The compromise on AB 392, attempting to set parameters for the use of deadly force by police, meant recognizing that the police felt they were being suffocated by changes in California law.

The debate over AB 392 centered around the use of deadly force by police–when it was “necessary” or when it was “reasonable” and how those terms would be defined. Valid objections have been raised about police shootings and the reaction to certain shootings for change, especially from minority communities, and from the legislature was understandable.

The response from the police to the initial strict standards under early versions of the bill was also understandable. Not only because of genuine concern for officers’ safety but because of law changes that continually complicates and frustrates the job of policing. Consider Propositions 47 and 57 for example when police arrest criminals who soon are back on the streets.

The police mounted a campaign against AB 392 that included phone calls to voters asking them to call their Assembly members to vote no. The phone message said the bill threatened officers with prison for making split second decisions.

Danger doing police work will never go away and officers cannot reasonably function by fearing both the loss of their life in pursuing a possible criminal and the loss of their freedom in serving prison time for making that split second decision.

There is that word again: Reasonable. It is a hard line to define, but one that must take in the urgent circumstances surrounding the job.

While legislators felt that something had to be done to counter the reality of some police shootings that, in hindsight, were revealed to be unwarranted, legislators realized they were also dealing with police organizations on the brink of exasperation, not a healthy place for the police to be.

Some have questioned whether the bill compromise neuters the measure to a point where it no longer achieves the desired goals of seeing cops more cautious before shooting.

However, moving the bill raised the debate to an urgency level and reminded the police about the serious community concerns of those they serve. This has certainly been an evolving process and great advancement has been made since the high profile Rodney King incident in Los Angeles: Police wearing cameras; establishing community policing; treating the public with respect.

While members of different communities need to feel safe, so do the police. You can’t have an effective police force if the police feel threatened. To use a word batted around in the debate, compromise on the bill was necessary.