Viewpoints

More police training is not enough. We need real action and change

Listen to Sacramento District Attorney announce no charges against officers who killed Stephon Clark

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announces results Saturday, March 2, 2019, of the investigation into the 2018 shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police.
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Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announces results Saturday, March 2, 2019, of the investigation into the 2018 shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police.

“No violence, just justice.” “Black lives matter.” “Hands up, don’t shoot.” “Say his name.”

These chants and pleas — shouted by citizens, activists and community leaders — implore our leaders to stop the violence inflicted by law enforcement on unarmed black citizens

Since 2014, the Greater Sacramento NAACP has proactively worked with Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the City Council to ensure that our community is safe and that our concerns are heard. As a result, the Just Justice Committee was formed. We held forums to seek community input. We developed policy and procedures. We proposed action items to address police practices that perpetrate violence on unarmed black residents.

In 2015, the mayor and City Council announced plans to set aside $5.4 million to improve police relations with the community. It funded initiatives like Officer Next Door, the diversity pipeline, the Cadet Program and the gang prevention task force. The department also started a body camera pilot program. These programs were designed with key community stakeholders to ensure that community needs were met. Fifteen new officers were hired.

In addition, the City Council approved the ordinance to replace the Community Racial Profiling Commission with the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission. The commission’s job is to monitor, evaluate and provide guidance on bias-free policing and implicit bias training, as well as provide advice to the City Council on how to strengthen community police relations.

Opinion

It’s now four years later and what we now realize is that training and programs are not enough. The City Council can continue to fund programs and seek community input. But nothing will change as long as law enforcement officers feel that they are exempt from prosecution.

Where is the justice for those black men who may end up with a death sentence because they’re suspected of a misdemeanor? While we respect Police Chief Daniel Hahn and the role of Sacramento Police Department in our community, we’re frustrated with police officers who always shoot to kill.

On March 22, 2018, I met with Chief Hahn and two NAACP attorneys. We suggested that the police department review the Oakland Police Department’s foot pursuit policy. Sacramento police have since adopted this policy, which discourages unnecessary foot pursuits in risky circumstances. We applaud Chief Hahn for responding to, and acting on, several of our concerns and suggestions immediately. This includes his request for an independent investigation by the California Department of Justice.

The NAACP is reviewing the findings and recommendations by Attorney General Xavier Becerra. His report urges the Sacramento Police Department to adopt sweeping changes in its use-of-force training, as well as in dozens of other areas.

The Greater Sacramento NAACP has long championed many of the recommendations outlined in the report. Those recommendations were extensive, covering 60 areas and included the following:

Expand the use of de-escalating tactics designed to prevent confrontation,

Prohibit officers from detaining suspects in a position that could interfere with their ability to breathe

Bar use of force against individuals who are not suspected of a crime or who are only challenging officers verbally

Implement higher standards for the use of deadly force that mirror standards proposed in Assembly Bill 392

The police commission should be granted powers to recommend disciplinary recommendations and should have the ability to review any and all policy that impacts public safety in our community.

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Betty Williams

Finally, we urge people to write to their state elected officials and demand that they vote for AB392, the “California Act to Save Lives,” which will reform the rules for when police may use deadly force. We also encourage our community to show up at the district attorney’s office and city hall to voice concerns.

The Greater Sacramento NAACP will continue monitoring this situation and will provide an evaluation of how well these recommendations have been implemented throughout the year. We will also work to change legislation as it relates to the Police Officers Bill of Rights.

Our organization champions the rights of all people. We will continue to speak out and stand up for their civil and human rights, with the understanding that real talk should translate into real action.

Betty Williams is the president of the Greater Sacramento National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
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