It used to be that in evaluating whether a police shooting in California was justified, courts would focus almost exclusively on the very narrow window of time when the police shooting happened. This meant that even if a police officer was negligent with his tactics -- in how he handled everything leading up to the shooting and possibly even acted in such an irresponsible manner that he set in motion a series of events that would almost inevitably lead to an otherwise unnecessary shooting -- the police officer would still get off the hook if he was justified in shooting at the instant he fired his weapon.
But in the 2013 case of Hayes v. County of San Diego, the California Supreme Court explained that when it comes to California negligence law (as opposed to federal Section 1983 law, for which the analysis is a bit different), courts and juries can look at a police officer's pre-shooting conduct to see if a shooting was justified. The Court in Hayes v. County of San Diego held that: "Law enforcement personnel's tactical conduct and decisions preceding the use of deadly force are relevant considerations under California law in determining whether the use of deadly force gives rise to negligence liability. Such liability can arise, for example, if the tactical conduct and decisions show, as part of the totality of circumstances, that the use of deadly force was unreasonable."
Now the LA Police Commission, the civilian watchdog of the LAPD, has actualized the holding in Hayes in its review of the police shooting death of Ezell Ford in 2014. LAPD Chief Charlie Beck found the shooting of the unarmed mentally ill black man to be in policy (no surprise). Ezell Ford was shot and killed after he was detained by two police officers for doing nothing more than walking away from the officers in a neighborhood that happened to have a high crime rate and gangs. The LAPD justified the shooting based on allegations that Ezell Ford had reached for one of the officers' guns. Whether or not that happened, the LA Police Commission asked the key question -- did the officers have any legal justification to stop Ezell Ford in the first place?
And the Commission concluded that the officers did not have justification to stop Mr. Ford and that the subsequent shooting was unreasonable and out of policy: "The BOPC evaluated Officer A’s use of deadly force with consideration to the totality of the circumstances, and not just the moment in which the force was used. In considering that totality, the BOPC found that the deficient tactics used by Officer A, and the legally inappropriate detention of the Subject that led to the subsequent altercation, rendered the use of deadly force unreasonable and out of policy."