California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s announcement that he had begun to implement a new law — which he helped write as an Assembly member — requiring his office to investigate fatal police shootings is one more landmark for criminal justice reform in the Golden State.
It comes on the heels of then-San Diego Assembly member Shirley Weber winning historic approval in 2019 for the state law she wrote to limit the circumstances in which police may use lethal force, an action in response to officers killing unarmed people — often Black men — in dubious circumstances.
The San Diego Union-Tribune Editorial Board, which strongly supported Weber’s bill, has long believed that the great majority of police officers are constructive and crucial to public safety. But we have also argued that the legal system and close ties between police agencies and prosecutors have made it difficult to impossible to hold officers accountable for awful decisions that have left people dead.
In 2021, thankfully, we have a state whose leaders have struck a better balance on what is acceptable — or at least legal — police conduct. Unfortunately, we still have a state where Bonta said he expects to investigate 40 to 50 fatal police shootings each year based on trends. That must change, too.