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Sacramento police changes racial profiling complaint process after state report

California Attorney General Becerra releases report on policies, practices at Sacramento Police Department

California Attorney General Becerra, Sacramento Chief of Police Hahn and Sacramento Mayor Steinberg hold a press conference on a Calif. Department of Justice report on use of force-related policies and practices within the Sacramento Police Dept.
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California Attorney General Becerra, Sacramento Chief of Police Hahn and Sacramento Mayor Steinberg hold a press conference on a Calif. Department of Justice report on use of force-related policies and practices within the Sacramento Police Dept.

Sacramento Police Department’s new policy for collecting and tracking racial profiling complaints took effect this month, the agency’s head of internal affairs said in a public meeting Monday.

The announcement comes eight months after the state Department of Justice released a sweeping report critical of the department’s inconsistent process for investigating complaints.

The change in policy also comes after police reported zero racial or identity profiling complaints in 2018, saying its internal affairs division had not investigated any complaints alleging profiling by officers. But a Sacramento Bee review found the department had received four citizen complaints that were forwarded from the Office of Public Safety and Accountability, tasked with providing oversight of the police department.

“The department historically had, I guess I would say, an inaccurate ability to report that data as many citizen-reported issues were classified as inquiries and not complaints. By policy, inquiries were not considered complaints,” said Lt. James Harrington of the Sacramento Police Department at the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission meeting Monday night.

The Department of Justice’s report stopped short of calling the department’s use of inquiries problematic, but says it “creates a universe of complaints that are handled informally and never tracked by Internal Affairs.”

“In essence, we could not easily capture accurate data regarding which of these discrimination complaints would have in fact been profiling,” Harrington said at the meeting.

Beginning Aug. 1, the department has a new manual for racial profiling complaints which Harrington said would allow them to accurately report racial profiling data. It also creates a new category specifically for racial profiling complaints rather than rolling it in with other discrimination-based complaints, he said.

The new manual was uploaded on the police department’s website Tuesday afternoon.

Inquiries were eliminated from the complaint process and personnel are now instructed to document and route complaints to division captains and Internal Affairs. The manual also stipulates that all investigations, even those that do not result in discipline, must be documented and tracked.

Additionally, there is now category for complaints that allege profiling on the basis of “actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability when deciding to subject a person to law enforcement activities.”

“However, an officer may consider or rely on characteristics listed in a specific suspect description,” the manual says.

“We added profiling as a stand-alone allegation based on the California Department of Justice’s definition, so we took Cal DOJ’s definition of profiling verbatim and used that as our definition of profiling in our new policy,” Harrington said. “So we now have the ability to track and report accurate profiling complaint data moving forward from Aug. 1, 2019,” and profiling data is analyzed by the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board.

The data collection is mandated by the Racial and Identity Profiling Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2015 and requires law enforcement agencies to collect and report stop data.

The law aims to “eliminate racial and identity profiling and improve racial and identity sensitivity in law enforcement,” according to the Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board 2018 annual report.

Harrington said the Sacramento Police has an average of 5,000 detentions a month.

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