Who runs Sacramento? Mostly white men, city audit says

Mayor Kevin Johnson’s last State of the City address

The mayor gave his last State of the City address to a packed auditorium at the Crest Theatre, January 27, 2016.
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The mayor gave his last State of the City address to a packed auditorium at the Crest Theatre, January 27, 2016.

Over the past 15 years, as California’s population grew increasingly diverse, Sacramento’s city workforce remained mostly white, a new city audit has found.

A final audit issued Tuesday by the Office of the City Auditor says the city’s employees – and its Police and Fire departments – are significantly less diverse than the public they serve. In all but two of 17 city departments examined, more than 50 percent of managers are white.

Of the 13 directors that oversee city departments, 11 are white. The city’s chief information officer is Hispanic, and the director of public safety accountability is black, according to the report.

Minorities and women remain largely shut out of the highest paying jobs.

“These numbers are dismal,” Mayor Kevin Johnson said at a Tuesday meeting of the City Council’s Budget and Audit Committee. “We are not proud of it.”

In the City Attorney’s Office, 70 percent of managers are white, as are 71 percent of firefighters who work for the Sacramento Fire Department.

Auditor Jorge Oseguera presented a preliminary version of his report in June. At that time, council members asked him to dig deeper into the numbers on the Police and Fire departments to see how they had changed over the years.

The city audit looked at staff information dating back to 2001, and concluded that diversity in the city’s Police Department has changed little over the past 15 years – and has actually declined when it comes to black employees.

“We are kind of in the same ballpark,” as 15 years ago,” Oseguera said Tuesday as he presented the report to the council committee.

Seventy percent of the 1,136 people who work for the Sacramento Police Department are white. That figure is slightly lower – 65 percent – in the department’s management ranks.

Overall, 25 percent of the department’s 734 sworn officers were listed as being “of color.” Hispanics made up 10.6 percent of the officers’ ranks, Asians 8 percent and blacks 3.6 percent.

“We’ve been making a significant effort over the last few years to improve that, but that takes time,” said police spokesman Matthew McPhail.

In 2001, the Police Department had 67 black personnel, representing less than 10 percent of the force. By 2015, that number dropped to 38, of which just 27 were sworn officers.

In the last three police academies, diversity numbers have improved significantly, but white candidates still outnumbered minority candidates, and men vastly outnumbered women. Whites also made up the majority of the department’s “pipeline” program meant to draw in young candidates. Currently, 44 percent of participants are white.

Johnson called for an audit of money allotted to the Police Department to increase diversity. The city gave the department $1 million in each of the past two budget years for diversity programs. Johnson said a review of the effectiveness of programs funded with that money was needed.

“Are there other ways to spend those dollars to get a bigger bang for our buck?” he asked. “Are (the funds) getting at the goals and outcomes that we want?”

Johnson added that he believed Sacramento police Chief Sam Somers is “committed to changing” the diversity numbers.

Historical Fire Department date show similar trends in the racial and ethnic makeup of sworn officers. Currently, 3 percent of all sworn Fire Department personnel are black, and 12 percent are Hispanic.

Fire Department spokesman Chris Harvey said his department has a hard time retaining minority and female staff members, who often leave for jobs with higher pay and benefits.

“They know they’re highly desirable,” he said. “They really can choose where they want to go if they are qualified.”

City Councilman Rick Jennings said he was troubled by the decline of black personnel within those two public safety departments. While the ranks of other ethnic groups remained largely flat at the police and fire agencies over the 14-year period examined, their numbers did not drop.

“We have to get into the devil of that detail if we are ever going to change,” he said during the meeting.

One of the most startling findings in the audit was how underrepresented Hispanics are in city management ranks throughout departments. In every department except economic development, there was a double-digit discrepancy in the percentage of Hispanics in management roles compared to the percentage of Hispanics in Sacramento in general. Overall, Hispanics were underrepresented in top jobs by 20 percentage points when compared to their overall population numbers.

Sacramento’s population is 35 percent white, nearly 27 percent Hispanic, 20 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, 13 percent African American and 5 percent multi-race.

The report also highlighted gender pay differences within city ranks. Of the 157 management employees making more than $120,000 annually, 38 were women – about 24 percent. In the Police Department, that disparity was even more pronounced. In the City Attorney’s Office, only six women make more than $120,000 a year, compared with 18 men at that level.

At the Fire Department, just 19 of the 385 sworn personnel who make more than $90,000 a year are women.

Defending the department, Harvey said just 5 percent of the 576 sworn Fire Department employees are women. That’s better than the national average of 3.4 percent, he said.

Johnson said he did not view the report as a “gotcha,” but instead as an opportunity to create short- and long-term plans to address the problem.

“This reality is real, and what we care most about is ... what can we do going forward?” he said during the meeting.

He said he would ask the committee to create an action plan to present to the full City Council.

“At the end of the day, it’s got to be about action,” he said. “It can’t be about words.”

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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