The Sacramento City Council once again demonstrated it is blissfully unaware that it is causing a crisis in the Sacramento Police Department, one that will take years to undo.
Rather than encourage strong, independent leadership in the department, the council continues to substitute its judgment for those who have dedicated their lives to the profession of public safety.
Since I’m sure Sacramento police officers do not feel it from their City Council, let me here state it unequivocally – the Sacramento Police Department is a first-rate, mission-focused organization full of outstanding men and women.
I can say that because I know a little something about law enforcement.
Conversely, the City Council, including its mayor, does not. Yet the council develops and adopts use-of-force guidelines without law enforcement input and creates an oversight committee in which members are precluded from having any law enforcement experience.
The council is developing a policy that seems intended to placate detractors without regard to their public safety efficacy, and council members are making public statements against the findings of District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert. Just this week, the council shut down Chief Brian Louie’s recommendation regarding an ongoing investigation.
The council then has the audacity to publicly state how it supports and appreciates the Police Department when it is politically advantageous for members to do so.
To borrow from Emerson, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”
The police officers of Sacramento all have one thing in common. They all want to be Sacramento police officers. They do not want to leave. Being underpaid is not enough reason for them to leave, just as a bonus would not be enough to make them stay.
As The Sacramento Bee recently reported, midcareer officers are willing to start over somewhere else, bringing with them their training and their experience.
These officers are the start. Management, even senior management, will start to leave. Every member of the Sacramento Police Department sees it, I see it, and if City Council members knew anything about law enforcement, they would see it, too.
Unfortunately, the Sacramento City Council, including the mayor, has charted its course and is pandering to a boisterous few who have the free time to attend council meetings and scream the loudest. There is nothing the council can ever do to make these folks support law enforcement.
Council members don’t seem to realize that the overwhelming majority of their constituency already does support the department.
Chief Louie is an effective leader, but is in an untenable position as an interim chief who is seeking the job as chief of police. Whoever is ultimately selected should be a strong independent voice who will tell the council members not necessarily what they want to hear, but what they need to hear.
Unfortunately, the collective will of the council does not seem to favor selecting such a leader, a chief who will draw from his or her lifetime of experience and leadership and lead the department, and not allow it to be led from the chamber dais.
Unfortunately, without a change of philosophy on the City Council, the exodus will continue, innovation will falter and self-initiated proactive police work will decline. Morale will suffer, and the outstanding department that has been carved with blood and sweat over the decades will retreat into mediocrity.
Scott Jones is the Sacramento County sheriff. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.