SACRAMENTO — It is no secret that the relationship between the Sacramento Police Department, its officers on the street and management and elected officials has been strained lately.
Three Sacramento Police officers spoke with FOX40 under the condition of anonymity. For clarity’s sake, we will refer to them as One, Two and Three.
“In my career, it’s the worst I’ve ever seen it,” One said. “It’s like a cancer.”
“Officers across the board, they’re very discouraged doing this job,” Two said.
“It’s horrible, especially for the younger guys,” Three said.
The officers described their relationship with department management.
“They don’t have our backs,” Two said. “That’s the bottom line.”
Three said that feeling isn’t exclusive to him or the others FOX40 spoke with. He said it’s common in the locker room.
They say that feeling affects the choices they make while on duty, out on the street.
“I look back just a few years ago, and everyone was out making stops. Everyone was doing proactive police work,” Two said. “But officers are starting to see what the actual risks are. Officers can say, ‘I’m not going to stop anybody today. I`m just going to handle my calls and I`m just going to go home.'”
Tim Davis, president of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, said he hasn’t seen morale this low in nearly two decades/
“If you know that if you make a small mistake, that you can be thrown under a bus by the department, that’s not a comforting environment to work in,” Davis said.
Davis and the officers FOX40 spoke with feel Mayor Darrell Steinberg has played a role in creating that environment.
“You hear, at our level, that he is not pro-police,” Three said. “I think all of us feel like our department is pandering to a vocal minority.”
These officers say Interim Chief Brian Louie doesn’t have their backs.
“Executive command doesn’t have the spine to tell Steinberg what he needs to hear,” One said.
Meanwhile, Steinberg defends his relationship with city police.
“I’ve always had a very good relationship with the men and women in the police department. And, you know, there are always gonna be people who are angry and who don’t want to change with the times,” Steinberg said. “Some of this is a culture issue, and, you know, talk about the old guard. Well, the world is changing.”
Another voice in the debate is Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, who wrote an open letter to the Sacramento Bee defending the Sacramento Police Department.
“I think he’s great. I really like him,” Two said. “I like a guy that stands strong and isn’t afraid to make a statement.”
One said he would go work for for Jones “in a heartbeat.”
Three said he’s actually in the process of moving to the sheriff’s department.
“When officers leave a department, the people that leave are the best and brightest. They’re the ones that are recruited away,” Davis said. “I get asked a lot where our guys are going, and they’re going anywhere they can get a job other than Sacramento.”
As for the future of the Sacramento Police Department, one thing is certain — more change is likely coming. The city will soon offer someone the job of police chief.
The officers FOX40 spoke with offered their advice to whomever ends up taking that position.
“First off, he’s got a great department. He’s got great people and it’s not broken,” Three said. “He’s got a great product, and have faith that we can do the job.”
“I would say to lead by example,” Two said. “Say what needs to be said, even if it’s not popular.”
“And be proud of our organization, you know?” One said. “We’re a great organization. Let us do our job.”