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California governor signs law tightening laws for police use of force

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Monday signed into law a bill that sets new rules on police use of force.

Activists called for the measure, which takes effect on Jan. 1, after a string of police shootings involving unarmed black men. Currently, law enforcement officers are able to use deadly force when it is "reasonable," but under the new bill, that changes to when it is "necessary." The law also updates a code that goes back to 1872, the Los Angeles Times reports, by prohibiting officers from shooting at fleeing felons who do not pose an immediate danger.

Supporters hope this will encourage police departments to train officers in de-escalation and other strategies. The law's author, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D), said it will "make a difference not only in California, but we know it will make a difference around the world." Newsom said the law means "nothing unless we make this moment meaningful. And so that is the goal and the desire of all of us, law enforcement and members of the community, to address these issues in a more systemic way, and that's going to take a lot more work than passing a piece of legislation."

Stevante Clark — whose brother, Stephon Clark, was shot and killed in March 2018 by Sacramento police while he was in his backyard, unarmed and holding a cellphone — told the Times the bill is "watered down, everybody knows that. But at least we are getting something done. At least we are having the conversation now."