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Sacramento votes to overhaul 911 response, create inspector general to oversee police

Sacramento city leaders held a special meeting Wednesday evening to decide whether or not to allocate millions towards two major proposals regarding police reform.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After more than five hours of discussion and a fiery public comment, the Sacramento City Council voted to allocate millions toward proposals that would restructure 911 response and create an inspector general position to oversee police.

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced the new police reform initiatives after weeks of pressure following local and national unrest stemming from the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by Minneapolis police.

Police reform in Sacramento has been a work in progress since the high-profile police killings of Joseph Mann in 2015 and Stephon Clark in 2018. The city has since adopted a new use-of-force policy and reestablished a community police review commission three years ago, which offered recommendations for change. 

But members say they saw little action following the recommendations. It’s something that Steinberg acknowledged in Wednesday's virtual public hearing.

"Your commission should feel like their work is being taken as it should be- with utmost seriousness," Steinberg said.

RELATED: Sacramento activists say 'slow progress is better than no progress' after Mayor Steinberg proposes police reform

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A large focus of Steinberg's proposed reform is an overhaul of the 911 response system, which fielded 400,000 calls last year and has seen a 14% increase in mental health calls.

Steinberg's proposal is developing a department separate from police that would respond to most non-criminal incidents, such as mental health and homelessness crises.

He said if police don't have to use as many resources to respond to all calls, the money saved will be reallocated to other areas to help with this new initiative.

"We have the opportunity to shift those resources to a new city department," said Steinberg.

The other proposal is the hiring of an inspector general who would independently investigate cases in which police officers kill a citizen or use excessive force.

But many remain suspicious of these proposals, especially as the inspector general position falls under the Office of Public Safety Accountability which was previously created to try and help transparency.

"We, as a community, don't look at this being enough," said community activist Berry Accius. "I think enough is for us to understand the true transparency, the true consequences and what are the consequences for the officers - that has always been lost in the shuffle."

Others say it's a good first step, but hope the end goal will truly be changing systemic racism — something that's no easy task.

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"They want to change a hundred years of bad policing. So I really applaud the mayor at continually elevating this conversation," said Les Simmons. "I think we have to do a deep search that the changes are proposed really go far enough to save Black lives."

The city council also discussed moving $750,000 to gang intervention resources following a spike in activity during the pandemic.

Additionally, part of the special meeting was used to address Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's handling of police shooting and use-of-force investigations.

It's been an ongoing point of contention in the Sacramento community as District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert has never prosecuted or charged a police officer.

"I don't think the district attorney should be investigating officer-involved shootings and misconduct, I just don't," said Steinberg. "It's too close."

The council voted to formally endorse Assembly Bill 1506, introduced by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), which would hand over those investigations to the attorney general.

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WATCH MORE: Sacramento district attorney has never charged a police officer since she was elected