Police violence against our youth

Updated: Jan 20

How Sacramento City Council & the Board of Supervisors Can Take Actionable Steps to Prevent A Foster Youth like Ma’Khia Bryant From Being Killed by Police

Here’s a Hint: It Starts with the Upcoming Fiscal Year’s Budget

By Dr. Corrine McIntosh Sako, PsyD, LMFT

Pictured below: Ma'Khia Bryant

Just 20 minutes before a judge announced that a jury found former Minneapolis police Derek Chauvin guilty of murdering George Floyd, we saw the loss of life of another Black person at the hands of a police officer. This time it was Ma'Khia Bryant, a 16-year-old girl who was running toward two young women with a knife when an officer shot her outside the foster home she had been living in for about two months.

“Hey! Hey! Get down! Get down!” is the only attempt at de-escalation by police officer Nicholas Reardon that can be heard on his body-cam footage.

He fired four quick shots that killed Ma’Khia in an instant. Before being hired by the Columbus Ohio police department in December 2019, officer Reardon was a military-trained marksman, served in the U.S. Air National Guard, and he is the son of the police department’s longtime basic training sergeant (wait..who’s your daddy??). The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is conducting a third-party investigation into Reardon’s killing of Ma’Khia.

After watching the footage, some experts say that the shooting is a justifiable use of deadly force since Ma’Khia was “armed and seemed to be acting erratically.” That she was just a teenager - a

teenager who had spent the last two years shuttling around different foster homes, hoping to return to her mother’s care - a teenager who was in the middle of an altercation in which she was presumed to be defending herself from two adult women who were demanding that she clean the house - did not matter.

Ma’Khia’s journey through foster care ended with police bullets, and this same story is just as likely to happen here in Sacramento unless the City Council and County Board of Supervisors take actionable steps to prioritize moving funds from law enforcement back into the community.

Step 1: Divest Funds from the Sacramento Police & Sheriff’s Department Budgets

The Sheriff’s Department is the largest item that the County Board of Supervisors has discretionary powers over. In the 2019-2020 budget, 37% went to the Sheriff’s Department and the next largest category was Probation, which got 9%. There is $4 million dollars that goes unspent by the Sheriff’s Office. Let’s not forget: at the Board’s request, County staff conducted a public Budget Workshop on February 4th to solicit input on budget priorities.

The county received 463 comments - with 297 (64%) of the comments stating the need to prioritize defunding law enforcement and reprogramming the money to a variety of social service programs. This resulted from a Board decision in September 2020 to gift the Sheriff’s department with an extra $38.2 million. The FY 2021-2022 Sacramento County proposed budget is said to be dropped on Friday June 4, with the first Board of Supervisors Budget hearing scheduled for Wednesday June 9 at 9:30am.

The current FY 2021-2022 Proposed Budget for the City of Sacramento includes a plan by the City Manager to increase the Police budget to an all-time high of $165.8 million, despite the creation of a new city department designed to shift certain duties away from the police. The increased funding is slated to be used to hire new sworn officers, obtain replacement patrol vehicles, and to give 3.5% raises to officers from their union contracts.

This is the same police department that has cost the City of Sacramento at least $7.6 million in lawsuits for wrongfully harming and killing community members in just the last 2 years alone. This is the same police department into which the Mayor and City Council have called for an independent investigation regarding their disproportionately violent response to antiracist protests since the murder of George Floyd, and this investigation has yet to be started much less completed.

Why have we become so comfortable with giving police so much money and power? Public safety is not about policing - public safety is about access to quality fair housing, quality food, safe and clean community spaces, healthcare services including mental health care, and workforce and economic development. We need to have less police and the existing police need to undergo a culture shift where they choose to use informed and educated judgement to find and choose the least intrusive alternative to deadly use of force. Instead of bloating the police budget to an all-time high, let’s actually reduce their funding by $30.5 million to bring the department budget to the 2019-2020 spending level. This makes sense, and is necessary, given the shift of many responsibilities to the Department of Community Response and other alternatives.

Step 2: Prioritize Existing Funds from the Sacramento Police & Sheriff’s Department Budgets to be used for Crisis Prevention & Intervention Training with a Focus on De-Escalation Tactics

De-escalation tactics, like verbally instructing Ma’Khia to drop the knife, physically getting between the women, or simply communicating with Ma’Khia, could have kept everyone alive.

The insistence that the officer had no other option than to take Ma’Khia’s life to save others — though he risked everyone’s life in the process — displays the lack of consideration and value that society places on the lives of Black girls and women.

There are countless examples of police peacefully apprehending white boys and men wielding weapons. Just last year police officers in Kenosha, Wisconsin, handed water bottles to and thanked 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, a self-described militia member who carried an AR-15-style rifle during the unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake. Rittenhouse was allowed to leave the scene after fatally shooting two people and harming another, though the police had been informed that he was the shooter.

Anyone, including the officer, could have removed the person who was potentially going to be stabbed by Ma’Khia. Police officers have the ability to use verbal de-escalation, tasers, and/or batons before ever pulling a gun. The officer also had a choice of where to shoot Ma’Khia if he didn’t think any other viable options existed in that moment - h