Meadowview residents still talk about how much they loved Officer Dan Ware, one of Sacramento’s first black policeman. He often patrolled by foot, and as a baseball coach, he was a role model for young neighborhood boys. But he also had personal battles with his employers at the Sacramento Police Department.
[sound of little league game, community cheers]
Pauline: On this little league field just north of Meadowview, right next to the Sacramento Executive Airport, neighborhood kids run to first base for the first time, or maybe even hit a home run.
[sound of bat hitting ball… “Second base, second base!”]
Pauline: Hanging high above them on a wire fence is a white sign that reads:
“Welcome to Dan Ware Field...”
It’s just one reason Dan Ware’s name is still uttered in South Sacramento. He was a police officer who passed away more than 20 years ago. His passion was keeping kids out of trouble… whether he was patrolling, or coaching kids in this little league.
[theme music begins]
Pauline: In fact, when people talk about him today, they don’t really distinguish between Dan Ware, the cop - and Dan Ware, their neighbor.
Enrique: Dan Ware was involved here with little league at least probably 30, 40 years.
Greg: “He was a police officer, but he was community man with a police officer uniform on”
Leon: They used to call him Big Dan.
Greg: Uncle Dan Ware.
Dale: Mr. Ware.
Greg: Grandpa Ware.
Fields: He helped support this community with the little league…
Enrique: Very dedicated here.
Danetta: He loved people.
Arthur: Dan was fair across the board.
Dale McKinney: If you talked to him decently, He would talk to you decently.
Michael Fields: Everybody stayed out of trouble when he was around.
Margaret: People just loved him... Big Dan Ware.
Pauline: Dan Ware is remembered as a protector of the community. Someone who brought out the best in people. We at CapRadio were intrigued by this. Remember, this is in a neighborhood where, just recently, people were marching through the streets chanting this on the one year anniversary of the police killing of Stephon Clark:
[sound of protests, bullhorn: “All these punk-ass cops. We don’t need ‘em, need ‘em, all these scary-ass cops…”/music continues in background]
Pauline: So in this episode of Making Meadowview, we’re delving into the past to find out how this police officer managed to build so much trust with people in South Sacramento. And he did this, even while having his own personal battles with Sacramento’s police department. How did Ware police his community, and at the same time, make them feel like he was on their side?
I’m Pauline Bartolone... that’s the question we’ll answer on this episode of Making Meadowview, from Capital Public Radio and The View From Here.
[music comes to end]
Pauline: Dan Ware was one of the first black police officers in Sacramento, patrolling from the 1960’s through the mid 1980s. He was a towering personality... He stood at 6’3” and at times, weighed more than 300 pounds. He came to Sacramento from Louisiana. His dad was Mexican, and his mom was black.
Greg King, a long time community activist in South Sacramento, first met Ware on the Airport Little League baseball diamonds back in the 1970s.
Greg King: I was out there working with some kids and I heard someone yell "Hey boy, come here." At first I thought he was talking to me, but he was talking to one of the little kids that was over there throwing some rocks. And he told the kid, "If you want to throw some rocks you get out here and you can throw some many baseballs." And then right away you know, his voice was very commanding and demanding and that little kid talked about how he never played baseball before and he said, "It's ok that you haven't played baseball before but get out here and try it, you might like it."
Pauline: Dan Ware lived in the Meadowview area, and according to people who knew him, he was always on that field. Greg King remembers him in both uniform and plain clothes…. It seems to King, whether or not he was on duty, his role in the community was the same.
Greg King: He didn't patrol his community in the car he patrol his community on foot by being close to the people. Letting them know who he is and get to know who they are. So if it was somebody that he needed to talk to because they got into some trouble. You know they will come to the baseball diamond and then over there at the market that used to be at 24th and Florin...and that's what he would be at. "Boy, I told you yesterday not to do that. And I saw you throwing rocks again and I tell you not to throw them rocks?"
Pauline: People close to Ware said, he was more about correction, than punishment. He taught kids about being accountable to others, and gave them a reason to stay away from crime: baseball.
Greg King: It wasn't about putting handcuffs on people. He was putting knowledge in people. You know one time he asked me, “What does a king wear on his head?” I said “A crown.” He said what the Crown have? Well I said “jewels.” He said, “OK well your brain is your crown and you're not a judge your jewels. That's what I'm going to teach you, how to become a King.” And that's what he did in the community he helped a whole lot of young men and young ladies to become kings and queens in the community. And a lot of us are still here today. And you know still growing that seed in which he planted in us.
Pauline: Friends and family remember Ware patrolling in South Sacramento, mostly in Oak Park, a historically black district, where lots of Meadowview residents did their shopping.
Leon Taylor: “You know, he wasn’t Officer Ware, he was Big Dan to most people.”
Pauline: Leon Taylor policed Oak Park with Ware back in the 1960s, when the two first joined the force. They practiced a method of policing that has largely been abandoned...foot patrol. No squad car, no bike.
Leon: It was just constant walking. There was night clubs there at the time. Pool halls, jewelry stores, banks etc. Then that's when Dan would take the time to go in and talk to each merchant to see what was going on, how the day has been. At some point in time someone walking up and down the street will stop you... and they may say oh by the way I saw something that didn't look right the other day. And so that's how preventative measures start taking place because you know about what potentially may be happening before it actually happens.
P: auline: Leon Taylor says he and Dan Ware got all kinds of tips. Locals would tell them if a shooting or a fight was bound to break out in the park that night. In the early 70s, this face-to-face contact was especially helpful...The Black Panthers had a headquarters in Oak Park, and Leon Taylor served as a mediator.
Leon: Because I walked the beat I can talk to members of the Panthers you know they can tell me what they're ticked off about with the police department you know I can then talk them again and I can talk to the police department tell them why the people are ticked off about whatever. And... even sometimes create a dialogue.
Pauline: Taylor has no doubt that police walking the streets prevented crime. But, he says, in Sacramento foot patrolling fell out of fashion around 1980. Experts say it did nationwide, too, as police departments adopted squad cars to patrol wider ranges.
[guitar plays as transition music]
Pauline: When we come back, hear how Dan Ware had more trouble dealing superiors at the police department, than he did patrolling the streets.
Pauline: If you stick around after the ending credits, you’ll hear Sacramento police chief Daniel Hahn’s take on Dan Ware, and find out how widespread community policing is nationally.
You’re listening to Making Meadowview, a podcast from CapRadio. We’re telling the stories of people who’ve shaped this South Sacramento neighborhood, and how they’ve tackled seemingly insurmountable problems. I’m Pauline Bartolone. We’ll be right back.
Pauline: Officer Dan Ware lived in the Meadowview area, and patrolled with Sacramento Police Department until the mid 1980s.
Arthur: Dan was a very very sharp guy. He had street smarts, and he had book smarts.
Pauline: Arthur Ayres was a friend and fellow police officer with Dan Ware. They also studied at Sacramento State together.
Arthur: Going out and doing your job, that was the easy part.The problems he and I talked about with policing were not with the people we policed. It was with the police department...They didn't like Dan, Dan didn't like them. A black man with a big mouth. And overconfidence is not going anywhere.
Pauline: Dan Ware was one of the first black police officers in Sacramento when he came on in 1962. His widow, Margaret Ware McNair, says from day one, his superiors gave him the message that his job was going to be harder for him.
Margaret: The chief of police telling him on the day he was sworn that he would have to work extra hard to prove himself. Did he tell that to everybody else?
[background noise of Margaret shuffling through papers]
Pauline: Margaret is reading from one of the legal documents where Dan lists ways he felt discriminated against because he was black.
[noise of paperwork]
Margaret: The incidents, and the racial comments, and the feelings of always being watched, were stressful factors...
Pauline: Verbal slurs, being passed over for promotions to people junior to him… Dan wanted to get promoted up from patrol officer, but he found himself fighting for his job.
[Margaret continues reading]
Margaret: Being placed on medical leave in 1971 when his weight was 330 pounds…
Pauline: Remember, Dan Ware was a big guy. And according to media reports, the police department used that against him in 1971, when it put him on leave until he lost weight. But Ware appealed, and at a hearing, Arthur Ayres and other officers testified that Dan’s weight did not interfere with his work.
Arthur: They were trying to fire him for being overweight and not being able to his job. So he had a civil service hearing and he had an attorney. And there was a police official and he was also kind of a big guy and he had testified that he'd seen Dan walking toward his car. And Dan was shuffling along. So this attorney asked the guy he said "Could you describe the shuffling?" And guys started hemming and hawing talking about well not moving his feet and stuff. And then he asked the guy "Well can you get up and demonstrate that for us?" And this guy got up and was shuffling at this hearing. [LAUGHS] I mean it was the funniest thing I ever saw in my life.
Pauline: Dan got his job back after a couple of months. But for his rest of his time on the force, he battled with the department, and made news headlines for it. In the 80s, Ware challenged Sac PD’s promotion policies to a civil service board, so that more officers of color could move up the ranks.
Margaret: That police department was very racist.. So he fought them.. He was just always fighting the police department.... He had the federal government to investigate and they found discrimination. He filed a lawsuit and he won it. He got money for it.
Pauline: Margaret Ware said, in the mid-eighties, Dan was hospitalized for a week, and was diagnosed with a heart condition… and while he was out, his superiors forced him into retirement.
Margaret: How did he know that he wasn’t going to get better? That police chief walked his papers through. Retired him. Which angered Dan very much.
Pauline: So he never was promoted?
Pauline: Dan Ware never did go back to the job after the hospital stay. But he continued to fight Sac PD, this time for a higher paying disability retirement. He argued that the stress from the discrimiation he faced from the department worsened his health condition. The appeal board ruled in his favor.
[transitional music plays]
Pauline: Leon Taylor says Dan Ware made a difference in the lives of people he policed, but that was never recognized by his superiors at the Sacramento Police Department.
Leon: It’s a definite example of what racism looks like… And I think that you know they would look at Dan and see him as this big black guy. With a gruff voice. This overweight. And that's all they saw. They had no insight or interest in knowing the quality of police work he did because he didn't have all the graphs that we have now to chart personnel actions and stuff like that. The other thing is that quite honestly the only thing you could chart with a beat beat officer is how many of arrests they made. Well it's just the opposite with beat officers. They're not arresting. So what are you gonna chart, how will they get along with people?
Pauline: Experts say, now, police officers are typically rewarded for the arrests they make, rather than how many people they’re keeping out of jail.
[sound of little league game]
Pauline: Dan Ware’s daughter, Danetta Ware Jackson, says her dad’s main passion was doing just that for the neighborhood kids… At the Airport Little League that still serves Meadowview.
Danetta: He would basically live at that diamond, especially when he retired. He devoted most of his time at that little league working with the kids, coaching... He felt, by bringing these kids into baseball, keeping them busy, doing something productive and active, would keep them out of trouble...He had a relationship with the community and I think that was probably the most important thing.
Pauline: Dan Ware passed away in 1994, at the age of 53. The little league field was named after him a few years later.
Pauline: That’s it for this episode. Next week, we’ll hear from a dedicated football coach who’s teaching Meadowview kids more than just good sports skills…
Coach Ed: All the kids that you touch, you feel me, they’re apart of the future, you feel me. We’re trying to make these young men gentlemen.
Pauline: You can find photos of Dan Ware, and learn more about the neighborhood’s history on our website. capradio.org/MakingMeadowview.
Stay tuned after the credits for more context about how Dan Ware’s story fits into national policing trends.
Making Meadowview was edited by John Biewen and Joe Barr. Jen Picard is our senior producer. Jesikah Maria Ross heads up community engagement. Olivia Henry, Erica Anderson and Mounia O’Neal were part of her team.
We had Production help from Gabriela Fernandez, Paul Conley, and Linnea Edmeier.
Our Digital Editor is Chris Hagan. Our web site was built by Renee Thompson, Veronika Nagy and Katie Kidwell.
Our Chief Content Officer is Joe Barr.
Special thanks to the Sacramento Public Library, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, the Listening Post Collective and Professors Ernest Uwazie, Arthur Bowie, Robin Datel, Maria Haberfeld and William Terrill.
Our music is from Blue Dot Sessions.
Make sure you don’t miss any episodes... subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
I’m Pauline Bartolone…. Thanks for listening to Making Meadowview...from The View from Here and Capital Public Radio.
[music transitions and ends]
Pauline: If you’re still listening, you probably want to know more about how unique Dan Ware’s policing style was and what’s changed at Sac PD since the Stephon Clark shooting. We talked to national experts and Chief Daniel Hahn to bring you some answers. CapRadio podcast producer, Sally Schilling, is here…
Pauline: Sally, thanks for helping me sort some of this out.
Pauline: So we talked to policing researchers at universities and a think tank to get context about Dan Ware and his style of enforcing the law. What was your take-away from that, was he an anomaly? Or was he following a certain kind of policing style?
Sally: In terms of foot patrolling, Dan Ware's style is mostly a thing of the past. But this idea of community oriented, building relationships is something departments around the country are really trying to focus on in different ways.
In the beginning, it was all foot patrol officers. And then we saw the advent of motor vehicles, officers getting into cars, having radios. And so that really changed the whole game. And so with the proliferation of patrol cars we saw the bulk of policing become this, not walking around and talking to people but more reactive responding to 9-1-1 calls.
Pauline: Right, I mean that makes sense that modern policing is predominantly this reactive style like, you call 911 and a police officer responds, right? So, tell me more about this community policing part of it. What was that? Is that also a thing of the past?
Sally: So community policing, a lot of departments around the country will say they are doing this in some form. And the basic idea is we want to build trust with our community, have officers out talking to people and have that help them solve problems in the community.
Pauline: That sounds like the use of that is kinda spotty though, throughout the departments, right? It’s not universally applied. It just kinda of a program here and there.
Sally: Right, exactly, yeah. It’s not a broad applied policy or anything, but something that comes through in different little programs. Departments say they want more of these kinds of programs, things like foot patrols, or coffee with a cop, but staffing is an issue for a lot of departments these days. So they have that to deal with.
Pauline: So Sacramento Police Department has had a tumultuous few years, to say the least. With the Stephon Clark shooting, and a couple of other high-profile cases calling into question the department’s use of force… What do you know about what the police department is doing to kind of restore trust with communities of color?
Sally: We talked to Sacramento Police Chief, Daniel Hahn about this and he said one of the things is bringing in the federal Department of Justice to oversee the Stephon Clark investigation. And he said that builds trust because it shows, hey it’s not just Sac PD regulating Sac PD. We have oversight here. Another thing he brought up is a new foot chase policy. So they didnt have any foot chase policy before. What this does, basically is says, ok, if an officer is about to chase a suspect they should assess the situation. Do they know the area? Do they know the suspect? Is there any safety risk to the public or the officer before deciding to pursue somebody.
Pauline: So I actually wanted to pause here for a second and raise a point that we didn't raise earlier in the show. We talked to a lot of people in our coverage of Meadowview and the aftermath of the Stephon Clark shooting, and there are a lot of people who really support the police still. Obviously, the field that Sac PD and their community partners, I talked to a couple African American pastors in Meadowview. One said that in general they have a good relationship with the police and that the incident with Stephon Clark was kind of an isolated incident. Although communities of color in Sacramento do feel over policed by law enforcement. And other community members just said that they just felt officers make mistakes sometimes and residents need to forgive and forget.
Sally: Yeah, at the same time, some experts we talked to did say a big high profile event like the Stephon Clark shooting can really change people’s perceptions or solidify that negative perception of police that they already had. So this is something I know Sac PD is really focusing on now is this idea of perception of the police department.
Pauline: Right… so I wanted to get back to that sit down conversation we had with Chief Hahn. He's the first African American Police Chief in Sacramento by the way. And we asked him about a lot of things. Particularly what he thought about diversifying the police force here in Sacramento and if he thought that would help reestablish trust between the department and community members and this is what he said:
Chief Hahn: “I do not think recruiting for diversity sake is a positive thing, no. I don’t want to hire somebody solely because they’re diverse. Because they might not be a good police officer. There are bad black police officers, there’s bad hispanic police officers, there's bad asian police officers. I don't want to just hire for diversity and race. I want to hire diversity in all sorts of things.
Sally: Yeah, and he went on to say what he is really looking for, first and foremost, is someone who wants to be apart of the department to serve the community.
Pauline: Mhm, this kind of echoes something that Leon Taylor told me, we heard from him earlier in the show. He was also one of the first black police officers in Sacramento and patrolled with Dan Ware. He also went on to help the department with recruiting. And he thought building trust between communities of color and law enforcement was more about bringing more cultural competency into the department.
Leon: I don't think that people of color necessarily trust you because you are a person of color. I think that has to be earned. I know a couple officers that I still hear their names from the community that have been gone for 20 or 30 years and they were white. So I think sometimes it's those little small things. I went to a barbecue one time. And the barbecue consisted of hot dogs. So my friends coming from the black community and say, how can this be a barbecue? You know, where's the meat? So and that's that's not necessarily an issue of color, but I think diversity brings that in because I also know some folks that are Caucasian that don't think Hot Dogs barbecue… [LAUGHS] you know?
Pauline: Right, so Leon Taylor is making a joke here, but his point is that good officers are able to relate to people of all cultures and ethnicities.
Sally: Right so there’s all these factors that the Sac Police Department is looking for in a candidate for their department, but Chief Hahn said that Sac PD isn’t getting as many people to apply as they used to. So while they’re looking for these really community-minded, culturally competent people to approach these tough situations, they’re having fewer candidates to choose from. And he says despite having this smaller pool the recruiting process is still really rigorous, there’s a lot of testing and background checks. But he says, for every hundred applicants, they’ll find one solid recruit.
Pauline: So Sally, you actually went out and saw some the Sac PD recruits in training at the academy. What stood out to you?
Sally: Well first and foremost, the whole thing was super intense. They were really focused on putting these recruits in very stressful situations and seeing how they can handle it. Could they stay calm, could they remember the exact protocols for arresting someone? So this one drill I saw, they were chasing around through an obstacle course, doing a lot of running, and then had to arrest someone who had tackled them and tried to get their gun away. So you;ll hear in this sound clip a recruit trying to arrest somebody and then also the trainer trying to coach them through the scenario.
Recruit: Get on the ground! Get down now!!!
Laird: Give good commands Bert! Is that how you do it? Do it right!
Recruit: Get on the ground right now drop to your knees!
Laird: Is that how you give good commands?
Pauline: Wow that does sound pretty intense.
Sally: Yeah, so you can hear there, Brian Laird, he’s the training officer, he’s telling them, is that how you give good commands? You know, and he told me after that drill he wasn’t really happy with how the recruit was doing.
Laird: I wish you were standing next to me to see his eyes. His eyes were just shut off. His mind stopped working.
Sally: He was yelling the whole time.
Laird: Absolutely. The reason we input stress is we can’t have him going out there an doing that. We can’t have him screaming at someone who is cooperative because he’s lost his mind.
Sally: So it’s that split second decision making that they’re really trying to train these officers to be able to do in all kinds of situations. And if they aren’t able to, they could get cut. So, they’ll give them a lot of chances but if they’re not able to meet these standards they can get cut at any time throughout this academy.
Pauline: Hm, so they really weed them out. So just curiously, what was the ethnic makeup of the recruits or what was the gender breakdown?
Sally: Yeah, there was a mix of men and women, and of different ethnicities, but I would say the majority were white men in this academy class. Which included mostly Sacramento PD recruits but also some from other departments.
Pauline: Hm, so I wanted to bring up another issue that we spoke about with a couple of the university experts on policing and that’s about education level of some of the recruits. The folks we talked to said that they thought if law enforcement officers were required to have more higher level education then that might actually help establish more community trust in neighborhoods and maybe even cut down on police killings of unarmed black men.
Sally: Yeah, the researchers we interviewed said only a few departments in the country actually require a college degree and the US has minimal training compared to other countries. The average length of a police academy in the US is just 21 weeks long. And researchers also told us, the more educated officers are, the less likely they are to use force. At least some research is starting to show that.
Pauline: So tell me a little more about the Sacramento training requirements? Do you have a sense of what they actually train them on in terms of cultural competencey?
Sally: I’m not so sure, the training they go through is only 24 weeks long, so that’s a little longer than that national average of 21 weeks. But as far as cultural competencey training specifically, it’s a really good question. I do know that Chief Hahn, when an officer wants to get promoted to a higher rank, he’ll require that they read a book called The Post-Traumatic Slave Syndrome. And I think that’s starting to get at that goal of at least getting the leadership in his department to have a little bit more cultural competencey.
Pauline: Hm, ok. Bringing it back to Dan Ware, he did have some college education, by the way. Chief Hahn said that, today, they have officers like him, but what they’re really working on is developing more trust between community members and the department as a whole.
Chief Hahn: “I mean, you can find Dan Wares in the department now. In every one of these neighborhoods that you’re talking about, whether it’s Meadowview, Oak Park, or Del Paso Heights. You will find officers, specific officers, one, two, three, four, different officers that the community loves, that they trust, that they would let put their life in their hands, but if you ask those same people if they trust the department, they will say no. And so, we have to transition to there’s a high level of trust for that patch and that uniform or whatever signifies somebody works for this department as opposed to solely in one individual.
Pauline: That was Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn. There’s so much more to say on this topic, but that’s about it for this episode. Check out the website for more information. Thanks, Sally Schilling, CapRadio’s podcast producer for joining me on this episode.