SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — There is frustration and disorganization preventing the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission from doing its job of keeping the department in check.
Even though it was formed years ago, current members said they are not doing the work they signed up to do and they are losing their patience.
“Our officers want to do the best job they can to serve their community,” Timothy Davis, the President of the Sacramento Police Officers Association, said.
They are sworn to protect us, but what happens when they end up hurting the ones they are supposed to keep safe?
“We live in the real world and there’s always going to be situations that don’t end the way that we want them to,” Davis said.
When things do not turn out the way the department expects, the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission steps in providing suggestions on policy changes to hold them accountable.
“The commission is responsible for giving city council advice on policies and programs related to the Sacramento Police Department,” Mario Guerrero, the Commissioner of the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission, said.
Commissioner Mario Guerrero was selected by Mayor Darrell Steinberg four years ago. As a former chairman and one of the longest-standing members, Guerrero said his patience these days is running low.
“I’m certainly frustrated, but, more important, the frustration comes from the community,” Guerrero said.
Over the past four years, during the time when Sacramento officers killed Stephon Clark, who was unarmed, and during the social justice marches that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police, Guerrero said more than 100 recommendations have been made to update or change police department policies. These policy changes range from diversity to the use of force.
“Requiring ethnic studies for new peace officers,” Guerrero said. “Surveying people that apply to become a police officer but fail to do so and they were of diverse background.”
Of those 100 recommendations, only one has been voted on. Last May, the city council approved a new use of force policy, making it the last resort for officers. But Guerrero said that is not enough.
“One recommendation alone, isn’t going to change everything, right? That’s why we have so many recommendations in the pipeline,” Guerrero said.
A November 2021 audit report from the City Auditor’s Office showed there is a reason the commission is not getting things done as fast as they had hoped.
“One of the things that was clear to us is that there was a lack of clarity in defining the roles and responsibilities of the commission,” Jorge Oseguera, a Sacramento City Auditor, said.
Oseguera said a lack of staffing and resources is to blame for the lack of action. He also said that the city council, the commission, and the police department often have different opinions about policy recommendations, which makes them more difficult to approve.
“Dedicating specific staffing, resources to them to help support the commission,” Oseguera said. “Helping to facilitate outreach for the commission so they have greater visibility.”
Davis believes all of the complications are because of who makes up the commission.
“As it was first constituted, we had a good mixture,” Davis said. “A mixture of people with experience and training. Myself, and the captain and community members.”
Davis has been on the force for 24 years, and back in 2015, he was a part of the 11 members of the commission.
“There were two police officers on the commission,” Davis said. “One was a retired captain and one was myself, representing the rank and file officers in the department.”
But in 2016, Davis said he and other law enforcement personnel were removed from the commission. Now, Davis said that none of the members have any law enforcement background. To Davis, that is where the problem lies.
“If there’s no one on the commission that has a background in that area, it’s very difficult for them to come up with ways for us to improve,” Davis said.
It then leads to frustration within the police department when suggestions, like the 100 recommendations, are being thrown their way.
“They grasp onto whatever topic is in the news of the day and then try to come up with a way to implement policy, and that’s not the way to set policy,” Davis said.
After multiple requests for an interview, Police Chief Kathy Lester refused to speak with FOX40 about the commission. But in a meeting in March, shortly after being named Chief, she acknowledged, “We have a lot of policies that need to be updated.”
Chief Lester spoke about her concerns with the commission, echoing the same issues as Davis.
“The commission has done great work, but really the commission are volunteers. And our policy division is a substantial group of men and women that work on this full time,” Chief Kathy Lester said.
It is the kind of pushback Guerrero not only expects but believes is one of the reasons for the hold-up in making policy changes.
“We don’t come up with these recommendations in a vacuum,” Guerrero said.
Since Chief Lester has taken over, Guerrero admits it has been a bit easier to communicate with the department. Ultimately, the goal for both the commission and the police department seems to revolve around the same thing, the safety of the community.
“The mission of the Sacramento Police Department is to provide safety to our citizens,” Davis said.
The push for change is said to be caught in a web of bureaucracy.
“The community wants change, but they also get tired of coming to these commission meetings and really nothing moving forward with the exception of the one recommendation,” Guerrero said.
The commission typically meets on a monthly basis, and right now, they are in the process of creating ad-hoc committee groups with the hope of getting recommendations heard more quickly.