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You Can’t Hire A Cop to Fix Cop Problems

Updated: Jan 27, 2021

The troubling results from the Sacramento Police Department (SacPD) survey earlier this month cannot be fixed by another cop, especially one that handled the Homeless Response Unit (aka IMPACT Team), which has been caught on numerous occasions on video by unhoused advocates and the Sacramento Homeless Union forcefully sweeping human beings that lack shelter and permanent housing to other areas of Sacramento.

According to the twenty-nine page report, the responses were obtained between the period of November 2019 to January 2020. The Sacramento Police Department stated in a news release that the survey “identifies areas both where the department is performing well and those where it can improve, and examines topics such as community relations, community trust, police use of force, gun violence, and neighborhood-specific concerns.”

The survey was done in partnership with California State University, Sacramento; the University of San Diego; California Endowment; California Wellness Foundation and Sierra Health Foundation between October 2018 and February 2019.

Where to begin? As an overview – if you survey the police and ask them how good of a job they’re doing in terms of treating all races the same and being equipped and skilled enough to deal with people with mental health crises – their responses indicate they have a very optimistic view of how good they’re doing with these issues. Residents from various districts (the means of selecting residents is unknown) were given the same survey and the responses are diametrically opposed.

Let’s start here. They asked both cops, SacPD, and residents about equal treatment of the residents. They asked the question, “How confident are you that Sacramento Police Officers treat people of all races equally?”

Eighty-eight percent of officers said very confident while 19% or one-in-five residents were very confident. Four-in-ten residents said they were not confident, and another four-in-ten said they were somewhat confident.

Turns out the police view themselves much differently than how the community actually views them.

When residents were asked to rate how police deal with mentally ill people they responded, again, in markedly different proportions compared to officers.

Approximately 64% of residents said the police were not adequately trained compared to 12% among the officers. Only 10% of residents said the police deal very well with the mentally ill compared to a majority (56%) of the officers who give the same top rating.

What is missing from the report that is really important is the breakdown of race and ethnicity of the police officers and their responses. According to a Pew Research Center report, when similar findings found in the SacPD report are analyzed nationwide by race large differences emerge between blacks and whites within each group. Also, findings reveal a racial divide both in how the public views the police and how the officers by race view themselves.

While it is quite astonishing that about a quarter of police believe they have a good relationship with the Black community, they also acknowledge having the greatest challenges with this community. Moving forward, this survey will be conducted on an annual basis so the department can track progress in meeting the needs of the community in each of these areas. However, this does little to advance social justice or increase police accountability. In fact, this feels more like a distraction from other critical numbers being reported by the Office of Public Safety Accountability, such as their quarterly report of complaints, received or processed against SacPD employees.

During the second quarter of 2020, OPSA opened 52 complaints containing 111 allegations filed by community members of which 42 of these were filed directly to OPSA.

Another critical update focuses on one of many recommendations made in July 2020 by the Department of Justice that SacPD revise its use-of-force policy to more closely reflect the meaning and intent of Assembly Bill 392. The report noted police officer’s views on policy changes and its impact on their safety (rather their discontent because they feel less empowered to play judge, jury, and executioner). It must be noted that SacPD’s use of force policy is STILL missing critical language that reflects the intent of AB392.

In conclusion, that is some bullshit! Don’t forget – we keep us safe.

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