Af­ter brother’s death, she backs use-of-force bill

The Fresno Bee (Sunday) - - Opinion - BY JEN­NIE RUIZ Jen­nie Ruiz, raised in Sanger, lives in Porter­ville and is a psy­chi­atric tech­ni­cian.

This past week marks seven years since my brother, Char­lie Sali­nas, was killed by Sanger police just one block from our child­hood home. Th­ese seven years have been filled with trauma, con­fu­sion, in­jus­tice — but now, fi­nally — hope for change. For the last sev­eral months, count­less fam­i­lies like mine whose loved ones were killed by the police have or­ga­nized and lob­bied in Sacra­mento for the pas­sage of AB 392: The Cal­i­for­nia Act to Save Lives — and we are on the brink of mak­ing history.

The Cal­i­for­nia Act to Save Lives is crit­i­cal leg­is­la­tion that will pre­vent tragedies by putting in place best prac­tices for use of deadly force. AB 392 up­dates Cal­i­for­nia’s out­dated use of force stan­dard to state that it must be “nec­es­sary” to use deadly force and police should pur­sue other op­tions than deadly force when­ever pos­si­ble. Had this been the stan­dard seven years ago, Char­lie could still be with us to­day.

My lit­tle brother was a good, gen­tle man who loved sports, the Marines, and his family. He was also a vet­eran who strug­gled with de­pres­sion and post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der. On the day he was killed, Char­lie called 911 and told the dis­patcher that he wanted to die. He was ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a men­tal health cri­sis; he needed help. In­stead, the police who ar­rived fired 22 bul­lets at him.

When Char­lie was shot, his hands were in the air and he was fol­low­ing in­struc­tions, but non-deadly op­tions were not pur­sued. Why does Cal­i­for­nia law al­low police to kill peo­ple when it is not nec­es­sary to pro­tect from an im­mi­nent threat?

For far too long, Cal­i­for­nia has ig­nored the prob­lem of police shoot­ings, and the dis­pro­por­tion­ate killings of black and Latino Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and those with dis­abil­i­ties. AB 392 fi­nally ad­dresses this prob­lem head on — with solutions we know work.

Re­form­ing our out­dated stan­dard is com­mon sense. Sev­eral police agen­cies and law en­force­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions have rec­om­mended or al­ready adopted stricter use-of-force stan­dards than what we have in Cal­i­for­nia. 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, while of­fi­cers have re­mained just as safe.

We give police of­fi­cers the most sig­nif­i­cant power we give to any public em­ployee — the power to kill. We must make sure police use that power ju­di­ciously, with re­spect to hu­man rights, with a be­lief in the sanc­tity of all hu­man life, and only when ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. We must also hold police ac­count­able when­ever they mis­use that power.

Un­der AB 392, courts will be re­quired to con­sider the of­fi­cers’ ac­tions lead­ing up to the use of deadly force. As a part of the STOP Coali­tion, I sup­port and ad­vo­cate with dozens of other fam­i­lies whose loved ones were killed by the police. In nearly every case, no one was held ac­count­able and no poli­cies were changed to pre­vent fu­ture tragedies.

Char­lie suf­fered a lot in his life, but he just needed help. My brother didn’t de­serve to be killed. He de­served com­pas­sion and re­spect for the sanc­tity of his life. Just be­cause some­one wants to die doesn’t mean police should shoot them.

If AB 392 passes, Cal­i­for­nia will go from hav­ing one of the dead­li­est use of force laws in the coun­try to hav­ing one of the most pro­tec­tive laws in the coun­try; and Cal­i­for­nia will be the only state to com­bine the “nec­es­sary stan­dard” with requiremen­t that courts con­sider of­fi­cers’ con­duct lead­ing up to use of deadly force in de­ter­min­ing its le­gal­ity.

None of this could have been pos­si­ble with­out the lead­er­ship and courage of count­less fam­i­lies who have lost loved ones to police vi­o­lence, and we will con­tinue to fight to make sure we can live with dig­nity and free from the fear of police vi­o­lence.

AB 392 is a step in the right di­rec­tion, to­ward greater ap­pre­ci­a­tion of life – in­clud­ing those who are sui­ci­dal and suf­fer­ing and to­ward jus­tice for our lost loved ones. This is how I honor my brother’s life, by fight­ing to make sure other fam­i­lies don’t have to go through what we have ex­pe­ri­enced. Pass AB 392 to­day — #LetUsLive.

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