Crime - Sacto 911

City commission may recommend release of video in police shootings

Chief Somers on release of officer footage

Sacramento police chief Sam Somers says sharing of incomplete crime scene footage hurts police morale. Somers explains why the department won't give officer or in camera footage to media. Exert from July 8 press conference.
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Sacramento police chief Sam Somers says sharing of incomplete crime scene footage hurts police morale. Somers explains why the department won't give officer or in camera footage to media. Exert from July 8 press conference.

The Sacramento Community Police Commission may ask the City Council to pass an ordinance requiring the release of dashboard and body camera footage from officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.

The recommendation was made by a subgroup of four members of the 11-member commission, who examined transparency issues in city policing and presented their findings to the entire panel Monday night.

They suggested the Police Department create a website where details of all officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths would be available to the public. They called for the website to include dashboard and body camera footage and for the information to be available according to a schedule.

Currently, “there is no set policy on releasing video footage,” said Commission Vice Chairman Clif Roberts, who presented the recommendations. Passing an ordinance would “create policies that are outside of the control of the Police Department management,” he said.

The transparency committee also recommended that incident information be available in languages other than English and criticized local media coverage of officer-involved shootings, charging that the press fails to follow up on many incidents beyond initial coverage.

The report was compiled from interviews with the Police Department’s public information staff, community members and clergy.

The full commission did not take action on the report. It plans on hearing other reports on diversity and traffic stops before preparing recommendations for the Sacramento City Council to consider.

Commission Chairman Les Simmons said he expected it to be at least three months before the full report could be ready for the City Council.

Community members at the meeting said they want the City Council to grant the police commission greater authority to investigate shootings and other police conduct independently.

Black Lives Matter representative Tanya Faison spoke about similar commissions in other cities and the authority and power they hold compared to the lesser advisory role Sacramento’s panel currently plays.

“The police in this country and this city have lost the trust of the people, especially in communities of color,” she said. “The people need you to have the power to investigate.”

Led by Tanya Faison, Sacramento Black Lives Matter protesters say local police fatal shootings deserve scrutiny. Some 60 protesters gathered in front of police headquarters Saturday.

Anita Chabria: 916-321-1049, @chabriaa

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