The Sacramento Police Department decided Tuesday to conduct an internal affairs review of the July police shooting of a mentally ill man in North Sacramento.
On the same day, Les Simmons resigned as head of the Sacramento Community Police Commission, saying the city’s advisory panel was “not relevant” in the aftermath of the shooting that left Joseph Mann dead.
The city declined to directly confirm the Mann case would go to internal affairs, citing confidentiality of personnel matters. But City Hall sources confirmed that at a meeting between city officials and police Tuesday, Chief Sam Somers Jr. forwarded the case for further review.
“The civil investigation process is a confidential process, but we can state that the investigation is not yet complete,” said City Attorney James Sanchez in a statement. The Police Department is no longer commenting on the case and has been directing inquires to the City Attorney’s Office.
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Kevin Ross, a member of a community group calling for greater transparency and accountability, said that withholding details of the investigation, including any sanctions the officers could eventually face if found to have violated department rules, highlighted the need for police reforms.
“The secrecy and the lack of transparency is what makes the distrust and maintains the mistrust,” he said.
An internal affairs investigation would examine whether officers followed department policy and procedure, but does not review the legality of officers’ actions, said Francine Tournour of the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case for criminal action.
If officers are found to have violated department policy and procedure in an internal affairs investigation, disciplinary action could be taken against them. However, the public would likely never know since those actions would be part of their confidential personnel record.
Joseph Mann was shot multiple times by Officers Randy Lozoya and John Tennis on Del Paso Boulevard after police responded to a call about an armed man acting erratically. Mann, who had a knife with a 4-inch blade and was described as mentally ill by his family, was initially followed by other officers who attempted to de-escalate the situation minutes prior to the shooting.
When Tennis and Lozoya arrived on the scene, they attempted to hit Mann with their vehicle before pursuing him on foot and shooting him 14 times in a frantic encounter that lasted less than one minute. The officers’ attorney, Judith Odbert, has not returned calls. But in a statement last week, she said, “Lethal force was deployed due to the direct threat that (Mann) posed to the citizens of this community and the officers.”
The incident has become a local flashpoint for community activists calling for police reforms, including a civilian oversight board with powers to investigate police shootings .Simmons was joined at the news conference by members of Black Lives Matter, the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, or LEAD, and Sacramento Area Congregations Together. The coalition called on the city to create a civilian police oversight committee that has direct power similar to what exists in other cities such as Berkeley.
Simmons, a local pastor who headed the Police Commission since it formed last year, said at a news conference Tuesday that he was “not being relevant and true to my community” by continuing to serve on the police commission without that power. The board can only make recommendations to the City Council and is not able to investigate incidents such as the Mann shooting or have access to information in such cases.
“Unfortunately where we are today is a defining moment as the result of July 11, the shooting of Joseph Mann,” said Simmons during a news conference with local community and religious leaders. “This commission needs to be strengthened … It was relevant for a time and it’s continuing to build. However for this moment that requires oversight, requires transparency and requires accountability, this commission, the community is asking of it something it doesn’t have.”
Commission member Tim Davis, head of the union that represents officers, said that the commission was “doing good work” and needed more time before its success was judged.
Davis said that the commission had this week crafted a policy recommendation to increase diversity on the force, including raising pay to match other local law enforcement agencies to help retain officers, and that it would continue to listen to community input to make further recommendations.
“I think its premature to say it is not working,” said Davis. “It hasn’t even existed for a year yet.”
Mark Harris, a member of LEAD, said the commission should have the power to review police policy and procedures, to subpoena information and witnesses and be staffed with civilian investigators to independently review allegations of police misconduct.
“It’s lacks credibility with the community, the entire community of concerned citizens,” he said. “With no power and a clear lack of relevancy it is not only an impotent agency but one that is counterproductive.”