Sacramento City Council Approves Policing Reforms

SACRAMENTO -- Independence -- a cherished American commodity tracking right along with the country's rise.

"Where you think that the police commission can't be fully independent, we're going to challenge that legally," said Richard Owen with Law Enforcement Accountability Directive.

But some civil rights advocates say independence is sorely lacking in what Sacramento's leaders have come up with for the latest version of the community police review commission.

"The shortcoming I think in the proposal is the whole issue of independence," stressed Andy Noguchi with the Japanese American Citizens League.

Some got personal with the council over what they see as a lack of understanding for their concerns.

"To my black city council members, even if you can't identify with my fear of being a mother of black child, did you forget that your mama is black?" asked Elika Bernard, trying to get those members to tap into what some believe is the threat of police targeting of black communities.

Others were worried the police viewpoint has been left out.

"If a cardiologist was thought to be deficient in the job, you get the opinion of other cardiologists -- not people who are ignorant of the job," said retired Officer John Kane.

The commission concept has come under even more under fire since the July killing of Joseph Mann at the hands of police.

A package of reforms considered Tuesday by council members was designed to bring more accountability to the Sacramento Police Department through the commission and other changes.

Under the new policies, the new 11-member commission would report to the council, not the city manager as the current commission does.

The city manager has direct oversight of the police and fire departments.

The members would also review reports of misconduct filed with the city's Office of Public Safety Accountability quarterly.

But while the OPSA would be able to request a subpoena, the commission would have no direct power to subpoena or investigate separately.

Among other reforms ?

A 30-day time limit for video of officer-involved shootings to be made public unless the council decides it may hamper ongoing investigations.

There would be full implementation of a body cam system for Sacramento officers, quick notification for families involved after a fatal police shooting, and if it doesn't hamper the investigation, release of video of such incidents first to families and then to the public within 30 days.

Though council members say the city's police union asked for a "no" vote on the reform package, the council passed it unanimously.

For those dissatisfied, Councilmen Allen Warren and Larry Carr put the onus back on the people who say the council should be serving them.

"It's gonna require work from you -- not from us, but from you," said Warren.

"It's gonna take a city charter change and the community is capable of putting that on the ballot," said Carr.

That's what it would take for a non-elected commission to have subpoena and disciplinary power over the police.

Even with the vote, it's hard for some to have faith in a different future.

"I think it was very clear there was a consensus that this was a first step among many," said Bob Erlenbusch with the Sacramento Regional Coalition to End Homelessness.

"It's not finished, and it won't be over till the community is happy, and that's what we're here for. We're here for the community," said Donna Darden with LEAD.

The changes should take effect in June 2017.