Following weeks of protests demanding police reform, Sacramento City Council members voted Tuesday to change the way police use-of-force cases are investigated and how to handle 911 calls dealing with mental health crises.
Council members agreed to appoint an Inspector General to review use-of-force incidents inside the Sacramento Police Department. This vote gives the Inspector General the “full independence and authority to investigate officer-involved shootings and use-of-force incidents that result in serious bodily injury or death.”
During Tuesday’s special meeting, council members also voted to spend $5 million to develop a new process for dealing with emergency calls dealing with mental health crises and homeless people.
According to the measure: “This may include the creation of a new city division with required staffing and/or the ability to contract out specific referrals to qualified community-based organizations as necessary for the most efficient and well supported response options.”
The city manager will develop the new response process, which could take two years.
“When it comes to police call volume and budget, a lot of calls through the 911 triage system do not involve serious criminal conduct,” said Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. “I am proposing the establishment of an office of community response. And we begin a process, in a thoughtful and assertive way, in shifting these calls, shifting resources, and establishing a different, non-law enforcement response.”
Sacramento deputy police chief Kathy Lester told council members that the city has limited resources and social services, and law enforcement has been overutilized when it comes to dealing with people in need.
“Overall, we just want people to be safe and to get service from someone who can help them most,” said Sacramento deputy chief Kathy Lester during her presentation to the council. “Sometimes that’s not the police.”
Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn says he appreciates this effort to change the response to 911 calls without criminal issues.
“As a police department and as police chief, we completely agree that our officers go on calls that we don’t believe that they should be going on,” Hahn told the council. “We look forward to working with whoever is in charge of this effort in figuring out what calls are much better suited in our community and free officers up to do what only officers can do.”
Sacramento activists such as Dr. Flojaune Cofer said their voices are not being heard when it comes to police reform efforts in Sacramento. Cofer chairs the Measure U Community Advisory Committee. She has been calling the city out after she found out funding from the measure, which was promised to boost communities of color, is now being directed to the police.
“Council has marginalized the voices of the community and will proceed with this hamfisted, underfunded, & poorly considered set of 1998 reforms,” Cofer said in a tweet. “Yet, in two minutes the public comment has been more precise and insightful than the preceding four hours.”
During public comment, speakers said there needs to be more transparency for previous incidents of excessive force with police and deadly confrontations and called on politicians to stop accepting political donations from police unions and to invest in the community.
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