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The importance of Community Review Commission ad-hoc committees

On 1/17/23 a meeting of the Sacramento County's Community Review Commission (visit their website) took place - a reminder of what the Community Review Commission (CRC) does can be found in the image below. Essentially it exists to provide oversight of the Sacramento Sheriff's Office (SSO).

For further reference the CRC website is linked here

We've pulled some important items from the meeting to dive into:

Item 3 - Update From The Office Of The Inspector General (Francine Tournour) Sac County’s Inspector General Francine Tournour, who started her position in September 2022 (Sac County news article here, SJPC coverage here), gave a quick update to the Commission. Tournour reported that she’s met with the new Sheriff Jim Cooper and his executive staff, and that she’s looking forward to working with him.

The Commission then followed up with several questions about their role and the role of the Inspector General. Francine Tournour said her role is to serve as a conduit between the Sheriff, the Commission, and the public - and that she has no authority over the Sheriff.

One Commissioner asked about the Inspector General’s involvement with AB 1506 (learn more about this bill in this Sac Observer article), a bill that requires state prosecutors to investigate incidents of officer-involved shooting resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian. Francine Tournour said her office isn’t really involved.

Another Commissioner asked about the process for individuals submitting complaints about particular Sheriffs' officers or incidents. Francine Tournour said the complaint process involves the Inspector General forwarding complaints to “Professional Standards” but not to the Commission. These updates will be recurring at Commission meetings.

Item 4 - Update From CRC Ad Hoc Committee: Mental Health Responses (Mike Whiteside)

Back in December of 2022, the CRC discussed the need for their ad hoc committees to have further developed "descriptive statements" to define their work and parameters. At this 1/17 meeting, Commissioner Whiteside gave a brief report about the Mental Health Responses ad hoc committee's updated descriptive statement. It is listed below:

The ad hoc committee is dedicated to the analysis and evaluation of Sheriff’s Office operations, policies, and procedures pertaining to the response to calls for service involving individuals experiencing a mental or behavioral health crisis, including de-escalation and Crisis Intervention Training (SB 230), collaboration with the Wellness Crisis Call Center and Response Program, and interactions with family members including the practices, data, and procedures related to diversity, equity and inclusion such as language, gender and sexual identity, culture, and ethnicity

Additionally, this ad hoc committee shared their list of questions/information requests for the SSO - that document is linked here. There wasn't much discussion around this list of questions in the meeting, but it is our understanding that they will be submitted to the Sheriff before he presents at the 2/21/23 CRC meeting (more on this below in our recap of item 7).

Item 5 - Update From CRC Ad Hoc Committee: Jail Releases (Odette Crawford) Commissioner Stoller filled in for the Chair of the Jail Releases Ad Hoc Committee Odette Crawford - he explained that their committee is looking into existing procedures for what happens when someone is released from jail Sacramento County and comparing that to what happens in other counties’ in order to verify areas of improvement.

This committee's updated descriptive statement is listed below:

The ad hoc committee will seek to evaluate and analyze the policies, processes, and procedures for releasing inmates from the Sacramento County Jail system, operated by the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office. This will include a review and evaluation of the various decision making points and assessments involved in releasing individuals from custody, including how, when, and where individuals are released and any resources provided to individuals upon release (aimed at reducing future returns to custody). The ad hoc committee will also consider and look into the role of bail in the release process, the role of jail releases in supporting the County’s efforts to comply with the Mays Consent Decree, and the impacts of releases on Sacramento’s downtown core. The ad hoc committee will identify best practices used by similar jurisdictions, evaluate Sacramento County’s practices in comparison to the best practices, and develop recommendations for how the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office can bridge any identified gaps, improve release-related services for those involved in the justice system, and reduce negative impacts associated with jail releases on Sacramento’s downtown core

Item 6 - Discussion On Need For Additional Ad Hoc Committee (Michael Martel) - this committee would be dedicated to examining mental and behavioral health treatment occurring in County jails Commissioner Martel kicked it off saying the Commission should consider the need for a jail-focused ad-hoc committee. Here’s what he said:

If we’re going to look at policies and procedures, not looking at the jail would be a mistake on our part….. It all gets down to treatment and behavior in the jails…Things occur when we don’t look at policies and procedures. Litigation usually follows…

The Community Review Commission will take an actual vote on creating this ad-hoc committee at their next meeting on 2/21/23.

Public comments on the work of these ad hoc committees:

Mack Wilson, Community Organizer at Decarcerate Sacramento, showed up to express excitement and support for the CRC's work and the Commissioner's comments, and took a moment to shed light on County jail conditions - constitutional violations, and the daily violations of SSO “rules and procedures”, those daily actions and inactions of sheriff’s officers in the jails that result in harm and death for our incarcerated community members.

Nancy from Family Advocates for Individuals with Serious Mental Illness spoke as an experienced family member (having a son incarcerated in the Sac County jail with a mental illness) and expressed a need for a jail-focused ad-hoc committee. Said the procedures need to be looked at.

If you're interested in learning more about the “Sequential Intercept Model” that Nancy mentions in her comment you can read about at this link.

Last on the docket: Item 7 - Update On Requested Presentations And Discussion Of Questions To Submit To Sheriff’s Office (Laura Foster) Sheriff Cooper has accepted the Commission’s invitation to participate in an upcoming CRC meeting. Laura Foster, Management Analyst II, Public Safety and Justice Agency, gathered a list of questions from the Commissioners to ask the Sheriff ahead of their meeting. Cooper will present at the 2/21/23 CRC meeting - agenda is linked here.

Here are some of those questions:

Commissioner Curtis asked about the new Sheriff's top priorities, long term goals, short term goals, and current challenges, and further added questions about the Sheriff’s plans to address diversity, equity, and inclusion within the SSO, as well his plans to work better with the LGBTQ+ and other minority communities

  • Noted that there used to be a liaison within the SSO for the LGBTQ+ community and there is not

Commissioner Riviera asked several questions:

  • What is the Sheriff’s interpretation of the role of the Commission and how can the CRC be of service?

  • Wants to ensure that if the Sheriff can't answer all questions at the next CRC meeting he will give the CRC a date for when he can return

  • Asked for a breakdown of languages other than English spoken by his staff

Commissioner Whiteside asked for the Sheriff’s vision for mental health in the field and jails - current status and where he wants to take it

Commissioner Stoller asked:

  • Does the Sheriff believe pretextual stops occur in Sac County, and if so, does he have a plan to stop them? If he does not believe they occur - what is he basing that belief on?

What's a pretexual stop? The following description is pulled from this Time Maganzine article - linked here

These [pretextual stops] are when police have a hunch that a driver has committed a crime (or perhaps the driver just looks “suspicious”), but not enough evidence to stop and interrogate them about it. So instead, police just pull the driver over for a petty traffic offense

In the video below - listen to Commissioner Stoller explain the importance of understanding pretextual stops and how the Sheriff is conducting himself in regard to them

Commissioner Stoller also asked about:

  • Deploying surveillance technologies (shotspotters) and possible locations

  • Updating the Sheriff’s tow-inventory policies

Commissioner Baker asked about statistics related to business crimes and how the Sheriff will work with businesses

Additionally, Commissioners added questions about increases/decreases in violent crime, and the crime data the Sheriff is using and prioritizing

After this discussion around questions to submit to the SSO, Mack Wilson is back with another fire comment. They highlighted the significance of SSO data collection, the data points being mined or not mined by the Sheriff, data made or not made available to the public, and data not yet analyzed due to lack of access or awareness of data availability.

They also make an excellent point about the benefit and importance of data transparency, accessibility, and accountability that is available when the Sheriff provides information in a slide-deck presentation format. Presenting information in a way that breaks down the long-winded meeting conversations in to chunks of information that are easier to pass on to the community. Mack called it a track-record to improve accessibility and transparency with the public. <3 Hear comment in the video below!

And finally: AN IMPORTANT E-COMMENT - questions submitted to the SSO on behalf of immigration justice organization Alianza (website linked here).

Alianza's mission (pulled from website):

Established in 2012, Alianza is a collective of active college students, educators, and community activists from the Sacramento area personally committed to issues in immigration reform, especially those regarding undocumented students

A brief summary of what this comment is referencing is: the SSO has been illegally cooperating with ICE. SJPC wrote a piece about this back in December of 2021 - linked here - and immigration justice advocates have continued to work tirelessly to hold the SSO accountable for their actions. Predictably, the SSO has been anything but cooperative, truthful, or forthcoming.

The e-comment begins by summarizing the findings the SSO needs to address:

It then goes on to list the questions to be asked of the Sheriff:

SJPC readers can expect a more thorough recap of what's been going on with this process after Sheriff Cooper's presentation at the 2/21/23 CRC meeting. Stay tuned!

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