Department of Justice report finds Sac PD ‘committed to making change’

Nearly a year after the fatal officer-involved shooting of Stephon Clark, the California Department of Justice on Tuesday released a report analyzing the Sacramento Police Department’s use-of-force policies, trainings and practices.

SPD had requested the report from the DOJ to help ensure that its policing is “safe, effective and constitutional.” The department also has requested the DOJ provide independent oversight of its criminal investigation into the shooting.

Citing SPD’s many “positive practices” as well as some “areas of improvement,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra offered details of the report at a press conference. Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Pastor Anthony Sadler also spoke at the event.

“You invited outside scrutiny of your operations,” Becerra said to Hahn. “That’s a hallmark of strong leadership.”

The report’s purpose was “to provide SPD with recommendations grounded in evidence and promising activities from around the country to help guide the reform efforts it independently has committed to pursue,” it said. The DOJ was assisted by nationally recognized law enforcement leaders and experts as well as members of the Sacramento community.

Overall, the DOJ found “SPD personnel to be professional, thoughtful and committed to making change.” It praised the department for already  “creating a foot-pursuit policy, strengthening its body-worn camera policy and engaging in transparency efforts.”

The 97-page report, which is separate from the DOJ’s oversight of the criminal investigation, made more than 40 recommendations, including:

  • More expressively connecting the sanctity of human life with use-of-force related policies
  • Requiring annual use-of-force training for all staff, regardless of rank
  • Conducting formal after-action reviews with officers, supervisor and command staff, following officer-involved shooting

“We invited the California Attorney General to examine our agency because the Sacramento Police Department isn’t interested in being good enough, or in narrowly complying with the laws and policies governing our work,” Hahn said. “We continue to seek ways to be a leader in law enforcement and to set an example of transparency, community involvement and constant improvement.”

What comes next

The Jan. 29  report was the first of two reports from the DOJ looking into SPD’s policies and systems. The DOJ said it plans to release a second report focused on issues such as recruitment, hiring and “prevention of bias.”

The DOJ also will release its review of any criminal aspects related to the Clark case sometime “not too far on the horizon,” Becerra said.

In addition, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office will release its review of the shooting and address the question of whether the conduct of the officers involved constitutes a “prosecutable crime under California law.”

The DA’s office released a statement on Jan. 28 updating the timeline for the release of its report. It read in part:

“Two weeks ago, on January 16, 2019, we received further substantial investigative reports and related materials from the Attorney General’s Department of Justice investigators. Our timeline for completion of our review has thus been delayed as we process the supplemental materials. We will take whatever time is needed to ensure a fair, thorough, and accurate review of this matter.”

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