Attorney General Becerra Issues Second Report on Review of Sacramento Police Department
Wide-ranging recommendations aim to strengthen Department’s policies and practices and build public trust
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today announced the release of the second phase of the California Department of Justice’s (DOJ) report on the policies and practices of the Sacramento Police Department (SPD), building on its earlier report and the 66 recommendations issued by the Attorney General in January of 2019. Both reports are part of a collaborative effort following the tragic death of Stephon Clark in 2018 to aid the City of Sacramento and SPD in their efforts to help set the national standard for innovation and reform in policing. This latest report advances a series of wide-ranging recommendations — including on carotid restraints, Tasers, and canines — aimed at building public trust and ensuring safe, effective, and procedurally fair policing. The report is based on review of use-of-force incidents involving SPD officers between 2013 and 2018, as well as further review of SPD’s policies and practices regarding bias prevention, personnel complaints and investigations, early intervention, data management, officer discipline, recruitment, hiring, and retention.
“The recommendations we issue today mark an important step in our broader work to advance systemic reform and we hope that leaders at all levels of law enforcement will stand with us to implement these critical changes,” said Attorney General Becerra. “While much work remains to be done, I commend Chief Daniel Hahn, the Sacramento Police Department, and the City of Sacramento for collaborating in this deep-dive with us. The path to rebuilding trust obligates us to steer toward meaningful, sustained action to make a difference. To our partners across the state: I urge you to read our recommendations and build on them. It’s time for us all to answer the call for change.”
The purpose of this latest review is to provide evidence-based recommendations to facilitate SPD’s commitment to protecting the community of Sacramento via safe, constitutional, and effective law enforcement operations. Since the initial report was published, SPD has adopted many of DOJ’s recommendations, including a recent pledge to stop authorizing the use of carotid restraints. Notably, many of the previous report’s recommendations were codified in law through Senate Bill 230 of 2019, establishing guidance on a wide array of use-of-force policies and practices across the state. In addition, DOJ’s January 2019 report helped lay the groundwork for much of the Attorney General’s statewide call to action on police reform last month. While a number of the recommendations made today reiterate findings from last year’s report largely focusing on SPD’s use-of-force-related policies, training, and practices, today’s report takes a broader look at SPD and also includes an incident-level review of a sample of more than 100 less-lethal use-of-force incidents.
Some of the key findings and recommendations made to SPD in today’s report include:
- Revise its use-of-force policy to more closely reflect the meaning and intent of Assembly Bill 392, which redefined the legal standard for authorized use of force in California. Among other requirements, Assembly Bill 392 restricts the use of deadly force to occasions in which an officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that such force is necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or bodily injury to the officer or another person;
- Make de-escalation an affirmative duty and emphasize de-escalation techniques in all use-of-force training, particularly in light of findings that multiple SPD use-of-force incidents involved individuals who failed to comply with orders but did not otherwise pose any danger;
- Conduct a comprehensive study in an effort to understand the causes of apparent racial disparities involving SPD’s stops, arrests, and uses of force, where African Americans were involved in 43 percent of SPD’s use-of-force incidents between 2013 and 2018 but made up 13 percent of Sacramento’s population;
- Expand partnerships with mental health and social welfare professionals in order to increase the SPD’s capacity to better respond to individuals in crisis and limit force where possible, given that, in 60 percent of the cases reviewed, officers perceived the subject of a stop to be in some type of altered mental state;
- Reevaluate personnel misconduct categories to ensure SPD’s misconduct classifications are specific and accurate, given concern that overly broad categories have been used in other jurisdictions to potentially mask more serious behavior, such as dishonesty, that can have significant implications regarding the credibility of officer testimony in court;
- Allow supervisors to directly refer officers into the early intervention program, as appropriate, in order to address any problematic performance patterns without being required to wait for a triggering event that meets a certain threshold before proactively working to help an officer;
- Ensure that all recruitment materials emphasize messaging aimed at attracting ideal candidates who are motivated and equipped to serve the public and prioritize the sanctity of life above all else, given that recruitment brochures focusing on images like military-style armored personnel carriers tend to lead to the recruitment of candidates with a “warrior” mentality who may be more likely to use unnecessary or disproportionate force; and
- Regularly assess which parts of the hiring process disproportionately affect underrepresented groups, including reassessing physical agility standards to ensure they appropriately measure real-world physical demands of the job, rather than utilizing antiquated measures that, for instance, may disproportionately create barriers for female candidates.
The report released today is the second of two, which collectively look into a broad range of SPD’s policies and practices following the shooting death of Stephon Clark by SPD officers in March of 2018. Throughout the review process, personnel at all levels of the police department have been open, cooperative, and receptive to evaluation and improvement in light of serious community concerns. In order to conduct a thorough, expedient review that would be most useful to SPD and the community it is entrusted to serve, DOJ assembled a diverse team of experts, including lawyers within DOJ’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section, social scientists from DOJ’s Research Center, and outside experts from the private sector, academia, and government.
Attorney General Becerra is committed to improving public safety and the criminal justice system by advocating for reforms across the state and working with local authorities to implement new policies. Last week, the Attorney General released the 2019 criminal justice statistics reports, as part of a broader effort to ensure researchers, academics, journalists, and people across all sectors of society have access to information that helps inform discourse on the state’s criminal justice system. Last month, Attorney General Becerra launched a review of the Vallejo Police Department that will result in the development of a comprehensive policing plan in an effort to modernize and reform the police department's policies and practices, and increase public trust. He also sent a letter — in support of a broader effort by state attorneys general — urging Congress to expand the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 to give state attorneys general clear statutory authority under federal law to investigate and resolve patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing. Earlier this year, Attorney General Becerra announced that DOJ would conduct an independent review of the Los Angeles Police Department’s records and policies regarding the use of CalGang, a system used by law enforcement to share gang-related intelligence. Last year, the Attorney General entered into an agreement with the Stockton Unified School District and its police department to address system-wide violations of the civil and constitutional rights of African American and Latino students, and students with disabilities. In 2018, as a result of the Trump Administration abandoning police reform efforts, the Attorney General stepped in at the request of the City of San Francisco and the San Francisco Police Department to provide independent oversight of the police department’s reform efforts. DOJ is also currently engaged in pattern-or-practice investigations of the Kern County Sheriff’s Office and the Bakersfield Police Department.
A copy of today’s report is available here.