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Drugs, Traffic, and Tear Gas

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Two Public Safety and Justice items at the BOS meeting on the Nov. 16th caught our eye, both related to increasing the amount of money that flows into increasing the criminalization of the residents of Sacramento County. The City, not to be outdone, approved an item allowing for the continued use of "less than lethal" weaponry for the SPD, as well as approving the SPD's acquisition of a new piece of equipment.

First up: Item 21 - Authorization To Accept Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area 2021 Supplemental Grant Funding (follow this link to the meeting agenda)

What is the Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking (CV HIDTA) Grant?

Congress created the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. This program identifies areas determined to be “critical drug-trafficking regions” of the US, and provides assistance to federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in the area. The purported goal of this program is to reduce drug production and trafficking in the US.

The Sacramento Sheriff’s Office (SSO) will occasionally receive supplemental grant funding during the grant’s duration. The SSO, which is the lead organization of the CV HIDTA, will then distribute those funds to participating organizations.

According to the meeting agenda:

CV HIDTA has over 130 law enforcement officers assigned to their task forces and has received over $5 million per annum (in both base and supplemental funding) over the past three years. The CV HIDTA will be entering its twenty-third year of funding. The CV HIDTA 2021 grant funding will be used for overtime, equipment, and supplies for sworn personnel assigned to the task forces and also the personnel costs of assigned administrative personnel.

The Board approved this request, providing $925,284 retroactive to the period of January 1, 2021, through December 31, 2022 to the SSO.

The reason we flagged this item as significant is because it demonstrates not only the Sheriff’s, but the entire Board’s, commitment to the failed, racist, and murderous War on Drugs. The fact that this item was on consent just shows how readily accepted dumping more and more money into “fighting the war on drugs” is in our community. This needs to change, and advocacy against providing funds for criminalizing drug use should continue moving into the new year.

Next up: Item 23 - Authorization To Apply For The California Office Of Traffic Safety, Selective Traffic Enforcement Program Grant Funding (follow this link to the meeting agenda)

This item (approved by the Board) approves the ability of the SSO to apply for the grant listed above, which will bring in more funding for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) policing.

This is the language used in the agenda:

The OTS STEP grant provides funding for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) checkpoints and saturation patrols. In addition, the funding is used for focused enforcement operations for distracted drivers, motorcycle safety, speed enforcement, pedestrian/bicycle safety, and click-it or ticket programs. These strategies are designed to earn media attention, thus enhancing the overall deterrent effect.

We just want to emphasize the following statement: These strategies are designed to earn media attention, thus enhancing the overall deterrent effect.

This is yet another example of the County supporting the provision of funds to the SSO for failed and racist policies and tactics. Traffic enforcement is biased and overcriminalizes BIPOC folx.

Don’t believe me?

See this July 2021 report from the Center for Policing Equity that provides the stats to prove it:

Some important findings listed below:

This funding is pointless, increasing media attention for DUIs and other types of traffic violations will not serve as a deterrent effect. It will continue to serve to punish and overcriminalize, just like the first item we discussed.

City of Sacramento 12/14/21 - Item 20

Item 20 pertained to a specific piece of legislation:

Assembly Bill 481 requires a law enforcement agency (LEA) to obtain approval from the applicable governing body, via adoption of a “military equipment” use policy by ordinance, prior to the LEA [law enforcement agency] funding, acquiring, or using military equipment.

Basically that means that the SPD has to get approval from the City Council before using any equipment that is considered "military grade".

Below you can find the SPD's "justification" for using military grade equipment (as found in the agenda doc):

These tools have been tested in the field, and are used by LEAs to enhance citizen safety, officer safety. Loss of these items would jeopardize the welfare of citizens and peace officers within the SPD

It's absolutely WILD that the SPD can claim, and the City Council can get on board with, the thought that this equipment does anything for citizen safety. In what world? All this equipment does is enhance the SPD's ability to harm and kill folx living in our community, especially our BIPOC community members.

The ask from the SPD before the Council was two-fold. First, they wanted permission to keep using all the military grade equipment they already have. Second, they wanted permission to obtain a NEW piece of military grade equipment - the Rook.

The an armored vehicle on a tracked platform that allows officers the mobility to gain better view of suspects from a safe position and introduce less than lethal options when dealing with violent offenders.

*Below you can see an image of the Rook in action

That definitely seems like a piece of equipment that the SPD absolutely must have, right?

This is what the SPD had to say about all continued access requests:

There are no reasonable alternatives to the items listed below

Amongst the equipment the SPD said there was "no reasonable alternative to" were tear gas and pepper balls.

The following text is what the SPD said about these weapons:

Tear gas and pepper ball: Tear gas and pepper ball are less lethal methods used to address violent or riotous crowds when there is a risk of physical safety. They are also used to safely extract a suspect from a fixed location or safely detain a suspect who poses a risk of violence to officers.

As we know - and which has been repeatedly demonstrated over the last couple of years - these are NOT safe weapons to use against citizens. Fun fact - tear gas is banned from use in military conflict. However, that doesn't stop law enforcement agencies across the country from using it.

So what did the Council do?

Predictably they gave in to all the SPD requests. One spot of bright news was that Councilmembers Valenzuela and Vang voted against the passage of this item. Props to them, and let's make sure more folx aligned with those values are elected into office.


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