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Manipulation tactics from the SPD

Updated: May 3, 2023

SPD Chief Kathy Lester pictured below

Once again, the Sacramento City Council was faced with a request for even more money and ‘protective’ equipment for the Sacramento Police Department. On March 28th 2023, Sacramento's Chief of Police Katherine Lester and Captain Rudy Chan (who oversees the Sac PD Academy) went to the City Council requesting an additional $600,000 dollars to purchase ‘insertable plates’ for their bulletproof vests (item 19).

These plates, as explained in a presentation by Chief Lester, are protective insertable ceramic plates used for protection against assault rifles.

Quick note before we dive further in - it's not that buying protective equipment is in and of itself is a bad thing, but the way the City is allocating money for this purchase IS a problem, as is the fact that the timing of the ask for this equipment was clearly intended to enable the SPD to secure the purchase of the rook they "need" and then to ALSO get more money for this protective equipment, when really this equipment renders the argument for the Rook pretty useless.

What's the SPD's justification?

According to Chief Lester, the ‘bulletproof’ vests currently used by Sac PD officers are in fact not bulletproof. These vests only protect against handguns, and do not provide protection against assault rifles. Lester explained that with the rise of assault rifle violence, more Sac PD officers are in danger of suffering injuries caused by rifle attacks. During this presentation, Chief Lester cited the death of SPD Officer Tara O’Sullivan as a reason for this purchase (read more). During this presentation, Lester explained that the SPD plans to purchase these plates through a purchasing cooperative company called BuyBoard. The City has a "cooperative purchasing agreement" with BuyBoard, which basically means the City receives a discount on products they order through BuyBoard.

So, why does this justification not ring true?

It's true that the death of Tara O'Sullivan was the result of a lack of protection from rifle shooting. HOWEVER the SPD also exploited the death of O'Sullivan in this way when they were arguing for their acquisition of a rook. Clearly the equipment needed in the case of O'Sullivan was protection from assault rifles...which begs the question...why did this request come AFTER the SPD campaigned so hard for a rook?

At the time the rook was requested, Sacramento PD presented this purchase as the only way to keep the public safe, citing domestic violence and hostage situations as a justification (funny coincidence how the same reasoning was also used in their request for ‘insertable plates’)

...and what's more...

  • Rifle shooting protection technology has been on the market for years & the SPD should and could have invested in it instead of the rook

  • The SPD should have done this years ago - immediately after O'Sullivan OR before!!

  • This equipment doesn't cost that much more than the rook, and it should have been considered as an alternative to the rook

  • At the time the Rook was requested, Sacramento PD presented this purchase as the only way to keep the public safe, citing domestic violence and hostage situations as a justification

  • So why were these alternatives not discussed before?

  • Because the police wanted the rook even though it wasn't necessary, and they knew that presenting the items in this order would enable them to receive both sets of equipment

  • Basically, this purchase should have happened instead of the Rook

Below is a photo of Chief of Police Katherine Lester on the right, and Captain Rudy Chan holding the 'insertable plate' on the left

How much will this all cost?

  • As explained by City Manager Howard Chan, the first $600,000 required for this purchase of these 'insertable plates' will be set aside from the City's 2023-24 Budget, and this amount will continue to be set aside every 5 years as the plates have a 5 year lifespan

    • NOTE that the SPD’s FY Budget for 2022-23 was well above $200 million

    • This purchase could end up costing several million over the next few years

    • Also, we should not be using our general fund dollars for this

  • It was revealed in the Staff Report and during Chief Lester’s presentation, that full body armor including the ‘insertable plates’ mentioned, carriers, and rifle rated protective panels are already being used in patrol vehicles, and can be considered an alternative to, and negate the need for, purchasing any additional vests, carriers, or separate shields

    • This created quite an uproar, and for good reason. If these ‘insertable plates’, vests, current carriers and protective panels in patrol cars are all enough to ensure officers are protected from rifle attacks, why did the SPD need to request money for a rook in Feb. 2023 (see more)?

What else did we learn from this meeting?

The fact that the SPD intentionally hid this information continues to reveal their real motives, and that they are not centered around public safety

The Staff Report revealed that these ‘insertable plates’ not only work in conjunction with existing safety equipment, but in fact enhance protection against rifle fire.

Councilmember Valenzuela rightly took offense to the revelation that these plates could have served the same purpose as the rook in regard to providing protection from rifle fire, stating

If that ['insertable plates'] was an adequate substitute I feel like that was information we should have had at the time [discussion around purchase of the Rook] because it was relevant to the discussion from my perspective so I was frustrated

The SPD will lie to and deceive Councilmembers and community members alike in order to get what they feel they deserve.

The reality is that the crime the SPD is trying to 'protect' Sacramento from is the crime that law enforcement agencies themselves create, and we have seen our City Council continue to line the pockets of the police department instead of investing in programs and services that will actually keep our community safe

What's up with this BuyBoard company?

  • A public comment from a caller named Courtney further revealed why this request from the SPD was so problematic. According to the Staff Report presented by SPD, BuyBoard the cooperative purchasing company chosen by SPD to find a vendor for this equipment, is a Texas based company with a “NO ISRAEL BOYCOTT CERTIFICATION” meaning they will NOT contract with a business that in any way boycotts/criticizes Israel. This is problematic in many ways, and is especially revealing of their values

  • Not to mention, BuyBoard is based in Texas which has been known to enact extremely transphobic policies

  • Additionally, Councilmember Valenzuela commented on the fact that BuyBoard’s procurement authority is actually the Texas Association of School Boards (see more). This association has been a champion for banning teaching critical race theory in Texas schools

*in case all this terminology feels a little confusing, here is a quick breakdown:

The Texas Association of School Boards is a governing body over BuyBoard. BuyBoard is a cooperative purchasing organization, essentially meaning they do not directly sell the protective equipment, but instead find the best-priced vendor, and through BuyBoard the equipment will be purchased from the vendor. This is where the term "procurement" comes in, the act of procurement is when a business like BuyBoard (third party) negotiates and finds the best prices for the buyers. Since the Texas Association of School Boards is a governing body of BuyBoard they are a procurement authority that oversees that entire process of negotiations.

  • With all of this said, the least the SPD could do is look for a purchasing cooperative to work with that was based in a state that aligns with the values of Sacramento

  • Councilmember Valenzuela mentioned that the ‘protective’ equipment in question can be purchased through another organization based in Minnesota, and that option should have been analyzed before this item was presented to the City Council

  • When asked by Councilmember Vang whether or not we could find a different vendor not associated with BuyBoard, Chief Lester doubled down on the SPD's decision. This led into a bigger discussion of values based purchasing policy

The situation with the Sacramento PD is really messed up to say the least.

As mentioned before, the 2022-23 FY Budget for the SPD was $221 million, yet they continue to stand before the City Council and ask for more, and it seems that the City will give it to them. Although the issue of value spending did come up, the Council did vote approve the request, with opposition from only Councilmembers Valenzuela and Vang. The only stipulation for item 19, a motion brought up by Councilmember Guerra, is a asking for a procurement report and potential policy implementation around the issue of value spending.

  • According to Guerra, he has been wanting to create a procurement report and/or value spending policy that would essentially create rules about WHO the City can buy from/support based on their values. BuyBoard is a great example of someone we wouldn't be working with if a procurement report or value spending policy was created because they are not aligned with 'Sacramento's values' (whatever that means, it seems subjective at this point)

  • Even though BuyBoard nor the Texas Association of School Boards actually receive money from this particular purchase, it's the fact that we should not be supporting anything having to do with Texas & the Texas Association of School Boards that is at the heart of the matter

Sacramento City Manager, Howard Chan, pictured below

The decision to continue the vote for this item as part of the consent calendar (as opposed to pulling it off the Calendar for further discussion) came from the City Manager who was ‘uncomfortable’ delaying the vote, even though the City offered to explore other cooperative purchasing organizations that better aligned with Sacramento’s values. Because implementing that process could have potentially delayed the SPD receiving this ‘protective’ equipment by a couple of weeks, he deemed it unacceptable. Worth noting is that it would not take much extra time to work with the organization in Minnesota because we already have a relationship with them.

This purchase will not be discussed or voted on again. Instead, a motion for more discussion on value spending policies & procurement reports will be revisited.

This entire discussion further exposed SPD’s true motives, especially regarding the purchase of the rook. Throughout this entire meeting, one important question repeatedly echoed in mind, why isn’t there an urgency to fund and equip our community with life saving resources instead of continuing to fund those who harm the community most?

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