BY JULIE ROBERTSON SPECIAL TO THE SACRAMENTO BEE
APRIL 17, 2019
Bullets travel 2,500 feet per second. That doesn’t leave much time for police to debate various response scenarios and second-guess their decisions when confronted by deadly force.
But that’s precisely what Assembly Bill 392 would require. The lawmakers backing this misguided legislation are demanding that we do the impossible — or die trying. If we don’t, AB 392 threatens us with prison for making split-second decisions when lives are at risk. This is dangerous and unreasonable. I know from personal experience.
I’m a Sacramento County Sheriff’s deputy who survived a “split-second” encounter in which I was shot and my partner was killed. It happened fast, but it’s a nightmare that will haunt me for the rest of my life.
My partner and I had responded to a call about a disturbance at a local auto store, in which an unruly customer was causing trouble. When we arrived on scene, we approached the subject inside the store. There was no indication he was armed or had a weapon.
As we approached, he immediately backed up and began moving erratically, as though he were preparing to run. My partner headed toward the front door to block him, while I tried to stop him from the opposite side. Suddenly, there was a gun, followed almost immediately by a deafening boom as the suspect fired.
What followed was a terrifying and deadly firefight. The subject shot my partner in the head and back, then continued firing. I immediately returned fire and took action to defend my partner, the store’s employees and customers, and people in the neighboring stores. I was shot but kept fighting. Like every cop I know, I take my sworn oath to protect and serve seriously.
But under AB 392, my decision to stay and protect customers and other “innocents” could be challenged and second-guessed, with criminal prosecution a very real possibility for me. Why didn’t I retreat? That was clearly an option.
Perhaps the shooter would have simply left. Of course, he might also have shot every other person in the store, then continued his deadly rampage in neighboring stores. I had seconds to decide without the luxury of hindsight, under deadly and chaotic circumstances in which people were dying.
AB 392 is Monday-morning-quarterbacking at its worst — legislation that second-guesses public safety decisions based on emotion rather than reality. Rather than helping police make better decisions by improving training and clarifying use-of-force policies, AB 392 takes a punitive approach that turns cops into criminals while eroding our fundamental right to defend ourselves.
By slowing police decision-making in deadly situations when split seconds count, AB 392 endangers the lives of police and the safety of the people and communities we protect. AB 392 pretends to be about reforming the system. Instead, what it really does is ask officers to protect the public with both hands tied behind their backs.
Julie Robertson is a Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy.