Our Sacramento City Council and Mayor Kevin Johnson have decreed Sacramento a world class city—they take great pride in their beautiful city of trees—but who is treated as a world class community member in regard to policing or public accountability? Who is able to enjoy the fruit of those beautiful trees?
Sacramento Police Department has killed two unhoused Black men experiencing mental health issues in the span of three months from April to July of 2016. Dazion Flenaugh and Joseph Mann were unarmed as police officers were called to provide them support and assistance due to their confused, but non-violent behavior. Instead they were targeted, taunted, and ultimately filled with unnecessary bullets to fulfill the city elite’s dream of a colonized—white and wealthy—Sacramento.
Our 70% white police department has a long history of racial injustice, from the unconscionable rates of in-custody deaths (50% Black men) to their violent “broken-windows” over-policing of communities of color. In addition to racial and economic bias in policing, Sac PD has displayed flagrant deception in their reporting of critical incidents. Initial law enforcement reports of Joseph Mann’s murder stated that he was waving a knife in the air and charged officers with that knife—THEY LIED. Bystander footage shows no knife and Joseph walking away from officers who were provoking him milliseconds before they unloaded 18 bullets into his body.
Sacramento City Council and its City Manager John Shirey, have historically buried their head in the sand as officers inflicted state violence against their most vulnerable community members. Asking zero questions, the city council has approved funds for the department, while holding them to the lowest standard of accountability. To quell growing discontent and outrage in communities most affected by police overreach and brutality, Mayor Kevin Johnson created the Sacramento Community Police Commission in August of 2015. To date the commission has served as an information gathering board that listens to presentations by Sacramento LEOs and public comment. They have no power. No power to demand transparency by viewing police records, subpoena officers, or investigate claims of brutality or bias. No power to hold the department or individual officers accountable for their actions. They are a smokescreen created to diffuse public outrage in a time of social change toward Black Liberation.
Created as a whitewash or not, concerned community members have banned together to collectively reclaim this commission and demand it has more community oversight power in the wake of the devastating extra-judicial killings.
Dazion and Joseph will be heard.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento has been meeting with the commission members directly, in ad hoc committees, and through public presentations during monthly meetings for the past year, and have increased their pressure on the city council to divest from a model of police oversight of officer investigation. The consistent mandate has been for community oversight power. BLM Sac has formally provided clear examples of working oversight boards, and what Sacramento needs to do in order to reduce the harm of state violence. In July, Law Enforcement Accountability Directive (LEAD), NAACP, and Sacramento Area Congregations Together (Sac ACT) joined forces to further demand equity in policing from the city council. All groups have participated in numerous community forums to address policing reform over the past two years. The city council has not followed through in any case. In September, as an escalation of tactics, BLM Sac, LEAD, NAACP, and Sac ACT created a coalition to push the council harder to take a step toward justice in our community. On September 13, the eve of Sac PD’s Chief Sommer’s obligatory resignation, the coalition filled the chambers of Sacramento City Hall with fists raised in Black Power. Special presentation speakers included Tanya Faison (BLM Sacramento founder), Robert Mann (brother of Joseph Mann), Damien Flenaugh (brother of Dazion Flenaugh), Donielle Prince & Aletha Bernard (BLM & Sac Act), Pastor Les Simmons (Community Police Commission & Sac ACT), and Richard Owen (LEAD), amongst various supporters. The coalition adopted BLM Sacramento’s demands for a Sacramento Community Police Commission with strong oversight powers.
The city council listened as they felt the brunt of their own inaction.
They are the problem.
Because Sacramento Police Department is their problem.
Because they uphold the status-quo.
Because when the status-quo is gentrification of communities of color—
Because when the status-quo is the criminalization of those displaced from their homes—
Because when the status-quo is violence inflicted on community members needing help—
Because when the status-quo is Black bodies bleeding out in the street—
We don’t have a world-class city, we have world-class corruption, and our city of trees is poisoned at the very root. Our city council hides under a rhetoric of change and calls for unity, only to respond with an offer to the coalition of more fact finding and community forums.
The coalition UNAPOLOGETICALLY DECLINED the Mayor’s flimsy offer. We aren’t looking for another smokescreen. We aren’t waiting for an invitation. We don’t need your world-class façade. We are demanding a COMMUNITY oversight of the police department NOW. We have collective shovels of truth and justice in our hands. It may have started with Police Chief Sommers, but we won't stop digging until we pluck every poisoned root out of our soil. Unless the city council decides to meet our demands, they too will be outstretched beneath that Poison Tree.
The whole damn system is guilty as hell.