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California Attorney General issues reform recommendations for Sacramento Police Department

Among the guidance is studying the racial disparities that have led to Black residents making up 43% of local use-of-force incidents but only 13% of the population.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released recommendations Wednesday for changing policies and practices within the Sacramento Police Department.

These are the second set of reports to come out by Becerra. The initial reports were released in January of 2019 which focused on use of force incidents and recommended banning chokeholds as well as "any body position that intended to cut off the flow of oxygen."

"This is about being accountable and meeting the call for change," Becerra said. 

 The Sacramento Police Department said it has implemented 59 of the initial reports' 66 recommendations thus far.

The second report focuses on evidence-based recommendations. Some of the "key" recommendations include:

  • Revising use-of-force policy to closely follow intent of Assembly Bill 392, which restricts the use of deadly force to only instances where the officer believes "that such force is necessary to defend against an imminent threat."
  • Prioritizing de-escalation tactics by including this type of training in all use-of-force training. The report said this is particularly important as multiple incidents by the Sacramento Police "involved individuals who failed to comply with orders but did not otherwise pose any danger."
  • Call to conduct a study to understand racial disparities as African Americans were involved in 43% of Sacramento police's use-of-force incidents between 2013 and 2018 but only made up 13% of the population.
  • Expand partnerships with mental health and social welfare professionals.
  • Reevaluate personnel misconduct categories to ensure SPD’s misconduct classifications are specific and accurate.
  • Allow supervisors to directly refer officers into the early intervention program, in order to address any problematic performance patterns without being required to wait for a triggering event.
  • Ensure that all recruitment materials emphasize messaging aimed at attracting ideal candidates who are motivated and equipped to serve the public and step away from military and war-themed marketing.
  • Regularly assess which parts of the hiring process disproportionately affect underrepresented groups.

These reports come a week after Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the Sacramento City Council approved $5 million to put towards new police reform initiatives that focus on two major proposals: the creation of an inspector general and overhaul of the 911 response system.

Becerra said he hopes these reports can be looked at by other police departments statewide and are part of an effort to set up a "national standard" for reform.

The reports initially began in response to the Sacramento police shooting death of Stephon Clark in 2018, which the Attorney General deemed lawful.

"The [shooting death of Stephon Clark was] plain and simple, a tragedy," said Becerra. "But we already know this effort has helped to make a difference."

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But activist Berry Accius wonders if Clark's death was lawful, why did they decide to implement change?

"You don't sit there and flip flop from your decision making," Accius said.

Accius said these new recommendations are, simply, not enough as they do not hold police accountable.

"If I read [these reports] as a police officer, I'd be like, 'Alright. Whatever,'" said Accius. "If I read it and it said I'll get fired, I'll [lose my] pension... I'd say, 'Oh. I'm not doing anything.'"

He wants to see policy where there's outlined retributions to certain actions by police.

"These policies don't mean anything if they're not executed in a way where citizens see, 'OK, it actually works,'" said Accius. "That police officer doesn't get a paid vacation. That police officer is fired, immediately."

Follow the conversation on Facebook with Andie Judson.

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