Sacramento is preparing for new COVID-19 restrictions to go into effect 11:59 p.m. Thursday under the state’s new regional stay-at-home order based on ICU capacity.
With people being once again asked to stay at home, CapRadio’s Insight spoke with Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn about the police department’s role in enforcing the new restrictions and his view of the recent protests.
Hahn says having to send 150 officers to police the protests is taking away from Sacramento’s neighborhoods in a year where violent crime is up in the city, and exposing officers to the virus.
“There's a lot of reasons why I wish people would just exercise their rights instead of being violent and conducting this activity downtown,” he said.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
On the police department’s role in enforcing COVID-19 restrictions
From time to time, we get calls on it, so we will respond and take an education mode, but enforcement doesn't necessarily have to come in the criminal justice system. So in regards to business, our code enforcement in the city — which isn't under the police department — deals with all the businesses. And so that could be anywhere from fines to business license, to things like that if it's egregious and they don't comply after education. But that would be the code enforcement division doing that.
On what he’d say to the public about recent protests at the Capitol, especially ahead of the new stay-at-home order being implemented
We have protesting at the Capitol, those are folks that want to come down and speak their opinion. I think this last week was about the election. And so that's what I would call protesting. And then the other stuff that we saw is not protesting. It's just they come down to assault each other. That's not protected, that's not First Amendment. And if you look at the groups online, anywhere, social media-wise, that are purporting to be the groups that were down there, they intended to do that before the protest started and then they bragged about it afterwards. So I wouldn't call that protest. I think that's putting a bad light on the actual protesters. Whether you agree with protesters' sentiment or not, as long as they're protesting, legitimately protesting, then they have every right to do that. And we want to support that. But what we saw last week was both — some protesters and some non-protesters.
On lessons learned policing protests and continuing challenges
I think we've learned a lot over time, and a lot of that is just learning better ways to keep groups separated, especially this latest round of the last month down at the Capitol.
And unfortunately, it comes at a time where our neighborhoods are experiencing increased violence. So we're bringing like 150 officers every Saturday to keep groups apart from beating on each other and assaulting each other. And so it takes away from our neighborhoods.
And at the same time, now, we have officers that are in the middle of groups, many of which aren't wearing masks, and so now not only is it a challenging time while you're being assaulted by these so-called protesters, but you're also at a higher risk of getting COVID and taking it home to your family. So, yeah, there's a lot of reasons why I wish people would just exercise their rights instead of being violent and conducting this activity downtown.
On what the police are doing to mitigate the violence that continues to occur at weekend protests
I would challenge anybody that says we facilitate violence. I can't think of any actions that we've done that has facilitated violence. But do we block streets? Absolutely. We don't want cars mixing with protesters. But a lot of the groups that I think people are talking about are not protesters. They came down there to commit violence.
So if we can make arrests, we will. We have made arrests in the past and we've made arrests after the protests were over. But like, for example, this last weekend, the people we talked to that had been assaulted, they didn't want anything done. Some of them wouldn't even tell us their own names. So it's hard to make an arrest when the victim doesn't want anything done. And then a lot of the property damage on the cars was while groups were walking back to their, I guess you could call it their home base, while our officers were largely tied up and trying to continue to keep groups apart.
On why crime including assaults and homicides is up in Sacramento
I can tell you like 10 different things that I think are contributing factors and there's probably 20 more in addition to that. But in my mind, it's kind of like a perfect storm. So when you have a situation right now where nobody's really staying in jail when they get arrested, even for pretty serious crimes — they're being let out within about an hour and a half, hour, due to the courts and partly due to COVID. People are being let out of prison at very high rates. We've seen them coming to Sacramento if they don't have a place to go. So now they're part of our homeless population. There is no, that I can tell, re-entry program for these folks. So we're literally just opening the door and not helping them reintegrate back into our community, which, you can look at studies and see that re-entry programs work.
We have a health order that has pretty much eliminated the vast majority of activities that young people can be involved in, whether it's school or sports or those sort of activities where they're not only doing something productive and physical, but they're also in contact with mentors and things like that. So things have moved online. A lot of our groups have done as best they could, moving to online and keeping in touch with kids. But we've seen increased suicides. We've seen increases in mental health.
And then you have a lot of the protests going on, and we have a gang problem already before all this happened. So all it takes is a little gang war going on and then you have increased shooting. So there's a lot of factors that play into it, like with anything else.
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