Sacramento’s Community Policing Commission Chair Steps Down

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SACRAMENTO -- Les Simmons, the man handpicked by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to help bridge the gap between police and communities of color in the Sacramento area has resigned from his position, claiming he can better continue his fight for police transparency and accountability outside of his role with the city.

"Effective today I am resigning from my board commission seat,” Simmons said at a morning press conference Tuesday, flanked by supporters from Black Lives Matter Sacramento, Law Enforcement Accountability Directive and Sacramento Area Congregations Together.

He was appointed chairman of the Community Policing Commission in August 2015.

He says the commission is simply ineffective, and that city and police officials don’t take it seriously.

"I have had a bigger impact as a community leader," Simmons said.

Johnson started the commission in August of last year in response to police shootings of unarmed black men nationwide.

Since then, Sacramento has dealt with its own police shootings, most notably that of Joseph Mann, a mentally ill man who witnesses say wielded a knife during an hour-long standoff with police, but was reportedly unarmed when shot and killed by Sacramento officers.

"We shouldn't have to fight for police reports or autopsy reports,” said Tonya Faison, director of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, during the press conference.

Simmons said the Sacramento Police Department hasn't been transparent in the deaths of Mann, and others, and says the commission he chairs carries no real weight.

"To be sitting on this commission it feels like I'm not being relevant and true to my community," said Simmons.

“I wouldn’t agree with that. He had a very important position,” said Tim Davis, president of the Sacramento Police Association and member of the commission Simmons chaired.

Davis, the only police presence on the commission, says he was shocked to hear of Simmons’ resignation.

Davis added the commission is still in its first year, and has set policies in motion that he believes will unite the city.

"The only way that it's going to stop is if we have some real accountability. At the moment there is no accountability,” said Allen Jones, a local pastor also in support of Simmons.

Simmons and supporters are all calling for the city to create a new, two-person review team to investigate police misconduct. They want the team to have the power to subpoena witnesses and cops for interviews, and have access to all investigation materials like body cam footage, as well as play a role in hiring the city's new police chief.

"It's going to take stepping into some new territory. My hope is we can do it in a collective way,” said Simmons.

The group plans to introduce those new ideas to city council this Thursday.