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Is the Sac City Council Finally Going to Listen to the Police Commission? Sorta. Kinda. (5/4 Mtg)

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

But Mayor Steinberg is trying to make a deal to make the most people happy

What happened was…..

Let’s just say…kudos to City Council member Mai Vang for representing District 8, at least trying before being bullied by the Mayor!!! And well…the Mayor exercised his strong Mayor influence in a powerful way…...but Dr. Flojaune Cofer brought some sense to the Mayor’s power play before the final vote and direction to the City Manager. The May 4, 2021 vote was to adopt the Mayor’s proposal as City policy for the City Manager to implement but allow input from the Commission at its May 10, 2021.

The Mayor and City Council’s adopted proposal to define Deadly force shall only be used as a last resort. Last resort means that peace officers shall use tactics and techniques that may persuade the suspect to voluntarily comply or may mitigate the need to use a higher level of force to resolve the situation safety.

The Commission’s recommendation: A peaceful officer is justified in using deadly force upon another person only as a last resort when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or are not feasible and the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that such force is necessary.

This is a follow-up to the April 23, 2021 City Council meeting where after three years, the Mayor finally brought forth recommendations from the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission (SCPRC) as an action item (12 recommendations selected by he and the SCPRC Chair). However, the Mayor did not follow the city’s process to do so, among many other things, proper public notice to the public of intended action to be taken. Hence, the matter had to brought back to the City Council with a properly publicly noticed staff report.

On to this meeting….per the staff report focusing on only one of the 12 recommendation – the Use of Deadly Force higher use of force standard as last resort…”The Mayor and City Council established the Sacramento Police Review Commission (the Commission) in 2016 to make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council regarding police policy, procedures, and best practices. (Sacramento City Code section 2.110.030.A) The Commission approved its recommendations at its February 8, 2021 regular meeting.

So why did the Mayor decide to modify the Commission’s original recommendation by issuing “Supplemental Material” to the staff report – after the item had been legally published for public notice? Rather than use the Commission’s recommendation of use of deadly force as the last resort, the Mayor chose to develop his own definition of the “last resort”. He indicated that this was his effort to gain consensus for the vote on the Commission’s recommendation (given staff’s rejection of the last resort higher use of deadly force standard.).

He further stated: “Maybe the City will deal with AB 392 at a later time.” Mind you, AB 392 aka “Stephon Clark Law” as watered down as is and represents state law on the minimum standard on use of deadly force. And as a compromise, the opposition bill put forth by law enforcement agencies was signed into law to provide law enforcement agencies with guidelines for implementing AB 392 and funding for training. Both AB 392 and SB 230 were negotiated and by consensus adopted by California Legislature and Governor.

The Mayor’s condition for discussion on the item was than his proposal not be word-smithed. Yet, he proposed to further wordsmith even his last minute Supplemental Material Memo!

Commission Chair Guerrero (Mayor’s appointee to the Commission) expressed his opinion on the Mayor’s proposed changes to the Commission’s recommendation on Use of Deadly Force as the “last resort” do not represent that of the Commission, as the Commission did not have an opportunity to discuss the proposed changes. However, he expressed satisfaction with the Mayor’s proposed changes.

Now to the staff report response to the Commission’s recommendation on the last resort higher use of deadly force standard. With all due respect to Chief of Police Daniel Hahn, language that SPD adopted from AB 392 into the Use of Force policy was confusing and inconsistent with the state law. But the response of the City Attorney’s Office (Susana Alcala Wood who indicated at the December 2019 Commission meeting that made her career in serving police departments) was unbelievable.

She actually quoted a statement that said: “ Requiring officers to find and choose the least intrusive alternative would require them to exercise superhuman judgment.” Then there was the HR Department response inferring that the last resort deadly use of force standard would require negotiations with the union. Without going into all of the reasons why the HR opinion was invalid, let’s just consider the San Francisco Police Officers’ Association lawsuit against the San Francisco Police Commission in which the city prevailed. The recommendation by the Commission is consistent with best practices, as implemented by San Francisco since 2016.

The mother of Stephon Clark spoke in support of the city adopting a resolution verbatim supporting AB 392, the “Stephon Clark Law” as the city’s Use of Deadly Force policy as well as the ‘last resort’ higher use of force standard recommended by the Commission.

Why is this important for social justice? What do you want SJPC readers to do or think about after reading your report back?

This issue is critically important for social justice because it is a life or death matter for many in our community, especially black, brown, homeless and the mentally ill.

Transparency and accountability in policing is only as strong as the community is engaged in the civic engagement process. The community must speak up. It is not good enough for the community to remain silent until another unlawful use of deadly force or excessive use of force.

The Sacramento Community Police Review Commission is a community Commission. It is up to the community to show up for meetings with the Commission as well as the City Council meetings and speak up! It is up to the community to make their voice their concerns with the Commission to make it stronger. There are eleven other recommendations to be considered by the City Council in June of 2021. Community input relative to helping the Commission establish rules and procedures that make the Commission stronger is very much needed. Many times there are no public comments for the Commission meetings. And the Commission doesn’t exactly reach out to the community. The Commission is in danger of becoming weaker, just when it needs to be made stronger in order to effectively accomplish its mission.

The city ordinance establishing the Commission is an adequate foundation, if it is effectively implemented. It appears that the Commission is not maximizing the power granted to it though the city ordinance. It is up to the Community to make the Commission more effective and stronger by making its voice heard at the City Council and the Commission meetings; and by contacting their Council representative to emphasize the importance of them supporting policing accountability.

The Vote:

1) A motion was made by Council member Valenzuela to accept the Mayor’s proposed modification to the Commission’s recommendation. City Council member Valenzuela’s motion was seconded by Vice Mayor Schenirer.

2) Council member Mai Vang made a motion to include the AB 392 verbatim language and adopt the Commission’s recommendation as written. Her motion nearly died on the floor, but was seconded by Council member Valenzuela.

3) Council member Harris made a motion to have staff conduct an analysis of AB 392 compliance with more Commission input and make recommendations. Council member Harris’s motion was seconded by Council member Jennings.

(Motion musical chairs?)

The vote on the Harris and Vang motions were 2-7.

The Mayor ultimately received his 8-2 vote, with an amendment by Councilmember Valenzuela to allow input from the Commission at its May 10th meeting and return to the City Council in June for final vote.

(Ashby thought that it was a good idea to combine AB 392 with SB 230 and future councils can take a look at it again– enough said.)


Sacramento Community Police Review Commission May 10th, 2021 meeting

File ID: 2021-00563 Discussion Item 2: City Council’s action to amend the city’s Use of Force Policy as contained in the Mayor’s may 3, 2021 Supplemental Memorandum.

SPD Update by Deputy Chief Lester

· AB 392 would be amending the SPD use of force policy to include AB 392 language verbatim

· Accepts the Commission’s original recommendation of last resort higher use of deadly force language

Chair’s update

· Mayor communicated to the Commission Chair a request that the Commission send back to the City Council its original recommended last resort use of deadly force language.

It is imperative that the community demand that the City Council adopt a resolution on its Use of Deadly Force Policy to include: 1) AB 392 – the Stephon Clark Law verbatim as the City’s minimum use of deadly force standard and 2) the Commission’s original recommended language of last resort as the higher use of deadly force standard. As Commissioner Bliss went on record to state during this meeting: “It is dangerous to suggest that the use of deadly force is ever necessary - police don’t get to decide who lives and who dies.”

Rise Up! Make Good Trouble!

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