where you react based on the force being used against you and so I think that's important that we don't create a ladder where you have to go from one step to the next because situations unfold very very quickly," said Sheriff Mims.

Part of Becerra's plan for police reform includes passing a law to decertify police officers for serious misconduct and forcing law enforcement agencies to finish internal investigations even after a peace officer resigns.

Mims says that's an idea with some merit.

"Nobody wants to work with or hire or as a community member wants to have law enforcement officials and police officers and deputy sheriffs who act in a way that's gross misconduct," the sheriff said.

Becerra and Mims also agree that 911 calls involving mental health or homeless issues might be better handled by people with more specialized training in those areas.

But as far as Becerra is concerned, that doesn't mean the state should "defund the police."

"I certainly do believe that we're all entitled to public safety in our neighborhoods and we need someone who will do that," he said.

Mims said she's worried nobody will want to do it if the job gets more dangerous through legislation limiting the options for officers.

One way it could be tackled is to remove qualified immunity - protecting officers from personal liability for lawsuits. Becerra didn't announce a push to do that, but when asked, he said it could be in the table as they search for solutions.
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