People rightfully expect their elected leaders to be transparent and share both the good and the bad about their government, especially in matters of life and death.
On May 8, 2017, Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies shot and killed Mikel McIntyre while responding to a distress call from his mother. Because it is an officer-involved shooting, Rick Braziel, Sacramento County’s inspector general, is conducting an independent review. It has been nearly 15 months since the shooting and McIntyre’s family has filed suit against Sacramento County and the city of Rancho Cordova.
This case should be extremely sad and upsetting to anyone familiar with it. But what is also disappointing to many is that the inspector general’s report is not yet complete and ready for the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors.
According to Braziel, the reason is that there are particular protocols his office follows relative to the District Attorney’s investigation, and the sharing of information between the two offices. While I’m sympathetic to the need for thoroughness, there are other competing needs such as the lack of closure for the family and the public’s right to know.
Imagine if your son or daughter was shot and killed by a law officer of your local government, and that same government refused for more than a year to provide detailed information about your child’s last moments and what contributed to their death. You’d be infuriated and motivated to acquire information as quickly as possible.
As one of five county supervisors, I don’t claim to know the McIntyre family’s anguish or anger, but I am very familiar with my own frustration trying to find out more about a shooting involving the law enforcement agency serving the people I’m elected to represent.
That’s why I’ve directed Braziel to provide the board with his incident report, and to finally brief the board at its closed session meeting on Aug. 7.
I am also directing the county CEO and county Counsel to explore whether the board has the authority to pass a policy requiring the early release of video footage of officer-involved shootings.
The purpose of bringing all of this to light should be obvious. What our community experienced this spring with the Sacramento police killing of Stephon Clark was at least partially a product of an avoidable growing tension between those with information and those who deserve to have it in a timely manner.
I think most of us agree that law enforcement, the district attorney’s office, the coroner and the inspector general all need time to carefully conduct proper investigations in officer-involved incidents. Furthermore, these professionals need the “breathing room” to finish their work, free from conjecture and guesswork.
Still, I’m convinced by the McIntyre shooting that more must and can be done to balance the needs of all involved, including family members, the media and the public.
Phil Serna represents District 1 on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.