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Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn Reflects On How Officers Handle Public Demonstrations

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

On the night of March 4, Sacramento Police officers arrested 84 people including faith leaders, students and journalists during a peaceful protest in East Sacramento.

The protesters were marching in response to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert's decision not to file criminal charges against the officers who shot and killed Stephon Clark last March.

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn joined Insight today to talk about how officers have handled the public demonstrations in the year since Clark's death.

He also spoke about moving forward after the Clark shooting, the department’s upcoming decision about the officers involved and his relationship with the mayor and city manager.

Here are some highlights from the conversation.

On the difference between the anniversary march in Meadowview and the East Sacramento demonstration on March 4 that ended in 84 arrests

Well there's a lot of things that were different about last night. But I would also say we have to be a department that continues to get better. So that's what I'm dedicated to, that's what we're dedicated to. As we move along, there's always lessons to be learned and if we don't get better from those lessons then we've failed. The protest march [on March 4] was different in a lot of ways to a lot of the marches that we have. There was property damage, there was at one point some flames and fire that somebody was holding over cars. There was confrontation.

On whether or not he would call the arrests a mistake

That's an interesting word. I would just say this: The things that we are implementing and moving forward with, I think we will not have that in the future. But in terms of a "mistake," I mean, I wish it hadn't happened and I hope it doesn't happen in the future and I think there's better ways that we can implement things that will avoid that. For example, better communication with the media, better communication with our pastors that are oftentimes in these protests trying to ensure that they stay safe, and better communication with all the protesters so there's clear direction and clear information about what's getting ready to happen.

On whether the Stephon Clark shooting and its aftermath marks an end or a beginning

I don't know that will ever be at a ending because I think as a community and as a department, we have to always keep looking [at] how we can get better... I know we can be a lot farther than we are right now. We often talk about officer-involved shootings and things like Stephon Clark being shot, and those are obviously important because it's taking somebody's life. But I think the underlying, more broad thing is just the relationship between certain segments of our community and the police department. And that has to get better. There has to be a level of trust that's earned. You can't just ask for it and it appears. You have to earn it.

On the department’s upcoming report about the officers who shot Clark

It's a two step process and the first step has been completed and we've released that. Some of the things that came out of that are the foot pursuit policy and a couple of different versions of the body camera policy as it evolved over the last year. The final step is the final step of, did they comply with policy during the actual shooting? And we wait for that until after the DA and, in this case, the attorney general and now, in this case, the FBI. So hopefully, in the very near future, hopefully, no more than a month or two, we will be done with that too and we will release that.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

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