Daniel Hahn brings community policing tactics to Sacramento

Jeff vonKaenel

Daniel Hahn, a former Sacramento police captain and most recently the Roseville police chief, has accepted a conditional offer to take over the reins of the embattled Sacramento Police Department.

Having grown up in Sacramento’s Oak Park, Hahn is known for his commitment to community policing. He is an excellent choice for police chief.

We need new leadership in the Police Department. The police rank and file are reportedly upset with the lack of public support as well as their compensation. The department has lost community support because of controversial police shootings and perceived selective law enforcement against minority residents. Hahn faces many challenges. The biggest challenge may be rebuilding public trust in the department.

In July 2016, after police shot and killed Joseph Mann near the SN&R office, Sacramento Police Chief Sam Somers stated that police had no choice but to shoot him. The Police Department’s spokesperson said that the two officers had been following department protocol when they shot Mann. Several months later, police dashcam video and audio showed that the two officers tried to run over Mann and then shot at him 18 times. This incident and the police response to it hurt the department’s credibility.

In April, 2017, another video went viral of a police officer repeatedly punching a young black man after he had been stopped for jaywalking. The Sacramento Bee released statistics showing that, while blacks compose 15 percent of the North Sacramento and Del Paso Heights population, they receive roughly 50 percent of jaywalking citations given in those neighborhoods. A police spokesperson told The Bee that jaywalking citations had “absolutely nothing to do with race.”

Oh, please.

We need a professional, well-respected police force that has the support of the community. We need community policing. Minority community members should feel safe when they see a police car, not fearful. The Police Department wants the public to turn in its bad apples. At the same time, the Police Department needs to police itself.

I am a 66-year-old white businessman living in Land Park, where the police are almost always respectful of me. However, many years ago I was a longhaired UCSB student living in Isla Vista during the Vietnam War protests. Back then, my interactions with the police were very different.

I remember one night in particular when I saw eight officers, who I believe were from the Los Angeles Tactical Squad, kneel behind a row of bushes and use high-powered hunting slingshots to hurl ball bearings at students in front of a dormitory. It was 15 minutes before the nightly curfew.

Sometime afterward, riding my bicycle one sunny day, barefoot and shirtless, I was pulled over by a sheriff’s deputy. I assumed he was going to harass me. The officer calmly explained that I was riding on the wrong side of the street and that I might not be seen by drivers looking the other way. He did not give me a ticket. He warned me and moved on. That was community policing at its best.

Daniel Hahn knows that he has work to do. As he said in a recent interview with The Bee, “If a community believes that the officers who work in their community are their partners and they care, anything is possible.”

We need his kind of leadership.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.