Soapbox

Accurate investigations of shootings take time

Sacramento police training Officer Dustin Smith, center, monitors a simulation exercise at the Police Academy in August.
Sacramento police training Officer Dustin Smith, center, monitors a simulation exercise at the Police Academy in August. rbenton@sacbee.com

The Bee’s editorial against the dedicated men and women of the Sacramento Police Department (“Sacramento police flirting with disaster,” Sept. 16) is just another in a long line of attacks on police officers and serves no purpose other than to create controversy.

The department is transparent. What the editorial is asking for isn’t transparency; it’s asking to be the judge and jury on matters of police conduct. The Bee wants immediate transparency at the expense of fairness, accuracy and completeness.

Officer-involved shootings in Sacramento are investigated by two internal (police detectives and internal affairs investigators) and two external groups (the city’s independent Office of Public Safety Accountability and the District Attorney’s Office) that are independent of one another and are impartial, fair and accurate. The district attorney is responsible for the difficult determination if an officer’s use of force was proper. Complete and accurate investigations take time; sacrificing accuracy for immediacy is a recipe for disaster.

The editorial fails to address the true problems we are facing in Sacramento and our nation. At the top of that list is how we should address mental health needs. Our failure has left police officers to be the front-line mental health treatment providers in our city. No matter how well-trained and professional our officers are, they are not doctors and do not have the skills or the resources to solve mental health difficulties.

Greater diversity in the Police Department could ease some concerns. The department has worked hard toward diversity, but retention has been difficult. Sacramento officers are among the lowest paid in the region and are leaving at an alarming rate.

Finally, the perception of some that the department is unable to serve all the needs of our citizens isn’t without foundation. We are still struggling to recover from layoffs and service cuts during the recession. Even though the department is drastically understaffed for a capital city our size, officers continue to provide exceptional service, risking their lives to protect the citizens of Sacramento.

I call on the editorial board to end its divisive rhetoric. Help us find ways to strengthen our community and stop sowing the seeds of discord.

Timothy Davis is president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association. He can be contacted at tdavis@spoa.org.

  Comments