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Why have a Police Review Commission if you aint gonna listen?

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Just saying...Sac City Council

Sacramento Community Police Review Commission’s Recommendations for 2018, 2019, and 2020


  • After more than 3 years of inaction, it appeared as though a majority of Sacramento City Council was ready to approve all recommendations from the police review commission in a single package! Even Mayor Darrell Steinberg was ready to stop “ping-ponging” these recommendations his appointee and Commission Chair Mario Guerrero presented. District 4 Councilmember Katie Valenzuela, who came prepared with several important questions for the Sacramento Police Department, referencing the previous night’s commission meeting where Deputy Chief Kathy Lester apparently refused to answer, including:

  1. Has SacPD made any changes in policy as a result of lawsuits filed since 2018? And if so, how did they communicate their changes to the community at-large?

  2. What plans SacPD has for staffing and preparation for events and protests based on statements made by Deputy Chief Lester, at a recent city council meeting?

  3. What happened to General Order 532.1 a binding order required SacPD officers to know and follow its guidelines, which no longer appears to exist? Why did it go away, and what plans are there to replace it?

  4. How exactly is SacPD currently sharing information with the community about their response to recent protests?

  5. What are SacPD’s policies regarding surveillance before, during, and after protests? What technology do they use or have access to for surveillance?

Just as District 8 Councilmember Mai Vang had seconded Katie’s motion for council approval, in came the the spoilers for the evening:

  1. City Attorney Susana Alcala Wood, who was adamant that city council couldn't take action on a “discussion calendar” item. Not sure what exactly was going on behind the scenes, but it was alluded by Councilmember Angelique Ashby that this six-figure salaried employee may have been so “offended” by the thought of council approving these recommendations so much so that they stopped their debate to beg her forgiveness.

  2. District 3 Councilmember Jeff Harris, who “appreciates” the work of Chair Mario Guerrero so much that he let the commission’s recommendations sit on his desk for 3 years, debated extensively on the city council and Police Chief Daniel Hahn over the last 2 years, and still can’t bring himself to approve them as a package! Despite accepting responsibility for his part in the inaction, he proceeded to dismiss many of the recommendations as “political reactions to the incidents of the day,” as if police brutality against Black and brown bodies is a systemic problem. Fortunately, Councilmember Valenzuela was having none of it, reminding everyone that local protests are happening because of “fear our community lives with every single day” that police might kill them for something as trivial as “being in the wrong neighborhood.”

    • Fun Fact: This is the same Jeff Harris who not only acknowledged how police and fire departments “take almost 80 percent of our budget” during last year’s debate on these same recommendations, but was ready to back a city ballot measure to repeal binding arbitration for police and fire unions’ in order to save money! But a lot can happen in 9 months, and now Harris needs the blessing from Police Chief Daniel Hahn and the Sacramento

Peace Officers Association to vote for these recommendations.

  1. District 2 Councilmember Sean Lololee, who needed to publicly question the meaning behind keywords from the recommendations like “drug test” or “ethnic studies” before he could give his support. Despite offering “200% support” for many pages of recommendations, he thinks many of the recommendations are “not realistic.” But don’t worry, District 2 constituents: your councilmember “actually read every single page” of the commission’s 55-page work (spoiler alert: no, he didn’t).

In the end, City Council took no action other than to direct staff to bring the item back for vote by May 4th. Councilmembers Jay Schenirer and Rick Jennings absent from the meeting, and Ashby is busy trying to play both sides, there are at least 4 votes ready to approve the recommendations as they are

Next Steps: Bring back the recommendations to City Council by May 4th for a final vote.

Recommendations Breakdown:

2018/2019 Recommendations that are NOT Collective Bargaining Issues:

  • Adopt Higher Use Of Force standards

  • Adopt the Objectively Reasonable Force Definition language from POST

    • SPD Language: an objective standard of force views from the perspective of an objectively reasonable peace officer, without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and based

    • Commission Language: the number one factor in determining objective reasonableness is whether an immediate threat to the safety of the officer or another exists (POST language)

  • City receive and consider the Commission’s recommendations by April of each calendar year. The report shall be placed on the Council Agenda as an action item so the City Council has the ability to approve the Commission’s Recommendations

  • SPD must give SCPRC the opportunity to review and comment before SPD adopts or amends a GO dealing with Body-Worn Cameras, Foot Pursuit, UOF, Discipline, or any GO being considered by commission

  • 2018/2019 Recommendations WITH Collective Bargaining Issues:

    • Require an ethnic studies class for new recruits

    • Drug testing of officers after a UOF incident

  • 2020 Recommendations:

    • Accountability & /Discipline

      • Create discipline matrix clearly and transparently informing public and PO of consequences of various types and levels of misconduct.

        • San Diego, South Bend IN, and Madison WI have all done so

      • Inspector General: commission should receive, if requests access to all info that can be made available under SB 1421

      • SPD should analyze the vehicle traffic stop data and report to the council on identified racial disparities

    • Mental Health

      • OCR provide quarterly updates to SCPRC by sharing:

        • Relevant call data

        • Updates on department creation and funding

        • Updates on program creation

        • Other relevant info related to full functionality of department

      • City provide resources so that POs have access to ongoing MH resources

      • City should rapidly increase its investment in Department of Community Response

    • Commission Rules of Procedure

      • If commission is to serve the role, it needs a budget that includes:

        • Independent legal counsel

        • Staff support to supplement OPSA assistance

      • Amend City Code so that quorum is the majority of members serving on the Commission

      • SPD must operate as a partner with Commission and OPSA. To this effect, require SPD to:

        • Meet w/ Commission and OPSA staff during agenda setting meetings to directly address requests instead of having OPSA serve as intermediary

        • Require Police Chief or his rep meet with SCPRC to provide feedback to SCPRC about its recos as part of drafting process

        • Require SPD have a police liaison present at all monthly meeting to respond to questions and info requests

        • Require SPD respond in good faith to reasonable Commission questions

        • Require SPD give presentations to Commission on ops that fall within commission’s scope

Key Quotes:

  • Katie Valenzuela

    • “We cannot keep triaging a broken system with law enforcement.”

    • “I don’t believe people are safe when they’re forced to call 911 when a crisis occurs. I think safety happens when you prevent the crisis and you don’t have to call 911. It doesn’t mean you don’t have an appropriate emergency response when crisis arises, but it means we’re investing in the things that prevent that crisis from happening in the first place.”

    • “[The UOF recommendations] are basically saying, ‘we will not use force unless it’s a last resort, unless we reasonably believe force is necessary for an immediate threat.’ I don’t think any of us could honestly disagree with this.”

    • There was a comment

  • Mai Vang

    • “[Office of Public Safety Accountability] is supposed to be independent from SacPD, and I don’t want the commission members or the community to see OPSA as part of SacPD. I think we need to figure out how to separate those...and keep that independence as well.”

  • Jeff Harris

    • “We’ve never had an intelligent discussion or debate on these recommendations… I accept responsibility for that.”

    • I’m not content to do a political reactions to the incidents of the day, which have not occurred in our city, and take action on something that requires further reflection.” - Jeff Harris just before telling PRC Chair Mario Guerrero how much he appreciates him after wasting 3 years his time ignoring his commission’s recommendations.

      • Katie’s response:

        • “I know that we didn’t mean to trivialize the importance of the recommendations, or the importance of us acting as quickly as possible to provide as clear as direction as possible to people in our community who are carrying guns that can kill people. We need to be super clear: the reason that protest is happening here is not just what’s happening there. It’s because of fear our community lives with every single day right now. And if we can do anything to alleviate the fear that just because you got pulled over… or were in the wrong neighborhood and didn’t hear a command to respond appropriately that you were going to die at the hands of people employed by our city, then I want to do that right now.”

  • Darrell Steinberg

    • “I’m not exactly sure which items are controversial… The UOF issue? This has been debated for 2 to 3 years in the city council! And here’s the problem… We have not given the commission its due. And here’s why… There’s huge resistance to anybody on the outside telling the city police department what to do and how to do its business… That’s the whole point of a police review commission!

    • “The commission has had recommendations for 3 years, and we’ve ping-ponged these things back and forth! And you wonder why they’re frustrated.”

  • Mario Guerrero

    • “Every councilmember has an appointee, and I’m begging you to invite me and your appoint to walk through every single recommendation and scenario with you. That’s been a source of frustration, and we want to provide you information. Going on with 3 years of recommendations, it’s a shame.”

    • “The 2018/2019 Recommendations has been brought to this body either the 3rd or 4th time. The previous time I covered it with excruciating detail, and many of you know this. And SacPD came back at another meeting to give their feedback… That’s why in my presentation I stated, ‘these recommendations are ready to go!’ Because we have talked about them to death and there’s just disagreement.”


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