Sacramento, CA

Safety not top priority for Sacramento law enforcement when making traffic stops, data suggests

Robert J Hansen
Sacramento Police DepartmentPublic Domain

June 3, 2021

Sacramento - Robert J Hansen

Anokh Sohal had just arrived at his downtown Sacramento apartment and was having trouble opening the entrance to the parking garage when a Sacramento police officer stopped and turned the blue and red lights on.

“The officer started asking me what I was doing and like he didn’t believe that I lived there,”Sohal said. “It made me nervous to answer because it felt like it didn’t matter what I told him.”

Sohal, now a second year psychiatry resident at UC Davis, managed to open the parking entrance, the officer didn’t apologize and went on his way.

“As a Siqe, it made me feel uncomfortable and worried about what they might do to anyone else that looks like me because they treat all brown people like me, like I’m a criminal,” Sohal said.

Law enforcement’s use of traffic stops are coming under new scrutiny after Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old Black man was killed by police after being pulled over for expired registration in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota on April 11.

Rashid Sidqe, Co-founder of the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive (LEAD), said it's sad to see what happened to Daunte Wright.

Sidqe said Daunte Wright did not have to be pulled over by armed police for expired registration.

“They don’t need to have a gun to make traffic stops,” Sidqe said. “You never hear of a parking attendant getting attacked by anyone.”

Sidqe said that local law enforcement have always misused traffic stops, invading people’s privacy and never have made black people feel safer while driving.

“They only use them to search and frisk black people for drugs, so they can ask if you’re on probation or parole,” Sidqe said. “Police have never used traffic stops to make us safer.”

Sacramento police officers and Sacramento sheriff’s deputies conducted 27,000 traffic stops for equipment violations in 2019. Fifty-two thousand traffic stops were made for reasons unrelated to traffic enforcement.

This accounts for 45 percent of all traffic stops made by Sacramento law enforcement according to data from the California Department of Justice.

Around 27,000 traffic stops were made for equipment violations in 2019, making up 22 percent of all traffic related stops.
Displays Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento County Sheriff Department's use of traffic stops in 2019.Robert J Hansen

The Sacramento Police Department declined to provide a comment on Daunte Wright’s death.

Retired LAPD Lieutenant Raymond Foster said Wright had expired registration, had a warrant and shouldn't have been resisting police.

“I know this isn’t popular but, if you don’t fight with the police then you’re probably not going to get shot,” Foster said.

Foster said he has always thought pretextual stops have been a problem because it gives police the authority to lie. They can lie about why they were pulled over and get people to incriminate themselves according to Foster.

“The gray area is when an officer uses a traffic stop for other reasons which is dangerous,” Foster said. “If the intent of a traffic stop is traffic safety, then it’s very good and we should do those more.”

Ray Lozada, retired SacCounty probation officer, said he was trained to put someone on the ground when putting on handcuffs and disagreed with some of the officer’s decisions.

“I don’t know if I would have used a taser in that situation,” Lozada said. “The way they went about it, it didn’t speak to there being a huge safety alert.'

“He didn’t try to fight back until the female officer said he had a warrant,” Lozada said. “The way they went about it, it didn’t seem that safety was a major concern.”

According to Lozada, police are trained to make sure a subject's hands are secured and only if they resist, to put subjects flat on their stomach when applying handcuffs.

Lozada said that opfficers should have made sure he couldn't get back in the car.

“Normally, everything is coordinated when serving a warrant and everyone is on the same page and it is done safely,” Lozada said. “They didn’t seem too prepared or that there was much of a plan.”

He is confident that there is common ground and that there are solutions to improve policing.

“What worries me is that nothing happens with the opportunity that we have right now,” Lozada said.

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Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Focused on holding elected officials, police and the courts accountable to the people throughout the greater Sacramento area.

Sacramento County, CA

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