Recently I praised the California legislature for their work in bridging the divide between the police and the communities they serve. AB392 was a bill which raised the standard for police use of force, especially lethal force when dealing with suspects. The bill raised the standard from what a reasonable officer would do in certain situations to “necessary”. In other words, if and when an officer in California uses lethal force and the suspect dies as a result, the courts will determine if the actions taken by the officer leading up to the deadly encounter were necessary. The California legislature has not outlined exactly “necessary” means. This means that it will be left to individual courts to fact find, and determine if the given circumstances the officers’ actions were necessary and if he/she had no other choice but to resort to deadly force. Unfortunately, we can only wait and see what and how the courts will decide those cases.
In my opinion, considering all of the backlash law enforcement has been getting in relation to the numerous unarmed shootings of people, especially black people, across the country, this was a good idea. It attempts to bridge the divide and give the people what they want, hopefully, less deadly encounters with police. It forces officers and departments to take a look at their training and determine the best methods to bring satisfactory outcomes, instead of death and more protests.
Recently the California legislature went a step further in their P.R. campaign (this is my opinion of course) and signed into law SB192. This law repeals the mandate that if an officer requests (demands?) assistance from a citizen and the citizen refuses to help the officer, then the citizen can be arrested. In truth, I’m on the fence about this law or the removal of the law.
Legally and even concerning the court of public opinion, I can see why the legislature took up this controversial law. Demanding that a citizen interrupt their day, risk life and limb to come to an officer’s aid is not something they signed up for. Imagine a father who leaves a double shift at their job and is returning home to see his wife, children and enjoy a hot meal. While en route to his home he sees an officer who needs assistance on the side of the road. You can imagine any scenario which requires additional help; the officer is trying to pull an unconscious victim from a burning car or maybe the officer is attempting to take a violent suspect into custody. The father may not be in the best physical or mental state to help the officer no matter what the scenario. Should the father face criminal prosecution for refusing to aid the officer? Until now that same father faced arrest and most likely a fine for refusing to help.
I hear the argument, “the officer signed up for the job”, or “I don’t get paid to do that”. And I agree, but here’s where I begin to see the other side of the coin and wish to pose a different perspective on the argument. Do you, yes YOU, wish to live in a society in which it’s permissible morally, not to help your fellow man/woman. I’m afraid of the slippery slope argument coming on here. If today we don’t have to help an officer, then maybe tomorrow we will not help a firefighter, paramedic or just an ordinary citizen. Again I’m making a moral argument and not a legal one. I completely understand that it’s rather absurd to force someone to help an officer and face stiff penalties if they don’t. An arrest means that someone will be forced to take a day off from work, possibly hire a lawyer and stand before a judge answer the charges of not aiding the police.
My argument again is the moral implication of living in a society which is ok with driving by stranded motorists, passed out victims or what have you and continuing on their merry way. Is that where we want to live? Is that the society we want to live in?
I wish for all people to consider the possible ramifications of going down this rabbit hole. I will leave you with two simple reminders. Number 1) the same society that allows you to drive by people and refuse to help them is the same society which will allow them to drive by you in your time of need and 2) the police are people and members of our society. True they have issues and trust needs to be reestablished, but they deserve our assistance when called upon.
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