Sacramento, CA

Opinion: Police reform is about policy, not just funding

Robert J Hansen
Members of People’s Budget Sacramento after a press conference downtown Sacramento on Tuesday, May 18, 2021.Robert J Hansen

Sacramento, Calif.– By Robert J Hansen

Many Sacramento residents called-in and voiced their support or opposition to the City Council’s proposal to increase the police department’s budget by nearly $10 million during the May 25 city council meeting.

The People’s Budget Sacramento has demanded that the police department’s budget be reduced by $30 million and is supported by Sacramento city council members Katie Valenzuela and Mai Vang.

But police reform is about policy and practices, not money. Significant progress to reimagining policing in this city, let alone country, will not happen if we all stay caught up in the weeds.

Policies and procedures need to prioritize safety, focusing on high level threats and emergencies.

Of course more funding should be spent on helping the homeless, medical services and public transportation.

But until the police change their behavior it won’t matter how much help they receive.

Mervin Brookings, a founder of Mentoring Brother 2 Brother, supports the budget increase but also acknowledged that there are concerns with law enforcement that need to be addressed.

Brother 2 Brother is an organization mentoring at-risk African American male youths, was one of many residents who spoke at last night’s meeting.

“Let’s have real conversations about police reform,” Strother said. “I know the defund the police mantra may be popular and sound progressive but it’s not practical.”
Memorial in honor of Breonna Taylor’s 28 birthday At the California Capital Building Rose Garden on Saturday, June 4, 2021.Robert J Hansen

Yes let’s. Starting with the money.

Every council members’ annual salary will increase from $91,915 to $96,257. The Mayor got a raise from $136,789 to $145,440. City Manager Howard Chan is getting a raise from $308,016 to $372,700.

Chan is also paid $500 per month for a car, $100 per month for his smartphone and $400 for monthly expense allowance. Really Howard?

People’s Budget Sacramento wants $30 million less than the $10 million increase proposed by City Manager Howard Chan. That’s a difference of $40 millon.

How does changing any of that prevent what happened to Setephon Clark or Joseph Mann?

Compared to the City’s entire budget, it is marginal at most. A marginal change in spending is not nearly enough to make the significant changes to law enforcement the people on both sides of the debate are wanting.

Issues related to the failings of the justice system and the growing homeless population are inescapable.

Issues related to mental health, addiction and low-level theft is what makes people turn to the police as the only solution.

David Ingram, district four resident, told the council that he has witnessed heroin use in public, gun shots, explosions and prostitution near his house. According to Ingram, the Sacramento Police has been the only help he has received about the crime around his house.

Ingram’s comments, truthful or not, nonetheless speaks to the unrest felt by residents throughout Sacramento county.

Chief Hahn said that homicides, fatal collisions and injury collisions are all higher at this time last year than they were last year.
Sacramento Chief of Police Daniel HahnPublic Domain

The average number of emergency calls handled by each police officer has increased and the median response time is over ten minutes per emergency according to Hahn.

Hanh said there have been over 620 injury traffic collisions this year already.

In February, an East Sacramento woman called to report that her ex-boyfriend burned their vehicle, threatened to kill her, and was possibly armed. She also had a restraining order against him.

He would take police on a high speed chase through residential neighborhoods and was later arrested.

Suffice it to say he also had a record and was known to law enforcement, probation officers especially.

If probation, a restraining order, traffic laws didn’t prevent that from happening then what does anyone expect police to do to stop it?

Probation needs to stop being misused in the courts. Do not offer probation to someone who does not deserve it and make them serve more time. Conversely, do not use probation as a plea bargaining tool to keep black, brown and poor people in jail.

Unless a released inmate has family or friends that own a home there is no legal or safe place for felons to live. So they go back to stalking and harassing ex girlfriends or they’re on the street.

Fair tenant screening laws may address that and a number of social problems in Sacramento.

Police deter crime. At best, if they are in proximity to a crime in progress or actually witness a crime.

Responding to emergencies in ten minutes isn’t really doing much usually. Chief Hahn did not say how many of those calls resulted in an arrest.

The Sacramento Police department is responsible for the $2.4 million the city is paying Stephon Clark’s family alone. It also mismanaged $30 million in overtime paid. should not be receiving any more funding without reexamining policy and procedures.

According to a public survey by the People’s Budget Sacramento, civilians overwhelmingly support reimagining policing in their communities.

There are many problems the city cannot solve. But they are not even talking about anything, much less negotiating.

Two bills AB 89 and SB 2, are currently working through the state legislature. AB 89 would require bachelor’s degrees for new police officers aged 18-24 and SB 2 would limit the protections of qualified immunity. Though, a lot of the teeth were just removed from SB 2 at a recent appropriations committee hearing.

But there are no discussions about the probation system or protections for people with restraining orders against known violent criminals at City Hall

Changes made by the local governments are the only way to achieve real significant change to policing. Every city throughout the country must find what is best for them.

What they decide to do in Berkeley works in Berkeley. Whatever works in Minnesota, let them figure it out.

Sacramento has not even begun to get serious about police reform.

Changes to traffic enforcement practices and priorities can go a long way to finding safer solutions to detouring dangerous drivers. Solutions that make the Mayor’s use of force policy significantly less relevant.

It would only take $12 million to provide free bus and light rail fare for everyone according to the Sacramento Regional Transit District budget.

It would give equity to low income residents, promote a cleaner environment and would eliminate tickets for not paying for light rail.

Dr. Corrine Mcintosh Sako, a clinical psychologist and resident of district seven said public safety isn’t about policing. According to Mcintosh Sako public safety is about access to quality housing, quality food, and health care services including mental health.

“If people are able to meet their basic needs, they wouldn’t have to resort to breaking the law,” Macintosh Sako 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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