“Our vision is to make Sacramento the safest big city in California and a national model of community policing in the 21st century,” – Mayor Kevin Johnson"
I’m sitting in a meeting room making every possible attempt to blend in. Hard to blend in when you’re early. I was excited to watch government in action and support accountability.
A gentleman is pacing the room. He looks a little nervous. I follow him around with my gaze. I guess he caught me staring and came over to introduce himself. He shakes my hand and introduces himself to me as Sam Somers. We chat about the weather and water conservation. I crack a joke about how moving water conservation policing to local government responsibility allows for more ticketing of citizens. He was out of small talk and moved on…
A few short weeks ago, the commission cancelled a session and left many supporters of Black lives in limbo; our voices unheard. Chairperson Simmons apologized for the scheduling conflict that led to the cancelled meeting and proposed to create a list serve to keep the public abreast of meetings. Unfortunately, this won’t be addressed until next month’s meeting.
The Sacramento Police Department gave a few short presentations on how their police force is working on creating a police force that “looks like you”. I didn’t say it. Police Chief Somers said it. The presentations consisted of hiring, recruitment, and diversity.
Because being pissed at your job and not feeling so good about your job is cool unless you carry a gun for a living.
Presentation one highlighted the hiring process in Sac PD. Wanna be in Sac PD? All you need is a High School diploma, at least 60 college credits (are we hiring more intelligent officers who can think critically about the population they serve?), be at least age 21, have NO FELONIES. Now you all know what I’m about to say. Ask me about the numbers of Brown people with felonies and I’ll show you a hysterically high number of applicants who are not going to apply for this job. AHEM! “Among adult men in 2013, African Americans were incarcerated at a rate of 4,367 per 100,000, compared to 922 for Latinos, 488 for non-Latino whites, and 34 for Asians (Grattet and Hayes 2015). Why? Non-violent felons don’t qualify and currently prosecutors are the ones who decide whether or not to prosecute teenagers as adults. That’s a pretty good way to supplant the prison industry complex through the preschool to prison pipeline (please consider all attempts to dismantle Proposition 21). But I digress.
It pays well, doesn’t it? Wellllllll? Not really. When compared to other departments Sac PD is at the bottom of the list for pay (89k/year at top pay!). Get a Bachelor’s degree. We have some extra incentives for you. We pay you to attend the academy. Just pass the test. Granted, of the 76% who are invited to take the test, 28% show up, only 20% pass the test, and 12% of that 20% are actually hired (that numbers really small, so I’ll let you do the math).
The good thing is that once you pass the academy, the psych evaluation, the drug test, make it past 18 months of field training, you are in! AND you’ll never have to be evaluated ever again. That is unless you are involved in an “incident”. Of course, how long will it be before or even if you will be involved in said “incident”? How stable are your mental faculties after working 10 or 15 years of public service in which you don’t really feel like you are truly serving the public? Being pissed at your job and not feeling so good about your job is cool unless you carry a gun for a living. We all know bad things happen so I won’t bore you with the facts. Just be a good officer, stay out of trouble and for fuck’s sake, and don’t shoot anyone! At least the job pays we…. Shit! Again, I digress. I’m supposed to be reporting on the progress Sac PD has made in diversifying those who patrol our streets and keep us ALL “safe”.
When it comes to diversity, it’s just a game for the Sacramento PD.
Presentation two highlighted recruitment. The numbers looked good in the beginning.
The goal is to hire 45% of applicants and the department is currently at 40%. We lost a large number of officers during layoffs of 2007-08. Loosing over 200 officers brought out numbers down to 600 officers. Many of the officers released were new to the force which left many seasoned officers. To ramp up the recruiting process, Measure U was implemented. Extra monies helped to boost high school magnet program in operation since 1989, created a cadet program in operation since 2014, build partnerships for youth success programs.
I was surprised to hear the presenters describe the high school programs as originally geared toward “creating better citizens”. ONE MILLION dollars was put in place to indoctrinate compliance. The goal is now moving to active recruiting as many students were using the program for the fantastic perks like tutoring, field trips, SAT and ACT prep courses. I’m not sure if there is a problem with students being provided an outlet other than what might find them on the wrong end of a taser, nightstick, or firearm.
Commissioner Thao spoke during a short comment section about one of the most impacted high school recruitment programs (Grant High School) and brought up the fact that many of the students in the program were unable to pass the written exam to enter the academy. Wanna know why? English Language Learners.
While there are high numbers of students in the program, it seems as though the test design is flawed. She made it very clear the Hmong population she represents were having difficulty entering the program due to the test design. Sac PD is also tapping into our military through an early out program, career fairs, and recruitment on college campuses for students whether criminal justice majors or not. Unfortunately, the increases of diversity demonstrated by academy numbers through pipeline and recruitment programs may not create equity for all.
The main purpose in recruitment brings in an interagency effort to create “links to law enforcement” and push for diversity. Wanna know how they are doing this?
“Cops and Clergy”! Woot Woot! Sac PD is ramping up their efforts to recruit through amplification of outreach through churches.
Not so sure you want to have the cops at your church? Come on down to Old Soul and share a croissant at “Cops and Coffee”. “Conversate” with local officers about what’s happening in your neck of the woods and find ways to bring about a gentrification utopia that everyone dreams of.
Don’t like coffee and want to digitally connect? How about NextDoor? I will reserve my comments on that for another blog.
Digging into police funded activities, Sac PD has a rugby team supported by officer donations. Sac PD is out there and they are trying. I give them “E” for effort and “T” for nice try, but they are trying. They even touched on working with Sacramento Moves Forward in an effort to impact homelessness issues in the city, and if you are ever stranded in our wonderful city while visiting, Sacramento Police Cares will help you get back on your feet and get you back home.
We took a small break from the presentations for public comment. Victor pointed out how the real barriers to hiring could very well be tied to the negative over policing of certain communities and called into question how in the world can you expect to find people willing to apply for a job that targets and kills them *snaps from the audience*
Community Demands for the Community Police Commission
Tanya Faison presented a demand letter to the commission *a chorus of snaps erupted from the audience*
What stuck with me from the demand letter was that the commission DEMAND change and request more oversight power. Because of the symbolic nature of a commission like this, it is difficult to consider much of what is said as anything more than lip service.
Everyone wants to go to a website for information. This commission has been up and running for 7 months and they still don’t have a webpage? Give me a break. Go to Wix.com, call the IT department at Mayor Johnson’s office, grab an intern; better still, grab a young coder from the Sacramento Food Bank Activities Program. They’ll build you one in about 2 days! I’m trying really hard not to sing “Greatest Love of All” right now.
More than anything, Sac PD was asked to engage with the communities that need to have their trust earned back. Take advantage of a website, build power, and create a presence that will allow you to SPEAK UP BEFORE WE HAVE TO SPEAK TO YOU!!!!
POP goes the weasel…
Presentation three highlighted diversity. Sac PD talked about POP officers vs. Patrol officers.
Previously only the POP officers were imbedded into neighborhoods in an attempt to improve civilian/police relationships. This was an assignment for a select number of officers and only lasted 1 year. Now ALL officers are required to do an assignment as a beat officer and must perform this duty for 2 years. Now you know this is a tough request because not all officers will want to do this.
Furthermore, why be paid at the bottom for this type of work when you can go somewhere… anywhere other than Sacramento? How can you get officers to stay, let alone even apply? With the low pay, low diversity, and fewer people applying, it is easy to see why only 12 % of the 20% remaining candidates find themselves employed.
Even after applying and taking the test, applicants don’t even have to consider Sacramento. What’s worse is that when finished with academy, they don’t have to take a job with Sac Pd! It seems as if the effort to bring in a new and diverse police force has been sidelined by opportunities elsewhere and the internet, so Chief Somers is asking for AMBASSADORS.
Erin asked if the “Post Ferguson effect” which Chief Somers alluded to in describing Sacramento Police Force at this time promoted racial issues with Sacramento. *snaps up*
Before the meeting was adjourned, the commission had a discussion amongst themselves regarding what to bring to the table in the next meetings and a movement was proposed and seconded to form ad hoc sub committees based on the 4 pillars. When the website is up, I will be specific, but not until then. I firmly believe the questions asked got them thinking...
Commissioner Betty Williams discussed an analysis of the number of police stops of black and brown citizens and offered to head up the ad hoc transparency committee with ties to racial profiling and (AB 953 and AB 619). She also applauded the audience for bringing very good points to the meeting, saying what might be painful and difficult for others to hear was necessary.
Bill Knowlton made a suggestion on looking into best practices with regard to homelessness in the city.
Les Simmons alluded to a subcommittee on transparency and utilization of databases to drive change, seconded by Basim Elkarra for a movement for outside sources to compile data of police actions that have been collected for decades.
This was just a two hour meeting, and I left the building exhausted in a good way. The topics were vast and the public comments sharp, but necessary in this meeting. Momentum is the key. If you believe a group that appears to have been set up to placate the worries and concerns of a targeted public and their allies needs to be strengthened, our voices (and beautiful snaps) can make the difference. I will be at every commission meeting and will be keeping track of their process. Make me a promise and I will hold you to it.
If you have any questions about the process of the formation of ad hoc committees or progress of the website, you can always give Francine Tourner (public safety and accountability) a call at 916-808-7345.