Updated 3:51 p.m.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg has announced a proposal for police reform in the city of Sacramento that could include using $5 million from the city’s general fund to create a group of non-law enforcement officials to handle mental-health related 911 calls, and the creation of an inspector general position to look into police shootings and use-of-force incidents.
His plan comes on the heels of recent demonstrations in Sacramento and nationally that occurred in solidarity with George Floyd. Both the killing of Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer and the way local police have acted with demonstrators have sparked discussions around police reform.
“Our community is crying out for zero tolerance for police brutality and any forms of racism,” Steinberg said during a Zoom press conference on Monday. “Our community and our country is right, George Floyd’s death was not only a vicious murder, it also tore open the fear and trauma that African-Americans experience far too often in their daily lives.”
The mayor added he will also be meeting with the police commission to discuss how it can integrate some policies from the “Eight Can’t Wait” campaign — such as limiting officer use-of-force or training police in de-escalation strategies.
The city will also be looking at a recent Department of Justice review of Sacramento’s police department to see what changes can be made.
Other regional leaders — like Tecoy Porter of the Genesis Church in South Sacramento, Mario Guerrero of the Sacramento Police Review Commission and Cassandra Jennings with the Greater Sacramento Urban League — also spoke at the announcement in support.
However, others who have been more involved in direct organizing of recent demonstrations, like Sonia Lewis of the Liberation Collective for Black Sacramento, said she was disappointed the mayor did not reach out to the many community groups already working on these issues.
“There are lots of programs we can put in place that are designed for the people based on the needs assessments of the people,” Lewis said. “Not based on a white guy coming in and saying you need this Band-Aid, no that’s not going to work anymore.”
She also mentioned concerns that the inspector general position would not wield any power in its findings, as advocates have pointed out is the case with the county’s law enforcement watchdog.
“We don’t want to emulate systems that are powerless, we want to give the people power to fix it,” Lewis said.
Steinberg has said he would like the city’s inspector general to have more power than the county’s, but has yet to lay out specifics in both of these proposals.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also held a press conference Monday, calling for changes to policing across the state.
He issued several recommendations to law enforcement agencies, such as implementing de-escalation tactics before using force and reporting all use-of-force incidents for public review. Some of these changes are set to take effect in 2021 under a law passed last year, but Becerra says departments should act now.
“We cannot afford to ignore the realities faced by Black Americans and people of color in this nation and in our state,” he said. “With Americans across the country standing up against injustice and racism, we have been called to reckon with the systemic failures that cause and allow police misconduct to perpetuate.”
He also wants to partner with lawmakers to introduce reforms. One proposal would create a statewide system for decertifying officers for serious misconduct. Another would place limits on using rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray for crowd control.
He says conversations with lawmakers are ongoing.
Becerra signaled his office had no immediate plans for changing qualified immunity protections, which broadly shields officers from civil lawsuits tied to their actions while in uniform. He added he was open to a conversation on the topic.
CapRadio's Scott Rodd contributed to this report.
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