Sacramento City Council votes to boost staff devoted to police oversight

Members of the Sacramento City Council Tuesday approved 12 new positions to boost oversight of the Sacramento Police Department and ensure its policies reflect the best national practices for protecting the public.

Six of the new positions will be added in the Office of Public Safety Accountability, two in the City Attorney’s Office and four in the Police Department. The cost of the new positions will be $1 million for this fiscal year and $1.8 million annually going forward, which will come from the City’s General Fund.

Mayor Darrell Steinberg said the new positions would allow the city to improve oversight. “I think today is real progress,” he said.

The new positions in the Police Department will be filled by unsworn professional staff assigned to a new unit called the Internal Compliance Office, which will be overseen by a new Compliance Manager who reports directly to the Chief of Police.

Police Chief Kathy Lester said departments around the country are using such divisions to further the goal of police reform, research and develop policies, and ensure compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations. She said the office would be able to compile better data and improve public transparency.

“This is kind of a new thing for the City of Sacramento, but many agencies incorporate this type of office,” Lester said, citing the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and the San Francisco Police Department as examples.

“It’s about being more proactive, being more modern and really bringing in the best practices,” Lester said.

The Police Department moved to create the new unit following an OPSA audit released in June that made 19 recommendations for training and policy updates.

As part of Tuesday’s action, SPD said it had reviewed the 19 recommendations. Eight are already in practice or in the process of an update, 10 will be adopted in part or in full and one is currently under research and consideration.

As for the Office of Public Safety Accountability, Director LaTesha Watson said the six new positions she requested will allow the office to fulfill its directive to monitor, track and review all completed misconduct investigations concerning public safety employees of the Sacramento Police and Fire departments. OPSA’s five staff members were able to review just 52 percent of police misconduct investigations in 2021.

“What we want to do is improve our public safety delivery services to the Sacramento community,” Watson said. “That’s our entire goal.”

OPSA was established in 1999 to monitor the investigations into citizen complaints filed with the Sacramento Police Department. Its scope was expanded in 2004 to include the Fire Department. Formerly under the supervision of the City Manager, OPSA was moved under the City Council’s supervision in 2017.

The final two positions approved by the Council Tuesday will be in the City Attorney’s Office, which provides legal services to the Police Department and OPSA. City Attorney Susana Alcala-Wood said her office will see its workload increase as a result of the changes approved Tuesday.

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