Chief praises slain officer, scolds California lawmakers

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SACRAMENTO — A police chief briefly scolded California lawmakers Monday for "making it more difficult for us" as he honored an officer whose slaying entered the national debate over immigration last year.

Newman Police Chief Randy Richardson spoke while praising Cpl. Ronil Singh, who immigrated from Fiji and was fatally shot early Dec. 26 after stopping a suspected drunk driver. Authorities say the gunman arrested after a two-day manhunt was in the country illegally and was preparing to flee to Mexico.

President Donald Trump cited Singh's killing in calling for tougher border security. The shooting reignited a debate over California's sanctuary law that limits cooperation by local authorities with federal immigration authorities.

"Ron knew he was the protector between good and evil — that evil could only thrive when good men and women do nothing. And the policies that are coming from across the street are making it more difficult for us to do things," Richardson said at the annual California Peace Officers' Memorial Ceremony across from the Capitol. "But yet I know, looking out at the sea of green and blue, that we will never stop."

Richardson would not elaborate after the emotional two-hour ceremony that also honored seven others killed in the line of duty last year and two who died decades ago. They include Ventura County Sheriff's Sgt. Ronald Helus, accidently shot by a fellow officer while he responded to a mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks in November.

The sanctuary law is among numerous laws passed in recent years to safeguard immigrants. Other recent laws passed by voters and lawmakers have reduced criminal penalties, while legislators this year are debating whether to toughen the standard for when police can legally use deadly force.

A pending Assembly bill spurred by the fatal police shooting of unarmed vandalism suspect Stephon Clark in Sacramento last year would allow police to kill only if they have exhausted non-lethal efforts to resolve or defuse a situation.

Also without elaborating, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, whose husband is a retired Sacramento police lieutenant, praised officers as "first to be on scene and almost always the second to be questioned."

Gov. Gavin Newsom did not take questions and spokesman Brian Ferguson declined comment after the ceremony filled with color guards, a pipe and drum corps playing "Amazing Grace," taps and a 21-gun salute. Hundreds of saluting officers and dozens of police horses and motorcycles jammed the outdoor ceremony where Newsom praised law enforcement as "one of the most noble of professions."

Democratic state Sen. Cathleen Galgiani of Stockton, who opposes currently proposed changes to the lethal force standard, said afterward that it is incumbent on lawmakers to be "very thoughtful and balanced" in trying to limit shootings by police while recognizing that officers are protecting communities.

It's important, she said, that "we consider whether there is need for change, but we also look at the cumulative effect of the policies that we're putting into place."

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