A Sacramento forum Thursday, moderated by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, was the first of a planned series of events to discuss criminal justice reform and public safety issues with district attorneys and candidates nationwide.
The candidates’ forum at Brickhouse Gallery in Oak Park was organized by the Players’ Coalition, a group of National Football League players including the San Francisco 49ers’ Richard Sherman and former Baltimore Ravens and 49ers’ player Anquan Boldin touring the country to advocate for social justice and criminal justice reform.
Sacramento County District Attorney Ann Marie Schubert was invited by the Players Coalition but declined to attend. Her challenger, deputy County prosecutor Noah Phillips, spoke during the event, making his first public statements a regarding the May 4 arrest of an African-American man outside a South Land Park 7-Eleven store.
He called the incident another example of biased policing by local law enforcement.
“We continue to have serious problems with how police deal with black and brown people in our community,” Phillips said.
Phillips, said he had seen videos of the incident and added that in 20 years as a prosecutor in Sacramento County, “I’ve never seen that charge," said Phillips. "I didn’t know that was a crime. ”
Jenkins, the coalition's co-founder, said Sacramento was a natural place to begin talking about issues of police accountability and criminal justice reform in the wake of Stephon Clark's March shooting by Sacramento police. Clark’s shooting, the calls for reform and demands for answers in its wake have become central issues in the race for Sacramento County District Attorney.
“As football players, we have a platform for our voices to be heard,” Jenkins said. “When we saw (the) Stephon Clark (incident), we felt compelled to come to Sacramento as the DA’s race was happening to ask the tough questions about reform. Stephon Clark’s case is nothing new, but there’s a unique opportunity in Sacramento to take that emotion and push it into solution-based action.”
In the 7-Eleven incident, Craig Williams, was arrested by Sacramento police at the store on 43rd Avenue on suspicion of resisting arrest and leaving a key in the ignition of an unattended vehicle after the officer appeared to turn off the car’s ignition when he saw the car idling and heard music playing loudly from the automobile.
Sacramento City code bars motorists from leaving a vehicle unattended while the engine is idling. Sacramento County prosecutors are reviewing the file to determine whether they will file formal charges. The Sacramento chapter of the NAACP is pressing the DA’s office not to file charges.
In video of the South Land Park incident, an officer is shown tackling Williams to the ground before leading him way in handcuffs. Police say the officers tried to contact Williams for unspecified “multiple law violations” but that Williams refused to talk with the officer.
Sacramento police in a statement accompanying the videos say the footage shows “how important it is for there to be a relationship of trust” between police and the community. Without that trust, the police statement continued, “even minor incidents…can escalate into unpleasant and even dangerous events.”