At the latest city council meeting in the wake of the Stephon Clark shooting, Sacramento’s police chief fielded questions from the mayor and officials for nearly two hours.
A capacity crowd, including more than five dozen speakers, also demanded accountability from the chief and his department on Tuesday night.
Chief Daniel Hahn spoke at length about a variety of policies, including de-escalation tactics and implicit bias. He admitted that the department needs to establish better rules for when officers should pursue a suspect on foot.
He also confirmed that officers are no longer allowed to turn off body cameras without permission from a supervisor, a change made in recent days after two officers put their cameras on mute after fatally shooting Clark on March 18.
The chief embraced the process of improving his police force. “I see a department and city council brave enough to say we can do better, and willing to do the hard work to get there,” Hahn said.
Members of the community spoke for almost three hours, and their emotions remained intense as demonstrations against Clark’s death at the hands of police entered their fourth week.
Speaker Elika Bernard drew applause when she demanded that the community have a voice in implementing law-enforcement reforms. “In order to break down the walls of distrust that divide us, our council and our Sac PD need to allow the people that are closest to the pain to be at the forefront for deciding what the solutions are,” she told the council during public comment.
Many speakers asked that officers who break department protocol face consequences. “You talk about a use-of-force policy, that use-of-force policy needs to include what kind of punishment is going to happen when they [officers] violate these rules,” said Tanya Faison, founder of the local Black Lives Matter chapter.
Earlier on Tuesday, protesters with her group showed up again outside District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s downtown office, where they demanded the region’s top prosecutor to file charges against the two officers that shot Clark.
Demonstrators set up barbecues in front of the DA’s headquarters, and also briefly blocked vehicles from leaving its parking lot. Many protesters eventually marched to City Hall to attend the council meeting.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg and colleagues asked tough questions of Hahn, such as whether officers need to spend more time training on de-escalation tactics.
“The training is over 200 hours for use of firearms and chemical agents,” the mayor began, “and it’s 30 hours for de-escalation training. Is that significant? What does that mean?”
The mayor also asked whether there was a correlation between officers having less experience and being assigned to work in lower-income neighborhoods.
“I don’t know if there’s a direct correlation, but it might end up like that,” Hahn responded.
Steinberg made an issue of whether officers spend enough time getting to know the city’s various neighborhoods.
“We do not have community policing,” he told Hahn. “And I think among the greatest services you can provide here for us in this community conversation over the months ahead for how we get back to … genuine neighborhood policing.”
The mayor says he wants an “honest conversation” about what resources would be needed to accomplish this.
The chief said community work and earning neighborhood trust is a longstanding issue for the department. “If we did a study right now, the different neighborhoods would feel drastically different … about their very same police department,” Hahn said. “That is our challenge.”
Ste’Vante Clark spoke at the meeting during public comment. “I have mental health issues, OK guys,” he said after asking the media to stop airing law-enforcement footage of his brother’s death.
“Nothing to be ashamed of,” the mayor told him.
The night did not see disruptions that impacted previous council meetings about the police shooting, and only one audience member was asked to leave.
The mayor said Hahn will return to council in the coming months with regular updates.
The chief said that final law-enforcement video footage of the Clark shooting would be released next week.
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