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Police Review Commission 2023 - a new work plan and an inadequate MEU policy

At the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission’s (SCPRC) 3/13 meeting, their 2023 work plan was discussed in detail in preparation for it to be voted on for approval at the 3/28 City Council meeting. In addition to discussion around their 2023 Workplan, the SCPRC also discussed in detail their complete list of policy recommendations. At the 3/28 Council meeting the 2023 Workplan was voted on and approved.

What's a workplan? Well, this is the definition according the Workplan item doc:

" is up to the SCPRC to prioritize the policy items that will guide its work for each year. The Workplan is...a summary of the proposed projects for the upcoming is an effort of the SCPRC to organize itself and identify the areas of concern that it will address for the 2023 year."

Most importantly discussed within the work plan was supplemental material regarding the Sac Police Department's Military Equipment Use (MEU) policy.

The following segment covers conversation around this policy at both the 3/13 and the 3/18 meetings.

There are immediate issues within this policy that need to be addressed by the City Council. Vice Chair Keyan Bliss outlined the problems with the current MEU policy to start, making note that there are no clearly defined policies for what legally sanctioned disciplinary enforcement exists in regard to MEU policy violations. There is no formal structure for understanding adequate discipline or “baselines” for violation protocols. This is an atrocious display of the SPD continually facing no repercussions for their injustices.

Also addressed by Vice Chair Bliss was the approval of the “Rook” (read about the decision here) for the SPD vs. the criteria for MEU as outlined in city policy. The approval of the “Rook” clearly did not meet this criteria as it was a massive misuse of the budget as well as being clearly unsafe for Sacramento residents. Bliss also noted that the whole of the SPD’s practices, including their MEU policy, disproportionately affect Black residents and marginalized communities.

From 2014 to 2019, Black folks were subjected to use of force 4.5x more often than white folks, and made up 43% of all use of force stops.

The current MEU policy clearly poses an immediate threat to oppressed communities in Sacramento - and it must be changed to reflect this danger. Bliss also recommended that the SPD show up to SCPRC meetings to have a legitimate conversation about these policies, as well as to provide further data to guide these policy changes.

Commissioner Guerrero went on to discuss one of the main issues at hand: Sacramento’s MEU policy is not in accordance with AB 481.

California Assembly Bill (AB) 481 requires California law enforcement agencies to obtain approval of a Military Equipment Use Policy by their applicable governing body prior to taking certain actions related to the funding, acquisition, or use of military equipment as defined by the legislature

The current policy language does not meet the criteria of AB481, and in some cases it contains loopholes enabling police violence through the use of vague policy phrases such as “crowd control”. In addition to this policy language, Chair Castillo-Krings made note that “we need data to inform” the public’s engagement with policy discussion. The public is being kept out of the discussion on MEU policy, and the SPD is doing next to nothing to ensure transparency. Not only are they not sharing much data, the data that they do share empirically demonstrates injustices towards marginalized communities (as per Vice Chair Bliss’ comments). With these injustices in mind, the SCPRC agreed for “data-driven policy approaches” to be added to the 2023 work plan for MEU policy changes, as transparency is a must for real change to happen in the city.

Comments from Vice Chair Keyan Bliss on the Commission's need for communication from the SPD can be found in the video below!

Check out a longer video compilation of Keyan's comments!

Now for a report back on the conversation around this work plan at the 3/28 Council meeting!

At the 3/28 City Council Meeting, the SCPRC's work plan was discussed and voted on. Mayor Steinberg opened the discussion - and though he gave the Commission credit for updates to their work plan as well the Commission’s approach, he commented that he wants the Commission to be more “independent” and “assertive” in their recommendations.

This is a wholly confusing and hypocritical ask of Steinberg, as his very Council is the same one that barely acknowledges the Commission’s existence. Yes, the Commission does deserve more autonomy and for their voices to be heard - but the Council needs to do something to ensure that.

Vice Chair Bliss also attended the Council meeting to make a comment about the Work Plan - stating

the Commission is in need of a police liaison in order to effectively communicate policy changes, as stated in their own meeting

This would eliminate the need for the Commission to reach out to the SPD for specific data in regard to MEU policy (or other policies), and allow for public transparency at SCPRC meetings. It is also worth noting that Bliss was rudely interrupted by City Clerk Mindy Cuppy, who attempted to cut off his comment. This exemplifies the Commission’s treatment: they are critically undervalued by the Council, and they need to be properly recognized in order for real policy reform to be implemented.

Shortly after this comment from Vice Chair Bliss, Councilmember Loloee

piped up to say that he would like the Commission to be more “neutral” instead of taking an “activist” approach - an utterly confusing viewpoint that he expressed entirely unprompted. The whole point of the Commission is for them to critique SPD policy and offer recommendations for changes. To suggest that they be “neutral” is to ignore their entire purpose. This request by Loloee is ignorant and goes to show that the Council still does not recognize the legitimacy of the Commission’s

purpose, and are still demonstrably pro-cop.

Thankfully, regardless of this ridiculous comment and other interruptions, the work plan was approved unanimously by the Council.

While this won’t change anything concrete immediately, it will enable the Commission to make more policy recommendations to the Council. Hopefully, they recognize the importance of these recommendations (and the multitude of so-far unaddressed recommendations) and make strides towards giving the SCPRC more autonomy as cited by Mayor Steinberg. The work plan passing is important for social justice because it increases transparency regarding abusive acts committed by the SPD, and alerts the community to what policy changes need to occur to protect oppressed communities. Bringing awareness is a crucial component for creating policy change in the future.

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