California Dolphin: statewide California news

AB392 will save lives and prevent future tragedies

On April 5, 2018, my cousin died in a sea of police bullets in a Walmart parking lot in Barstow, California. Four officers fired 30 shots at the car Diante was driving before tasing him and leaving him to choke on his own blood. One of the officers who shot at Diante was previously charged with a hate crime for using racial slurs and attacking a man in 2010.
Diante, or Butchie, like we called him affectionately, was a family man who would give his last nickel to make sure everyone else was okay. My cousin had a contagious smile and loved singing R&B songs at the top of his lungs. When Diante wasn’t playing basketball or football with his friends, he was spending time with his family. Only 26 years old when he was killed, Diante was selfless and loved his three beautiful daughters more than anything in the world.
Every memory I have of Diante is a fond one. But he was taken from us because police in California are allowed to shoot people even when they have alternatives to deadly force.
Even more tragic is that my story is not an exception, but is the norm amid an epidemic of police violence in California. Every year, countless families like mine suffer the pain of losing someone as amazing, kind, and funny as Diante because our police departments have some of the highest rates of killings in the nation. In 2017, California law enforcement killed 172 people, half of whom didn’t have guns. Of the unarmed people California police killed, three out of four were people of color.
Before losing Diante, I never considered myself to be someone who cared about politics. Now, I know that inaction is not an option; especially when we have the chance to do something.
The California Act to Save Lives (AB392) will save lives and prevent tragedies. It updates California’s outdated use of force standard to ensure that police officers avoid using deadly force at every possible opportunity. This bill provides a clear definition for when officers can use deadly force — only when responding to an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury, and when there are no other options. I believe that a law like this could have saved my cousin’s life.
Several police agencies and law enforcement organizations have recommended or already adopted stricter use-of-force standards similar to those proposed under this bill. Seattle, for example, saw a reduction in the number of use of force incidents after adopting a standard similar to the one in the California Act to Save Lives, without seeing any negative impact on public or police safety.
Why are San Bernardino’s elected leaders not supporting this common-sense law that will make everyone in our community safer? I want to feel protected by law enforcement, not fear for my life because they mistake my phone for a gun or shoot into a vehicle that I’m in because of the color of my skin. Our legislators can help save lives by making sure law enforcement is trained to use de-escalation tactics before shooting and taking a person’s life.
Now, more than ever, we need all California legislators to be bold and vote for AB 392, the California Act to Save Lives. Police officers should always do everything in their power to preserve life. And when they unjustly kill someone — they should be held accountable. We need our elected leaders to stand up for California communities and pass AB 392, a common-sense law. It won’t bring my cousin back, but hopefully it can prevent other families from experiencing the pain of losing someone they love.
Ciara “CiCi” Hamilton is a Barstow community organizer and family member of Diante Yarber.

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