Nowhere near done on police reform

A downtown Sacramento business boarded up during police reform protests displayed a slogan chanted by demonstrators. (Photo by Foon Rhee)

Editor’s note: Sacramento’s citizens commission is working on more proposals to weed out bad cops and hold officers accountable

The Sacramento City Council and Police Department haven’t adopted all the recommendations made by a citizens advisory panel in 2018 and 2019.

But the Community Police Review Commission isn’t waiting around to work on more proposals—not in a year marked by months of protests calling for police reform and for justice for George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Breonna Taylor and others.

On Monday evening, the commission discussed a draft proposal that calls for pushing changes in federal and state law, revising police department policies and ending a contract with a controversial company.

The potential recommendations from an ad hoc committee include ones to:

  • Support state investigations into all use-of-force incidents. On Sept. 30, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill requiring the state Attorney General’s office to investigate killings of unarmed civilians by police. The legislation took five years of work by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, who renewed his push after Stephon Clark was killed by Sacramento officers in March 2018.
  • Push to change state law to decertify bad cops, permanently stripping them of their badges. A bill to do that failed to make it out of the Legislature this year. Newsom signaled support for the bill in vetoing a less far-reaching bill requiring the state to keep track of officer dismissals and to finish investigations of officers who resign.
  • Support a change in federal law to limit legal immunity for police officers. The Democratic majority in the U.S. House passed a bill named for Floyd that includes this proposal, but the Republican Senate and White House are blocking the legislation.
  • Urge the Sacramento Police Department to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy that calls for firing officers who lie during investigations or on police reports; use prohibited restraints; refuse to take drug tests; or display racial hatred.
  • Call on the department to automatically suspend officers who use lethal force against an unarmed person, even when it does not result in death; to establish mandatory minimum levels of discipline for failing to de-escalate confrontations, for intentionally turning off body-worn cameras and for other violations of department policy; and to create a point system leading to discipline for officers with repeated complaints.
  • Require officers at all traffic stops or other encounters with the public to make available a business card with their name, badge number and phone number to make a complaint; and put officers’ names, badge numbers and photos on the department website. Both ideas were suggested by City Councilman Allen Warren.
  • Revise the police department’s hiring policies to identify and reject applicants who have a serious use-of-force incident or a pattern of incidents on their record, or who have lied during investigations or in reports. Newsom signed a bill requiring law enforcement agencies to evaluate prospective officers for any potential biases including those related to race, religion or gender.
  • End the police department’s $150,000 annual contract with Lexipol, a California-based company that provides policies on arrests and training to law enforcement agencies in 35 states and the vast majority of those in California. While the company says it saves departments time and money by keeping up with court decisions and legislation, critics say that its vague policies protect officers from being held accountable and that Lexipol has warned against reforms to reduce excessive force, according to a story in The Appeal.
  • Make a new inspector general independent of the Office of Public Safety Accountability and report findings directly to the mayor and City Council. The inspector general has not been hired yet.

UPDATE: The ad hoc committee plans a public hearing via Zoom from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 18 to receive feedback on its proposals and receive any other ideas. The commission is also seeking feedback from the Police Department before its next meeting on Nov. 9.

The committee plans to present its final recommendations by December. If the full commission endorses the ideas, they will go on to the City Council. And if the council approves, many of the proposals will likely have to be negotiated with the police officers union.

Mario Guerrero is chairman of the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission

During the police reform debate earlier this year, Mayor Darrell Steinberg and council members pledged to take the commission’s work more seriously.

On July 1, the council also adopted Steinberg’s police reforms: creating the inspector general to investigate police shootings, deaths in custody and any use of force resulting in death or serious injury; and moving toward a new civilian corps to respond to non-criminal 911 calls, including those involving homeless and mentally ill individuals.

On July 8, Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued a second set of recommendations for Sacramento police, including requiring its officers to deescalate confrontations with residents and completing a comprehensive study on apparent racial disparities in use-of-force incidents.

Community Police Review Commission Chairman Mario Guerrero, who is on the ad hoc committee, says Sacramento must do even more on police reform.

“We cannot remain silent, and we cannot simply say we will do better,” he wrote in a commentary for SN&R. “We must push for change now.”

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1 Comment on "Nowhere near done on police reform"

  1. So tell me those of you who only blame the police and no one else for these shootings, why is criminality not part of the discussion? Because as was the case with George Floyd, he was high on Fentanyl and had just committed a crime which caused someone to call the police. I am not defending the actions of that cop but the whole thing never should have happened if Floyd was not high and had not committed a crime. Breonna Taylor is another senseless tragedy but clearly there is evidence that she had been dating numerous drug dealers and receiving and holding their drugs. Given that the cops did announce themselves and were fired upon first by her BF it is her BF’s fault that the whole thing happened. Should the cops have just walked away after one of them was shot? Really?

    Add to that the fact that young black men between 15-30 commit over 50% of all violent crimes and that in every single case where an armed or unarmed black man has been shot by the cops, they were under the influence, chose not to comply to police orders, and ended up physically attacking the cops, why is this all the fault of the police? So are we to simply ignore crimes being committed? Are we to ignore the calls for help made to the police which has happened in every single case as well? If I was a cop and was called to the scene of a crime and it involved a violent and high black man I would drive away. Is that what you people want? The folks who would suffer the most would be law abiding black people, which most black people are!

    So instead of looking in the mirror and accepting that much of this is due to black babies being born into fatherless homes which is the case in 74% of all black babies, and acknowledging that young black men commit a hugely disproportionate amount of the crimes, you choose to blame the people whose job it is to keep law abiding citizens safe. This country is not systemically racist and most people of all colors are not racist and certainly most cops are good people! So stop perpetuating the lie that is the foundation of the BLM movement and actually address the problems that are causing interactions between the cops and blacks. But then again that would require honesty and actual hard work.

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