City Beat

Sacramento forms new Community Police Commission

Responding to months of community meetings, the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to form a Community Police Commission that will analyze the Police Department’s diversity, policies and “bias-free policing” training.

Mayor Kevin Johnson organized a series of meetings last year after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white police officer in Ferguson, Mo., sparked riots and a national discussion over community-police relations.

Francine Tournour, the director of the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability, said community members suggested replacing the Community Racial Profiling Commission with a commission that had broader oversight. The racial profiling commission had “experienced diminished participation due to the limited authority (given to it) beyond traffic stop data analysis,” according to a city staff report.

Last year, Johnson appointed council members Allen Warren, Angelique Ashby and Rick Jennings to a public safety council committee – and the new commission is the result of their work. The mayor said the council committee formed a commission that “has real teeth in it and that the community feels very good about.”

“This commission, made up of the community, gives us a chance to have real accountability, real community input and it gives you (the community) the chance to have real oversight,” the mayor told the audience in the City Council chambers.

Tournour said the commission will be made up of 11 members, including representatives from faith, civil rights and business communities. A former law enforcement official will sit on the commission, along with an appointee of the city police union. Johnson will appoint the members, pending City Council approval.

The commission will report to the City Council on police activity each year.

Clifton Roberts, a member of the former racial profiling commission and an Oak Park resident, said “this ordinance (to form the new commission) has the potential to close the trust gap between the police and various communities that feel targeted.”

Warren said “at the top of the list” for the commission’s priorities is analyzing the Police Department’s diversity and sensitivity training policies; the Police Department is more than 70 percent white.

“It’s going to make our city safer and our citizens happier,” Warren said.

The city and the Police Department also have launched an initiative called Officer Next Door that is creating a gang task force, engaging churches to promote cooperation between officers and residents, and focusing on recruiting a diverse police force by partnering with local high schools.