Sacramento adopts new police use-of-force policy

The change involves language about "deadly force" used in a previous policy that had been adopted less than a month ago

By Theresa Clift
The Sacramento Bee

SACRAMENTO — The Sacramento City Council on Tuesday adopted a new use of deadly force policy for police, replacing the one it adopted less than a month ago.

The language, proposed by the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission, is modeled after San Francisco's policy. It reads: "A peace officer is justified in using deadly force upon another person only as a last resort when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or are not feasible and the officer reasonably believes, based on the totality of the circumstances, that such force is necessary."

It will replace language the council adopted last month, proposed by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg as a compromise between the commission and the Police Department. That language read: "Deadly force shall only be used as a last resort. Last resort means that peace officers shall use tactics and techniques that may persuade the suspect to voluntarily comply or may mitigate the need to use a higher level of force to resolve the situation safely."

Sacramento Police Department officials originally raised issues with the commission's language, but Deputy Chief Kathy Lester said during the City Council meeting Tuesday that the department is now in support of the language.

"I am thrilled the department and the commission have come together to support the commission's original language," Steinberg said. "Let's move forward together."

The clause in the new language that reads "... when reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or are not feasible ..." is especially important, commission chairman Mario Guerrero said.

"The commission's recommendation has context and is balanced and it includes language that progressive reformers really like, which says reasonable alternatives have been exhausted or are not feasible," Guerrero said. "In any particular situation, there's any number of deescalation techniques."

The council also directed the department to adopt all language verbatim from Assembly Bill 392 — the state law that strengthened the deadly force standard from "reasonable" to "necessary." The department was in the process of doing that, Lester said. The ACLU previously said the department was not in compliance with AB 392. City Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela added the AB 392 piece to the motion, which the council passed unanimously.

Other recommendations

The council received the following recommendations from the police commission Tuesday, but has not yet voted on them.

— The city should automatically suspend without pay officers who use lethal force against unarmed people. In response, the department wrote: Currently, all officers are afforded due process by law and cannot be suspended without pay during an administrative investigation by law.

— The city's new inspector general should be independent of the Office of Public Safety Accountability supervision and should be granted subpoena power. This change would require a charter amendment.

— The City Council should be required to vote on police commission recommendations no later than three months from receipt. The council previously went three years without adopting any of the commission's recommendations.

— Police officers should be required to obtain four-year college degree within six years after joining the Police Department. In response, the department wrote that 73% of sworn officers currently have a bachelor's degree or higher and that this change would require a change to the police officers' union contract.

— The Police Department should contract with a third party to determine the cause of racial disparities evidenced by most recent data and should work with experts and community advocates to ensure that vehicle stops are not influenced by racial bias. Additionally, the department should continue to analyze vehicle stop data at least every three years. In response, the department wrote it supports further analysis and that a vehicle stop data study would be of "significant cost" to the city.

— The city should create a general matrix for progressive discipline to inform peace officers of disciplinary consequences associated with sustained complaints; ensure fair and consistent administration of discipline; and set forth a benchmark for future disciplinary measures. In response, the department wrote: "Discipline is determined based on the seriousness of the offense, the past history of the officer, and other factors in collaboration with city labor and the city attorney's office. Each investigation is unique and mitigating factors should be considered in the issuing of discipline to ensure accountability and mitigate misconduct."

(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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