Requiring de-escalation tactics, expanding partnerships with mental health professionals and scaling back canine use.
These are some of the key recommendations the California Department of Justice explored in its second report on the Sacramento Police Department’s use of force policies. While the recommendations are not binding, Attorney General Xavier Becerra encouraged the department to adopt the recommendations in order to avoid use of force controversies in the future and build a stronger relationship with the community.
“This is about being accountable, and meeting the call for change,” Becerra said during a virtual press conference Wednesday.
The state Department of Justice released an initial report in January 2019, containing recommendations about a variety of topics, including when officers should use force and best practices for de-escalating situations that could turn violent. The Sacramento Police Department says it has implemented 59 of the 66 recommendations from the first report.
The Department of Justice launched its review in cooperation with the Sacramento Police Department, following the controversial police killing of Stephon Clarke in 2018.
“The Sacramento Police Department is always looking for ways to improve training and policies to ensure the safety of our community, officers, and professional staff,” said Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn
The report released Wednesday encourages the department to make de-escalation tactics a core piece of its use of force policy. That means requiring de-escalation efforts before force is used — not simply recommending it.
“De-escalation can involve verbal warnings, persuasion, tactical positioning, and other approaches — all with the goal of securing both officer and civilian safety,” the report states.
The Department of Justice also recommends Sacramento modify its use of canines by implementing a “find and bark” approach, as opposed to “find and bite” — a recommendation discussed in last year’s report.
“In an effort to reduce unnecessary injuries, departments across the country are increasingly abandoning training methods and policies that lead to canine bites,” the report states.
Training a canine to bark, according to the report, corners the suspect and allows law enforcement to apprehend the individual.
The department did not implement the “find and bark” recommendation from last year’s report after researching it, according to the department’s most recent progress update.
The Sacramento Police Department has changed its policies in at least one area contained in the most recent report.
The city suspended use of the carotid hold, a maneuver that cuts off circulation to the brain, in June. The report recommends banning the move outright, except in rare circumstances.
“By prohibiting or significantly limiting these kinds of force, SPD may be able to decrease the likelihood of unnecessary and accidental serious bodily injuries,” the report states.
Following the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, protesters in recent weeks have called for immediate change to policing in America. Some have called for defunding the police, which means reducing spending for traditional policing and re-allocating it to responders with a background in mental health and social work.
Becerra’s message to those activists: Be patient — the wheels are in motion.
“Change does not come easily,” he said. “[But] don’t stop, keep at it. If you’re [protesting] peacefully, you’re doing the right thing.”
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