Since its creation in 2015, BLM Sacramento (then known as Incite Insight) has been fighting for so many Black folks who have been killed and/or brutalized by law enforcement in the Sacramento area. Since April 2016, when Sac PD hunted down and killed Dazion Flenaugh, the chapter has been working ‘round the clock for transparency, accountability and community oversight, specifically within the city of Sacramento government. At city council meetings, police commission meetings, one-on-one meetings with public officials--you name it, BLM Sacramento has been front-and-center, fighting this system from all angles. In every one of these encounters, we have been hushed, silenced, turned down, turned away, or strung along.
BLM Sacramento has been on the frontlines of this fight in this city. Yes, we have tried all avenues. Yes, we have built relationships with people in power. Yes, we have gone through the “appropriate” channels of our local government. Yes, we have looked at various policies and considered reforms. Yes, we have even attempted to change policies. Yes, we have had actions and sit-ins. But time and time again, the system has failed to protect us, to care about the issues we have brought forward, or to do anything about the issues -- namely, police terror in Black communities of our city.
The Fight for a Police Oversight Commission with Power
The City of Sacramento has the Office of Public Safety Accountability that includes a Community Police Review Commission. BLM Sacramento has fought for this commission to have the power to subpoena and investigate officer-involved shootings, as well as the power to fire officers. What we got was a commission that does not have these powers. Instead, the commission gets to “review” and make “recommendations” on certain policies, procedures and practices. In September and October of 2016, the city council entertained the idea of having a more powerful commission. Black women community leaders took time off from work to travel with councilmembers to visit Berkeley and look at their community police commission. These same Black women then poured in hours of FREE labor to research and propose a beautiful community oversight commission for the City of Sacramento. Councilmembers led these Black women leaders to believe they were on the same page and were willing to push for a more powerful commission. After many months of pushing for a commission with “teeth,” at the deciding night of a city council meeting, we were told that we would have to take the issue to the ballot for voters to decide. City council was not willing to give the community this power by initiating it themselves. To be clear, City council failed Black leadership and wasted hundreds of hours of work, research, and dialogue.
The Fight for Transparency and Accountability
However, there was one concrete result of this fight. The city implemented a policy that forces Sac PD release body cam and dash cam footage of all officer-involved shootings within 30 days of the incident. The policy also says that if 30 days is not attainable, the Chief can request an extension from the City Council. While we have seen the release of footage within these 30-day windows, we are still not getting full transparency. We get edited versions of the video, like in the case with Dazion Flenaugh (sidenote: Dazion’s videos were not released in 30 days). Or we get footage that starts AFTER a shooting takes place, like in the case with Armani Lee. Or we get videos where the officers’ mics are conveniently silenced after a shooting, as is the case with Stephon Clark. What we know is that these simple reforms lead to more loopholes for law enforcement to find and wiggle their way through. Body cameras for cops? Sounds great. But how convenient for them when those cameras suddenly and magically don’t work appropriately. 30 days to release footage? Sounds great. But how convenient for them when they get to decide which part of the footage they get to release. More money for training? Sounds decent, but then no monitoring the funds and ensuring they’ve completed their trainings. Instead, police just get more money and power to call the shots and control the narrative. Fuck your reforms, we want abolition!
While fighting for transparency and accountability, BLM Sacramento has also had to deal with a horrendous attack from within the City of Sacramento: the Sac PD Underground Facebook page. This page targets our Black leaders, while also spouting erroneous and disrespectful information about victims killed by local cops. It also gives “confidential” details about city work, which is unprofessional and unethical, AND against city policy. We have had sit-down face-to-face meetings with the City Assistant Manager to later be told there’s nothing they can do about the page because it falls under “Freedom of Speech,” despite the City of Sacramento having a clear and direct policy on the personal use of social media for city employees. We continue to demand that this page be taken down AND for those city employees participating in the page to be reprimanded. This is another example of how the system fails to hold law enforcement accountable, giving them more permission to wreck and take Black lives.
The Fight to Fire Killer Cops
In every case we have been fighting in the City of Sacramento -- Nandi Cain, Dazion Flenaugh, Joseph Mann, Armani Lee, Zityrua Abraham, Trish Hill -- where police used excessive force, we have demanded that the cops be fired. Instead, Mayor Steinberg AWARDED three officers for their “courage” in the killing of Dazion Flenaugh. These three officers -- Jeffrey Todd Carr, Dustin Southward, and Eric Toomey not only still have jobs but were HONORED for killing an unarmed Black man in 2016. BLM Sacramento shut down city hall the day after this awards ceremony.
When we show up to City Council meetings, all the councilmembers sit there playing on their phones or reading their newspapers. When they finally decide to comment on anything, it is always to side with the police or to tone down the anger of the people. Here are some highlights:
“I am disappointed in the behavior of the audience because I believe you have a right to petition your government for grievances. That is a first amendment right. You do not have a right to disrupt the meeting, to scream, to shout, to threaten. We are a city of laws. We need to make sure that we have the best police department in California and the nation, and we as a council are committed to that, but it is very difficult when we do not have order in our chamber, when people scream and yell and disrupt the meetings. In order to conduct the public’s business, we have to have order.” - Steve Hansen 10/13/2016
“I’m not gonna have you call our police officers murderers.... But when you start using the word “murderer” and you start throwing that around about people dedicated to public service, I’m gonna take offense to it. I don’t like it.” - Mayor Steinberg 3/21/2017
But we know why councilmembers have looked away when we have asked for the the killer cops to be fired. Their pockets are FILLED with money from cops. Angelique Ashby, Steve Hansen and Larry Carr received thousands each from law enforcement during their 2016 campaign for council office. It’s no wonder they haven’t done or said SHIT to hold any cops accountable!
The Fight for District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert to Indict and Convict
The DA is the one who can indict cops. At this point, it should be no secret that DA Anne Marie Schubert is friends with the cops. It has been confirmed that she accepted $10,000 from the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) on 3/20/2018, just two days after Stephon Clark was murdered by Sac PD. Just a few days later, she also accepted an additional $3,000 from the Sacramento County Alliance of Law Enforcement (SCALE) on 3/23/2018. SCALE is a union representing various Sacramento County employees including the DA's Office, Sheriff's Department, Coroner's Office and many more. So let's get this right: Since the death of Stephon Clark, DA Anne Marie Schubert has accepted thousands of dollars from the very people she should be "independently" and "fairly" investigating. It's no wonder that 22 lives have been taken by cops in her jurisdiction since 2015 when she took office, and not a single one of them has been charged. She “investigates” and reviews the cases, and has decided herself that none of them should have a “fair” trial. She claims to be “tough on crime” and a “public safety advocate,” yet she continues to let the scariest murderers and fear mongers run loose and with tons of power in our community—killer cops. Aren’t district attorneys supposed to make cases to get convictions? Aren’t they supposed to compete with one another who can prosecute the most people? Their lack of action against killer cops confirms that their only interest is in criminalizing Black communities, upholding a system that regularly and directly harms Black people.
They Can’t Stop the Revolution
This is why we are abolitionists. No part of this system is on our side and will never be on our side. This system is setup to serve itself. When someone from within fucks up, they are protected by all aspects of the structure.
To City Manager Howard Chan, Assistant City Manager Arturo Sanchez, Mayor Darrell Steinberg, and all city councilmembers Steve Hansen, Allen Warren, Larry Carr, Angelique Ashby, Jay Schenirer, Rick Jennings, Eric Guerra and Jeff Harris: Stephon Clark’s blood is on your hands! You did NOTHING when you could have done something! You walked out on Black lives! You gave awards for murderers! You gave the cops more money after they killed an unarmed Black man! You repeatedly have been silent. You have not held any single cop accountable as they accumulated Black bodies! EVERY TIME THIS HAS HAPPENED, YOU HAVE DONE NOTHING. Now you have to deal with the righteous rage and wrath of the people. We are chipping away at your structure. There will be NO order in your chambers as long as Black people are dying on your watch. You are the representatives and beneficiaries of a broken system, and we, the people, are determined to bring it crashing down. This is on YOU! #JusticeForZoe #StephonClark
Upcoming BLM Sacramento Events:
Urgent Meeting for FOLX on the Ground TODAY - April 2nd at 4:30pm
National Day of Action: Stephon Clark WILL Get Justice - April 4th at 3pm
Fill The Court For Armani - May 4th at 8:30am
Whose Streets? Our Streets! Alternatives to the Police - May 5th at 6pm
Support Systems for Black and Brown Women - May 12th at 6pm
CopWatch Orientation - May 26th at 6pm