Two New California Laws Aim to Improve Law Enforcement Transparency
POSTED 9:13 PM, JANUARY 1, 2019, BY JOE KHALIL
SACRAMENTO -- Two new laws that will take effect in the new year are aimed at making California's law enforcement more accountable, especially when it comes to police shootings.
Dashcam and body camera videos are widely considered the best tools for investigating law enforcement shootings. Starting this year the public may see a lot more of them.
"Anybody who’s doing the right thing should not be fearful when it comes to transparency," said civil rights attorney Mark Harris.
Two new laws going into effect in 2019 aim to put California ahead of the nation on law enforcement transparency.
One of those laws, Assembly Bill 748, will require all video showing officer shootings be released on demand within 45 days of the incident. It goes into effect July 1.
Harris says, ultimately, that makes the public safer.
"Cameras and audio recording devices tend to make people more careful in how they conduct themselves," he told FOX40. "That’s what we want to see relative to law enforcement."
Harris has worked with the families of Joseph Mann and Dazion Flenaugh, both killed at the hands of officers. He said the public has a right to see how its officers conduct themselves.
But many within law enforcement communities think the new rules go too far.
"It causes people who do not have the totality of the information to reach conclusions that become highly problematic," said former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness.
McGinness told FOX40 the public often sees just a few seconds of a police shooting, putting it out of context.
He doesn’t believe departments should be forced to release videos, especially if they’ll be used later in front of a jury.
"To set this arbitrary date of 45 days is very, very short-sighted. It’s flawed logic," he said.
In Sacramento, the police department already releases shooting videos within 30 days.
But if the purpose is to appease the public, releasing videos did not stop protests in Sacramento following the high profile Stephon Clark shooting.
"We definitely have some challenges," said Sacramento Police Sgt. Vance Chandler. "A lot of the material is not very easy to watch."
Chandler believes the policy is working to build trust with the community.
"Any time there’s change there’s always some challenges," Chandler said. "But I also think it showed our commitment to transparency."
Still, there are those like Harris who say law enforcement statewide has a long way to go to earn their communities’ trust. He calls the new laws a good first step.
The second bill has to do with police records involving officer-involved shooting investigations having to be made public. That law went into effect Tuesday.
Will Stephon Clark’s death pick up where Joseph Mann’s left off?
BY ALICE A. HUFFMAN
Special to The Sacramento Bee
April 05, 2018 02:00 PM
Updated April 05, 2018 02:00 PM
“I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”— Fannie Lou Hamer
Some might misinterpret Fannie Lou Hamer’s words as the expression of a tired warrior, resigned to an ignoble and inglorious fate. I would challenge us all to read them as a clarion call to establish an absolute point of demarcation.
Today, black Sacramentans face the challenge of being viewed by law enforcement as “armed and dangerous” each time they engage and interact with one of us. Sacramento is better than that. Enough is enough.
In July 2016, Sacramento police received a 911 call about the erratic behavior of Joseph Mann, a homeless and mentally ill neighbor of ours. They could have used non-lethal force to detain him for questioning. Instead, within seconds of arriving on the scene, ofﬁcers tried to run him over with their cruiser, then ﬁred 14 rounds into him.
Upon Mann’s death, several Sacramento community leaders and organizations, including the NAACP, worked closely with our city’s political leadership to alter policing practices and procedures. New policies were born, including some to open more dashcam and bodycam footage to public viewing. Sacramento police ofﬁcers were required to take additional training in non-lethal force and de-escalating interactions. Sacramento hired a well-respected African-American native son to lead its police department.
The NAACP has embraced these strategies across the state and nation, but the senseless killings keep happening. These soft reforms are not breaking through the “blue code” that puts police ofﬁcers’ protections under the “Peace Ofﬁcers Bill of Rights” above the lives of innocent African-Americans.
Unfortunately, with the recent death of Stephon Clark at the hands of Sacramento police ofﬁcers, we know our work to improve how law enforcement interacts with our community is incomplete.
The most fundamental civil right is the right to remain among the living. California citizens should demand a thorough investigation into the events leading up to the death of this young man, unarmed in his grandmother’s backyard.
If the ofﬁcers who took Clark’s life are found to have acted inappropriately under the circumstances, they should be terminated from employment and criminally prosecuted. Every life matters. Perhaps this is the tipping point.
The mayor, city councilmembers, the attorney general, and the chief of police are all suffering along with Sacramento residents. Like Fannie Lou Hamer, whose campaign for equality was denied, the State Conference, as in the past, held hearings and worked with state elected officials to change necessary state laws.
Clark’s death showed that to be to no avail. We have asked for a review of police policies and practices that appear to give them more rights than citizens of our communities. Meanwhile, let us be more concerned about the African-American mothers, African-American wives, Latino mothers and Latino wives, who have to deal with their families being destroyed by police misconduct.
We want all Californians to support the new landmark policy proposed by Assemblymembers Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty on the use of deadly force by police officers, because, truly, enough is enough.
ALICE A. HUFFMAN IS PRESIDENT OF THE CALIFORNIA-HAWAII STATE CONFERENCE OF THE NAACP. REACH HER AT ALICEHUFFMAN@SBCGLOBAL.NET.
Justice for Stephon Clark must start with righting injustice in Sacramento
By the sacramento bee editorial board
march 31, 2018 06:00 AM
UPDATED MARCH 31, 2018 08:51 AM
Now that Stephon Clark’s family has laid him to rest, many will want a return to normalcy in Sacramento. It’s time to move on with our lives, they’ll say, and put this dark chapter behind us. That would be an injustice, and a civic mistake.
The questionable shooting of Clark in his grandparents’ backyard two weeks ago has prompted, not just outrage at law enforcement, but also an important discussion about race, poverty and inequity – and the policy choices that have left them to fester in neighborhoods like Meadowview, where many residents believe “disadvantage” has become an excuse for overly aggressive policing.
The City Council opened the floodgates when it held a forum last week to try to rebuild trust between police and the public. Hundreds of people showed up, most of them angry and from poor black neighborhoods.
They had a long list of grievances. They complained about the escalating price of housing, stagnant wages and the lack of decent jobs. Others griped about the paucity of investment in their neighborhoods – the failing schools, the underfunded community centers – while downtown and midtown enjoy spruced-up parks, new grocery stores, hospitals and health clinics, and trendy restaurants and bars.
The disparity is an insult, they said, when majority-black neighborhoods struggle with crime and child deaths.
“This city is killing us,” Malaki Seku-Amen, founder of the California Urban Partnership, shouted at the council. Echoed Tanya Faison of Black Lives Matter Sacramento: “It feels like genocide.”
Their cries are not unheard. City Councilman Jay Schenirer, whose district includes rapidly gentrifying Oak Park, shared the frustration in an email to his constituents on Thursday, while also admitting, “I do not have the answers.”
“I hear your demands for equitable treatment, processes, resources, and access for all Sacramentans. How do we bring equitable investments and adequate resources to our struggling neighborhoods? How we make sure any investments made in these communities directly benefit those for whom they are intended?”
It has been a quandary as Sacramento has rebounded unevenly from the Great Recession. Former Mayor Kevin Johnson’s push to make Sacramento a “world-class city,” brought jobs and development, but its visible benefits were mostly downtown. Under his direction, the city sunk $255 million in subsidies into the sparkling Golden 1 Center to keep the Kings from leaving town, and Steinberg has, understandably, maintained that investment.
There are plans to spend another $90 million to expand the Sacramento Convention Center, $83 million to renovate Community Center Theater and another $30 million to open the Powerhouse Science Center. Taxpayers also invested $48 million into the downtown railyard, laying the foundation for a possible Major League Soccer stadium.
These amenities are sure to be boon for Sacramento’s future, but in the category of no good deed going unpunished, they also have made the city more attractive to affluent Bay Area residents, who are moving here in droves and driving up the cost of housing. So is it any wonder residents of Meadowview, Del Paso Heights, Oak Park, North Highlands, Arden Arcade, Fruitridge and Valley Hi feel left behind?
The city’s operating budget also is a bastion of inequity. When voters approved Measure U in 2012 – a half cent sales tax hike to restore budget cuts forced by the recession – the vast majority of the money went to the police and fire departments. In the current budget, more than $35 million is going to police and fire, and only about $2.6 million to community centers, neighborhood services and programs for teens.
During his first year as mayor, Steinberg’s highest-profile initiatives focused on reducing homelessness, a long-neglected problem to which Steinberg could bring expertise, but again, an effort that primarily addressed the needs of residents and businesses downtown and in midtown. More recently, he has been out front on protecting immigrants from the Trump administration.
You can hardly blame him; both are urgent and expensive public policy challenges. But he must now also confront Sacramento’s yawning economic divide. On Tuesday, he told residents who came to the public forum that “you will be heard, and we will be listening.”
But he and the City Council must do more than listen. They need to come up with a smart plan, and make sure there’s enough staff and money to execute it. The business community must step up, too.
A good template could be what the Sacramento Kings are doing with the newly formed Build. Black. Coalition. Together, they plan to create an education fund for Clark’s two boys and, on Friday, they co-sponsored a youth forum in south Sacramento. It’s the first of what will be a a multi-year effort “to support the education of young people” and provide “work force preparation and economic development.”
Also, in some fortunate timing, the city has already started putting together an economic development strategy dubbed Project Prosper that it promises will boost all neighborhoods, especially those with the highest unemployment and poverty rates. To succeed, it must focus on the priorities identified by the community, including the Build. Black. Coalition.
The grief will not end anytime soon for Stephon Clark’s family and friends. The protests will continue, especially given a private autopsy that showed last week that he was shot six times in the back. But this is an opportunity for Sacramento to dig deeper as the investigations into the shooting unfold.
Sacramento police release new video from fatal shooting of armed mentally-ill man
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
March 30, 2017
Sacramento police have released nearly two dozen videos from a fatal police shooting of a mentally-ill man in south Sacramento that provide additional context beyond edited footage the department issued in January.
The newly-released materials include in-car and body camera videos, though none show the moment Dazion Flenaugh was killed by officers last April. Police spokeswoman Linda Matthew said the department does not have footage of officers firing.
The new footage was released late Wednesday in response to a Public Records Act filed by The Sacramento Bee. It includes an eyewitness account from a K-9 officer who approached the scene in his vehicle as three other officers shot at Flenaugh. In blunt terms, he tells a colleague how the officers “just offed” Flenaugh.
Much of the new video is in-car camera footage of officers responding to the scene. Many of the clips do not show the crime scene at all.
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office said in January that the shooting was justified because the three officers – Dustin Southward, Jeffrey Carr and Eric Toomey – believed they were defending themselves and others from death or severe injury. The DA’s Office report said that the officers saw Flenaugh charge at Southward holding what appeared to be a large meat cleaver and a kitchen knife.
“I was pulling up right on them when this whole thing occurred,” the K-9 officer says to someone who appears to be a supervisor in newly released video captured by his body camera.
Later, he tells a colleague that he saw Flenaugh with weapons.
“There’s a big old steak knife about, or a big old knife about that long,” says the K-9 officer, gesturing with his hands.
“And in the grass over there … is a butcher knife and he was charging,” he says.
“It was legit,” he adds.
“Good,” his colleague says. “That’s why you come to be out here.”
The first officer continues, “And I was pulling up the street right here, and they just offed him. Which they should have.”
The second officer replies, “Yeah, absolutely.”
Matthew declined to identify the K-9 officer. Faces are blurred in the video, and some audio is redacted.
Damon Flenaugh, Dazion Flenaugh’s brother, said he remains disturbed by the way police handled the incident.
“I just feel like when you sign up to be a cop, you sign up to be a hero. You sign up to save lives, not take them,” Damon Flenaugh said. “There was not a moment they cared about his well-being or not one time they tried to save his life … I understand the human element of it all (but) they are not dealing with people, they are dealing with situations.”
Department spokesman Matthew McPhail cautioned against judging the officer by one comment. He could not say if the officer faced discipline over the remark, but said such cases would be evaluated by the “totality of the event as well as the officer’s history” to determine if the comment was part of a pattern of behavior.
“You can’t really look at it in isolation,” said McPhail. McPhail said he could not comment on this situation, but “The reality is people in any profession talk to each other in a different way than they would speak to others.”
The incident with Flenaugh began just after 8:30 a.m. on April 8 in an area of modest ranch homes near Center Parkway and Lerner Way. A 911 caller reported a man peering over fences. Witnesses told The Bee that Flenaugh was confused and disoriented but not violent.
Police located Flenaugh based on the description and detained him, but did not appear to be charging him with a crime. At one point, two officers discuss giving him a ride home.
Flenaugh had spent the previous night at the home of his mother, Christina Robbins, a few streets away from where the 911 call was placed.
Flenaugh grew extremely agitated in the back of the police car. Flenaugh had untreated bipolar disorder, according to his family. A coroner’s toxicology report found methamphetamine and amphetamine in his blood.
In previous video released by police, Flenaugh talks to himself and searches for a way out of the cruiser. When an officer opens the door to check on him, he flees.
That officer can be heard calling Flenaugh a “freak.”
Officers initially did not pursue Flenaugh, but dispatchers soon after relayed reports of a man running through backyards and breaking into at least one home. In one surveillance video, Flenaugh is seen running up to the front door of one house and swinging a large pickax, hitting the door three times in an apparent attempt to get in. When the door holds, he jogs off with the pickax.
In another video released in January, one officer looking for Flenaugh tells a bystander, “There’s some nut, tweak, just freaking out. He’s back there somewhere. If you see him, just hit him with a baseball bat a couple times … That’ll mellow him out.”
More police were called to the chase and Flenaugh was located behind a car in a driveway on Center Parkway near Lerner Way, where he was ultimately shot dead.
Mark Harris, an attorney for the Flenaugh family, said that he was concerned by three comments taken together – calling Flenaugh a “freak,” suggesting that he ought to be hit with a bat and the casual way in which his death was described as being “offed.”
“It shows a pattern and practice of insensitivity,” Harris said. “Rather than constructive measures taken to de-escalate, there was the opposite - he got what he deserved.”
In January, police released six videos and five dispatch audio files from the incident in response to Public Records Act requests filed by The Sacramento Bee.
The Bee filed a subsequent request asking for all video from the incident after determining the police department withheld some footage. The city agreed, based in part on an ordinance passed in November that requiring the department to release video in critical police events within 30 days.
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said that although the ordinance has hit “some bumps” during its implementation, he is “proud” of the city for putting it in place.
“It’s important to just take one step back and recognize that our city is the only city in the region that has a comprehensive video release policy,” Steinberg said. “This is culture change … I believe fundamentally that this policy is not just important and right for the community but it’s also good for the men and women who protect us because it will show over time that the vast majority of our law enforcement officers … do a great job.”
Sacramento Police Release Video of Response to Officer-Involved Shooting
BY: STEVE LARGE
March 26, 2017
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Sacramento Police released video of an officer involved shooting for the first time since a new transparency law for police shootings was put in place.
The dash cam video shows the frantic moments after police and suspect Armani Lee exchanged gunfire on Del Paso Boulevard in North Sacramento on Feb. 10. Mostly, the 21 video clips show police vehicles responding to the scene with lights and sirens blaring.
There is no body cam video of the shooting, as the department is in the process of rolling out its program. A contract was approved earlier this month for 750 body cameras, and the program is expected to be in place by September.
The new transparency law requires police to release video publicly 30 days after a shooting, unless granted a waiver.
The police department released this video two weeks late after the chief was scolded by the Sacramento City Council for not having it ready.
“I do have to say the department has put us in a bit of a quagmire,” Councilman Eric Guerra said, prior to the release of the video.
“I and a little disappointed that we’re having this conversation,” Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said.
After the release, a Sacramento police spokesperson called the video release a learning experience.
Black Lives Matters Attorney Mark Harris called the late release a clear violation of law.
“Going forward the council and the mayor need to deal with what the penalty will be for a future potential violation,” Harris said.
Sacramento police release video footage related to gunbattle with parolee
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
March 26, 2017
No officers were shot, but Lee was struck and transported to a local hospital. He has since been released and booked into the Sacramento County Main Jail on three felony counts of attempted murder and a felony charge stemming from an earlier incident.
The video mostly is taken from units that responded to the scene after the shooting. In audio and clips, it appears that officers were looking for a second suspect who may have fled into a nearby home. Three people in that house were detained, and officers with rifles spent several minutes commanding anyone else inside to come out. The SWAT team also was called in, but police said no arrests were made other than Lee.
Last week, interim police Chief Brian Louie asked the Sacramento City Council for a waiver allowing his department to withhold the videos, citing an ongoing investigation. His request was backed by the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office.
Council members declined to give him that waiver and insisted that police release the video as soon as possible in accordance with a recently adopted ordinance.
In November, the City Council passed a measure that required the department to release video in critical incidents such as officer-involved shootings. The Lee case is the first such incident since the transparency ordinance was passed.
At last week’s City Council meeting, Louie said he believed the waiver would be issued based on the ongoing investigation and said he took responsibility for the department being nearly two weeks past the measure’s deadline for asking for a waiver.
At the meeting, Louie said the department had not yet begun editing the video for release and was not able to say when the department would be able to release it.
Mark Harris, an attorney and activist who pushed for police changes last year, said that the handling of the Lee video was “shameful” and showed a need to put consequences into the ordinance for failure to adhere to its timeline. Harris said he planned to ask City Council for that amendment at this week’s Council meeting.
“Every other citizen in the city of Sacramento,” he said, “has to follow the rule of law or face consequences.”
Sacramento Officers Cleared in Shooting Death of Joseph Mann
BY: JOE KHALIL
January 27, 2017
SACRAMENTO -- Nearly seven months after Joseph Mann, a mentally ill Sacramento man was shot and killed by Sacramento police, the two officers who pulled their triggers, John Tennis and Randy Lazoya, learned they will not face criminal charges.
After combing through surveillance video, pictures, 911 calls and witness statements, the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office concluded that the officers’ actions were justified.
"We're disgusted, we're sick of this happening on a regular basis in Sacramento," said Tanya Faison, founder of Black Lives Matter Sacramento.
The case has already sparked protests throughout the city. This decision, according to Faison, only deepens divides.
"If we had the right processes put in place for accountability and transparency we would not be where we're at right now,” Faison said.
"We thought if there were ever a case in Sacramento that was going to yield itself in a decision by a prosecutor, this was the set of facts and this was the case,” said civil rights attorney Mark Harris.
Mann, whose family says he was mentally ill, was killed Jul. 11 in Del Paso Heights after multiple witnesses called 911 about a man with a knife acting erratically. According to the DA’s report, Mann was under the influence of methamphetamine, refused police orders to put his knife down and made threatening comments.
Officers said they believed Mann was getting ready to lunge at them when they shot him 18 times.
"For them to gun down my brother in the streets of Sacramento like he was some vicious dog, they need to be held accountable for this,” said Robert Mann, Joseph’s brother, at a press conference held in 2016.
"There was no basis to shoot him at the time,” said John Burris, the Mann family’s attorney.
Burris points to one specific piece of video, clearly showing Mann's last moments, saying it proves Mann never lunged at officers. The video appears to show Mann running along the sidewalk, parallel to officers running on the street, when he stops and faces them.
"These officers should've tried to de-escalate the situation,” said Burris. The DA’s report, however, claims the officers did try multiple times to de-escalate.
It goes on to say, "Based on a thorough review of the evidence…Mann posed an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the responding officers and the public."
Sacramento Police, various members of city council, the District Attorney’s spokesman and the mayor all declined to speak on camera for this story.
Mayor Steinberg released the following statement:
“I have enormous respect for the men and women of the Sacramento Police Department. But what unfolded with Joseph Mann is extremely tragic, unacceptable, and we are reminded of that again today with the District Attorney’s decision.
As Mayor, I am committed to ensuring we leave no stone unturned as we look back on what happened. It is why I will be laser focused on the results of the ongoing internal investigation. If the internal investigation concludes officers were following policy, then it is past time for us to change those policies. There must be accountability.
What else can we do to take responsibility – to show a demonstrable difference – to reconcile outdated policies and practices with where the true heart and culture of our police department and City stands with our community?
This is one of my top priorities and why City Council voted unanimously to pay for 40 hours of comprehensive crisis intervention training for our entire police department during our third meeting.
It is our responsibility and moral imperative to have the best trained, equipped and supported community police to protect all of our citizens and community at large. We should accept nothing less and I will work to ensure we are a city that supports the men and women in uniform so they can support all of us.”
In review of Joseph Mann shooting, Sacramento district attorney omits troubling facts
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office cleared two officers of gunning down a mentally disturbed homeless man after they first failed to hit him with their squad car.
BY: RAHEEM HOSSEINI
January 27, 2017
Veteran Sacramento police officers John C. Tennis and Randy R. Lozoya will face no criminal charges in the July 11, 2016, fatal shooting that left 50-year-old Joseph Mann dead on a sidewalk with 14 bullets in him and stoked community distrust in how law enforcement applies its discretionary authority to use deadly force.
Video footage released by the police department under community and political pressure revealed that Tennis and Lozoya first tried to strike Mann twice with their patrol vehicle before chasing him down along a side of closed business fronts and opening fire.In its 12-page review, the DA’s office concluded that Tennis and Lozoya were in their legal right to apply deadly force, saying the officers feared for the safety of a female bystander they thought Mann “was going to stab or take … as a hostage,” as well as the safety businesses along a stretch of Del Paso Boulevard.
But the DA’s review omits crucial facts from its review of events that Monday morning, like the fact that those businesses were closed and that Mann only got anywhere near the female bystander because he was trying to avoid getting hit by a police car.
Attorney Mark T. Harris, a co-founder of the local Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, or LEAD, called the DA’s portrait of events “absolutely ridiculous.”
“That is Disneyland … Hogwarts, all rolled into one. That is absolute fantasy,” Harris told SN&R.
For critics of Sacramento’s law enforcement community, the decision not to charge Tennis or Lozoya in the face of damaging video evidence casts doubt on the DA’s ability to act as an impartial check on police powers and raises questions about the office’s past reviews of officer-involved shootings, none of which have resulted in criminal charges for local cops.
One of the strongest statements of doubt came from a former Sacramento City Council member now occupying higher office.
“Like many Sacramentans who saw the video, I question the conclusion by the D.A. that police acted within reason in the shooting and killing of Joseph Mann,” Assemblyman Kevin McCarty said in a statement. “For far too long, there has been distrust surrounding police shootings and the decisions by local D.A.'s that work closely with police officers. This decision, coupled with the decision of Ezell Ford in Los Angeles, is yet another example of why we need an independent investigation for an officer involved shooting where a civilian is killed. California needs a better process to investigate these incidents like the states of Wisconsin, New York, and Illinois. Next week, I’m introducing common sense legislation to create an independent process to rebuild public trust between the police and the community.”
Read the full story in the February 2, 2016, issue of the Sacramento News & Review.
District attorney clears Sacramento police in controversial shooting of Joseph Mann
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
January 27, 2017
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office on Friday cleared two police officers of any legal wrongdoing in the controversial July shooting of Joseph Mann in North Sacramento.
District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office said the two officers, John Tennis and Randy Lozoya, acted lawfully when they shot at Joseph Mann 18 times after attempting to run him down him with their police cruiser twice.
The report repeatedly emphasized the danger police believed Mann posed to residents and officers in the North Sacramento neighborhood the morning of July 11. It said the 50-year-old black man was armed with a knife and had methamphetamine in his system.
“Officers Tennis and Lozoya were justified in shooting Mann to defend themselves and each other, to protect the public from imminent harm, and to prevent the escape of a suspected felon who posed a significant threat of death or serious bodily injury to others,” the DA concluded.
Mann’s family and community activists have questioned whether deadly force was necessary. They have asserted that Mann was mentally ill and that Tennis and Lozoya escalated the situation by aggressively chasing him with their car and on foot. Based on video, they have disputed an initial police account that Mann lunged at officers in the moments before he was shot dead.
John Burris, an attorney for the Mann family, said the DA’s investigation was not an independent review.
“It’s shocking to me … the level of protection the District Attorney’s Office gives to police under circumstances that are quite unconscionable in terms of their conduct,” Burris said. “Unfortunately, the District Attorney’s Office rarely files against police officers and police officers have that kind of protection even when unjustified.”
The incident began after residents at an apartment complex reported that Mann had a knife and one 911 caller reported that he had a gun, according to the 12-page report. The first officers on the scene located Mann on a residential side street off Del Paso Boulevard and ordered him to put down the knife, but did not report seeing a gun.
Mann was belligerent and did not comply with their commands. Instead, he continued to Del Paso Boulevard and began walking northeast up the road. More police arrived and continued to slowly pursue Mann.
On Del Paso Boulevard at Dale Avenue, Mann approached the police cruiser of Sgt. Michael Poroli with his knife “raised in an aggressive manner,” according to the report. Other officers said it appeared Mann either struck Poroli’s car or tried to open the passenger door. Poroli locked his doors, closed his windows and began to back up.
The report said that Tennis witnessed this interaction as he approached in his vehicle, and “considered striking Mann with his patrol vehicle to stop the threat” Mann posed to his fellow officer and a woman standing in the median of the road. Tennis said he was “worried” Mann had a gun and might enter businesses.
“Officer Tennis knew his vehicle was not traveling fast and he thought he could knock Mann of his feet or knock the knife out of his hand,” said the report. The DA’s Office included no information about Tennis’ vehicle speed when he attempted to hit Mann.
Tennis missed Mann and Mann ran toward the female bystander in the median of the road, according to the report. Lozoya opened the car door to exit. He dropped his Taser and reached for his gun at that point, fearing the woman was in danger. Tennis ordered his partner to stay in the car and “drove straight at Mann attempting to hit him with the car a second time,” the report said.
Tennis again missed Mann. Mann ran to the south side of the road and continued away from police. Tennis and Lozoya exited their car and pursued Mann on foot, the report said.
Mann took “an aggressive stance and what appeared to be a fighting position on the sidewalk. Lozoya said he saw a black and gray object in Mann’s hand and could not tell if it was a gun or a knife.
“Fearing for their own safety,” the officers fired, the report said.
Tennis fired eight shots and Lozoya fired 10. The report said that the officers fired for about three seconds, with some shots striking Mann in the back of his legs as he twisted and fell to the sidewalk. The officers then handcuffed Mann and called for the Fire Department and an ambulance. Mann was pronounced dead at 10:12 a.m. at UC Davis Medical Center.
A Smith & Wesson Special Tactical Knife with a 3.5-inch blade was recovered and tied to Mann by DNA evidence, the DA said. No gun was found.
Surveillance video obtained in September by The Sacramento Bee showed Mann with his feet planted at the moment of the shooting. In the video, Mann raises his arm three times at approaching officers before stopping on the sidewalk facing Tennis and Lozoya, who run toward Mann while firing. Though the DA said the officers fired from about 15.5 feet, measurements taken by The Bee put the officers farther away – 21 feet – when they began firing.
A Bee review of video and witness statements found that Tennis and Lozoya were on the scene for less than one minute between when they attempted to strike Mann with their cruiser and fired the fatal shots.
“The Joseph Mann incident highlights the challenges that law enforcement professionals have when dealing with those suffering from mental illness,” the Sacramento Police Department said in a statement. “We appreciate the renewed energy and focus on this very important issue. The Sacramento Police Department looks forward to working with the community and elected officials to identify tools and strategies that produce positive outcomes.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg said that while he has “enormous respect” for police, “what we know with what unfolded with the Joseph Mann case is tragic. It’s unacceptable.”
Steinberg said that the city will closely monitor an ongoing internal affairs investigation that will examine the actions of the officers as well as conduct a review of department policies and procedures.
“If that investigation concludes that those officers were following policies, then it’s long past time to change policy,” Steinberg said.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, was critical of the DA’s findings Friday and said he intends to introduce legislation next week that would create a more independent review process.
“Like many Sacramentans who saw the video, I question the conclusion by the DA that police acted within reason in the shooting and killing of Joseph Mann,” McCarty said in a statement. “For far too long, there has been distrust surrounding police shootings and the decisions by local DAs that work closely with police officers.”
Francine Tournour, head of the Sacramento Office of Public Safety Accountability, said the police department’s internal affairs investigation will likely take a few months to complete. She said it would not recommend specific discipline or policy changes, but present findings to senior department leaders and the police chief.
Tournour will then weigh in on whether she considers the internal affairs investigation to be sound, and whether she agrees with the chief’s decision to impose discipline. Tournour said that in the 10 years she has been at the Office of Public Safety Accountability, the Mann case is the first officer-involved shooting to be sent to internal affairs.
In response to the district attorney’s report, Tournour said, “There has to be a next step.”
Police spokesman Bryce Heinlein said both Tennis and Lozoya remain on “modified duty” and are not on patrol. Heinlein said that while Sacramento police general orders do not “address the use of a vehicle as a weapon,” it is discussed during training as a “last-resort use-of-force option.”
Judith Odbert, an attorney for Tennis and Lozoya, did not respond Friday to a request for comment.
Ed Obayashi, a use-of-force expert and former law enforcement liaison to the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office, said the report could be “perceived” as favoring the police, but its level of detail and legal analysis is consistent with other district attorney reports he has reviewed. He said that in the age of social media, many elected DAs feel pressure to make the strongest case they can to explain the high legal standard necessary to file criminal charges against officers.
“If it seems like it’s tilting a lot in favor of trying to justify the officers’ actions, it’s because the district attorney wants to put as many legal justifications and as many facts as they can to justify their decision,” said Obayashi. “It’s a political document. It’s going to generate pros and cons from both sides.”
Community activists said they planned to take action in coming days.
“We are going to be taking it to the streets and we are hoping to disrupt because we’ve had enough of this happening in Sacramento,” said Tanya Faison, founder of Sacramento Black Lives Matter. Faison said her group plans to hold a march on Feb. 1.
One witness interviewed in the district attorney’s report said Mann looked “possessed and mad,” another told her husband to “call an exorcist” and the Police Department implied Mann had mental illness in its statement. But the DA’s Office appeared to dispute that Mann was mentally ill. It said that shortly after Mann’s death, his father and sisters said “they did not consider him to have any significant mental illness.”
Robert Mann said that was “a lie.” He said his brother had received treatment at both the Sacramento County Mental Health Treatment Center and Heritage Oaks Hospital.
The Mann family has filed a federal lawsuit against the city. Mann said that no one from the DA’s Office had interviewed him or other family members.
“It’s just a very sad time and day for me to feel that Sacramento is trying to justify my brother’s death,” Robert Mann said. “If this is in fact the officers we have policing our community, Sacramento is in a bad state and I am just disappointed.”
Sacramento police on right path to restore public trust
BY: EDITORIAL BOARD
January 22, 2017
It shouldn’t have taken the deaths of two mentally ill black men at the hands of police and the threat of lawsuits for Sacramento to require officers to get more training to deal with people in the midst of crisis. But it did.
In April, Dazion Jerome Flenaugh was shot by three officers after he had a meltdown in the back of a police cruiser and ran away, then armed himself with a knife and meat cleaver. One officer called him a “freak” and told a bystander to hit Flenaugh “with a baseball bat a couple of times” to “mellow him out.”
Then in July, Joseph Mann was gunned down by two officers who had tried to run him over with their cruiser. Armed with a knife and erratically punching the air and talking to himself while walking away from police, Mann was shot 14 times.
“I have the unenviable task tomorrow of returning the worldly possessions of Mr. Dazion Jerome Flenaugh,” the family’s attorney, Mark Harris, told the City Council and Mayor Darrell Steinberg at last week’s meeting. “His life has been reduced to this envelope.”
By requiring all officers to take a week of crisis intervention training, used by police departments across the country to teach officers how to de-escalate run-ins with non-compliant people, Steinberg and council members hope to avoid such situations in the future.
It’s certainly a step in the right direction.
Right now, Sacramento cops are required only to take eight-hour “awareness” courses of crisis intervention training. Within the next two years, though, every sworn officer will have to get 40 hours, which is more than many police departments in California demand. It will start with patrol officers and dispatchers, and move on to supervisors and detectives who have less interaction with the public.
The key will be to make sure the officers use the training they get by working with the community to continually measure the department’s effectiveness.
Equally important will be the culture that Sacramento’s next chief of police establishes. It cannot be one that continues to favor secrecy over transparency.
The city has hired Arturo Sanchez, a former deputy city manager in Long Beach, to help find a chief with those values. Sam Somers Jr. retired in December after a spate of police shootings, and Brian Louie is serving as interim chief.
Sanchez, in his role as assistant city manager, will have outsized influence over all aspects of the search, including getting input from the public and helping craft a list of qualifications to consider. It’s an area where he has some experience.
Before starting in Long Beach in early 2015, he spent years working in the Bay Area, much of it in Oakland where he helped pick Howard Jordan, one of a long line of police chiefs who left under a cloud of questions. He also oversaw Oakland Citizens’ Police Review Board, which investigated complaints of misconduct.
Oakland is just now starting to recover from a sex scandal that exploded in late 2015 and led to the dismissal of four city cops and the suspension of seven others, all while under the watch of a federal monitor.
Watching that unfold from Southern California, Sanchez says he has learned that “when there is a specific ongoing issue that needs addressing within the department, like assessing the compliance of employees reporting misconduct,” it’s important to ask candidates for police chief for a plan to continuously deal with that issue. “That’s something we could have done better,” he told a member of The Bee’s editorial board.
Sacramento police don’t have near the problems that Oakland police have had. But after the deaths of Mann and Flenaugh, the Sacramento Police Department’s reputation is blemished. With more training and the right community-minded chief, the Sacramento Police Department can rebuild trust.
Sacramento city council approves mental illness training for police
BY: ANTIA CHABRIA
January 19, 2017
Sacramento City Council members on Thursday unanimously approved giving all Sacramento police officers a week of training to better deal with people with mental illness.
The 40 hours of crisis-intervention training will be given first to front-line patrol officers and dispatchers who are most likely to encounter mentally ill people during daily duty.
The department has about 250 patrol officers and 60 dispatchers that the it hopes to send to the training by the end of the year, said Capt. Mark Greenlee. Other sworn officers will follow, with the full department of about 750 officers to be trained in about two years, he said.
The training will cost about $750,000. The department intends to look for grants, but Mayor Darrell Steinberg said earlier in the week that he would seek city funding if necessary.
“There is a great sense of urgency in improving Sacramento,” Steinberg said. “Let’s get going.”
Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, training is widely used across the United States, and teaches officers to recognize and de-escalate situations with noncompliant or difficult people. Currently, Sacramento police take an eight-hour “awareness” version, according to police spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein.
Speakers at Thursday’s meeting stressed that the training was created to be part of a larger de-escalation and prevention program that includes ensuring that mental health services are available, and that officers have a place to take people experiencing a crisis other than to jails or emergency rooms.
Many community members spoke in support of the plan, including police reform groups that have pushed for greater transparency and accountability in the department.
“I hope that what we are about to do is take the humane approach moving forward to truly de-escalate,” said attorney and activist Mark Harris during public comments.
Harris came to the meeting holding a white envelope that contained the personal effects of Dazion Jerome Flenaugh, a mentally-ill homeless man who was killed by police in April after an encounter that went from calm to violent in minutes. He said police had just released the belongings, and he was taking them to Flenaugh’s family on Friday.
Last week, police released video and audio of the Flenaugh incident and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office released findings that the three officers involved acted lawfully. That shooting – along with the July shooting of Joseph Mann, another mentally ill homeless man whose encounter with police escalated quickly and ended fatally – have led to a series of police reforms in recent months.
Councilman Jeff Harris said the crisis training would be “money well spent ... It goes both ways: It protects not only the community but the police as well.”
Sacramento mayor wants officers to spend a week learning how to approach mentally ill
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
January 18, 2017
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg wants all city police officers to spend a week learning how to deal with mentally ill people.
The plan, which will be presented by interim Police Chief Brian Louie to the City Council on Thursday, would cost $750,000 over two years. While the department will look for grants, Steinberg said he will seek city budget funds if necessary, calling mental illness the “unattended issue of our time.”
The proposal comes after two mentally ill men were killed last year by Sacramento officers in separate incidents that sparked community frustration.
“This is one of the most important steps we can take to improve the relationship between our Police Department and our community,” Steinberg said. “This training is the start to asking and answering the question, ‘How do we get more people the help they need?’ ”
Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, training is widely used across the United States, and the proposed 40-hour session would teach officers to recognize and de-escalate situations with noncompliant or difficult populations. Currently, Sacramento police take an eight-hour “awareness” version, according to police spokesman Sgt. Bryce Heinlein.
Police experts say that the training has limitations when dealing with a violent suspect, but mental health advocates believe it can lead to better outcomes.
“If a person is agitated and upset, there are ways to help somebody calm down no matter what is causing the agitation,” said Laura Usher, senior manager of criminal justice and advocacy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
The training includes presentations by people with mental illness, their family members and mental health service providers. The goal is to help officers understand and empathize with the fear and stigma that mentally ill people often feel, said Sam Cochran, chairman of advocacy group Crisis Intervention Training International Inc.
Cochran helped implement the first CIT training program in Memphis, Tenn., in 1987 after police there shot a mentally ill man armed with a knife.
In November, the Sacramento City Council passed measures that included a new use-of-force policy aimed at getting officers to use nonlethal ways to approach suspects and focus on de-escalation techniques. Those changes were driven by public outcry over Sacramento police shootings last year of two African American mentally ill men, Joseph Mann and Dazion Jerome Flenaugh.
Mann was shot dead in July after exhibiting strange behavior in North Sacramento. An initial team of officers approached him calmly, but another pair of officers attempted to hit him with their cruiser before shooting him dead. Police said in July that Mann had lunged at them with his knife, though activists and family members have disputed that account based on police video.
Flenaugh was initially calm when sitting in the back of a police cruiser in south Sacramento in April, but quickly grew agitated. At the first opportunity, he left the police car and ran through backyards, swung a pickax at a resident’s door and grabbed kitchen knives that he refused to drop when he was shot dead by officers, according to police.
Patty DeSantis welcomes the training. She said she is afraid what will happen if officers without certain skills encounter her brother, Sean Farrell, who is mentally ill and homeless in Sacramento.
Diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, Farrell has wandered Sacramento streets for more than a year, often “out of touch” with the world around him, DeSantis said. She’s tried to help him, moving him into her Yuba City house and later an apartment, but it didn’t work. One day he walked away and has since refused her offers.
She reached out to Sacramento Police Department’s Impact team, a group of five officers assigned with a social worker to handle homeless people with mental illness. DeSantis said members of that team have interacted with her brother without incident so far, but she still worries.
“Authority figures like law enforcement are going to tell him what to do and he might respond like a kid having a fit, having a tantrum,” she said. “It will start as something small ... and escalate.”
Ed Obayashi, a use-of-force expert recognized by the federal government, said that CIT training is ideally suited for interventions for people like Farrell who are nonviolent and need help getting into services. But he warned that using it in volatile situations could be dangerous for officers.
“You are not going to try to go in with (crisis intervention training) with someone who is swinging an ax,” Obayashi said. “At that point you are on a different plane of enforcement.”
Chuck Wexler, executive director of Washington-based Police Executive Research Forum, said his organization supports CIT training but believes that approach lacks tactics to handle violent confrontations. His organization trains officers to incorporate “tactical pauses” so that when a situation escalates, they have strategic training to avoid lethal force. Five Sacramento officers took that training in December, he said.
“We have said that it’s not enough to simply have crisis intervention skills, you also need to integrate it with tactics,” said Wexler. “What happens is you will have this person who … (has) a knife or a baseball bat or a rock and someone is using their crisis intervention skills and then they start to approach the officer.”
Cochran said CIT efforts don’t work unless there are mental health providers working with police. Without a triage center where officers can take those in crisis without arresting them, officers are forced to use jails and emergency rooms, he said.
Jails, he said, create a cycle of criminalizing mental illness, while already-impacted emergency rooms can leave officers waiting hours with their patient, taking them away from patrolling. Both scenarios undermine the intervention training by making it hard for officers to create positive interactions, he said.
Usher pointed out that law enforcement officials have increasingly become the first-line providers of mental care as social services have been cut, burdening police beyond their traditional scope.
“Imagine if the police were first responders to heart attacks,” she said. “That would be unacceptable.”
Cochran said that police departments should identify officers skilled at crisis intervention to provide leadership during tense encounters, even if all officers are trained in CIT skills.
“We’ve got some wonderful, outstanding officers, but we’ve got some officers who are not suited for that role,” Cochran said. “You’ve got to have the right person.”
Mark Harris, an attorney for Flenaugh’s family, said he supports the training but called it an “incremental step.”
Last week, he and other African American community members presented Steinberg with a 27-page report on Sacramento police prepared by a high-profile Los Angeles law firm. That report called for the department to be more transparent, including increasing the use of body cameras and conducting a study on racial profiling in traffic stops.
Steinberg said that he is reviewing other potential changes in the department.
“It’s my third week,” he said. “This is a start.”
Police Footage of Daizon Flenaugh Shooting Leaves Family Feeling 'Helpless'
BY: JOE KHALIL
January 13, 2017
SACRAMENTO -- After reviewing police dash and body camera footage of the events leading up to the shooting death of Dazion Flenaugh, members of his family, supporters and the family's attorneys shared their dismay at a press conference Friday.
"I felt helpless," said Damon Flenaugh, Dazion's brother. "He didn't deserve to die the way he did."
Family members of Dazion Flenaugh, flanked by supporters which included family friends, members of Black Lives Matter and clergy members, spoke out after watching newly released video that captured the moments just before and after his death.
For the first time, they saw images of his body lying motionless on the street through the lens of an officer's body camera.
"Nobody thought that my brother's life was worth something?" Damon Flenaugh said.
Dazion Flenaugh was shot and killed by police in April on Lerner Way in Sacramento. Officers say he was armed with knives, acting erratically and under the influence of drugs.
He was detained but fled when one officer opened the patrol car's back door. Surveillance video shows at one point Flenaugh had a pick ax and swung it at a neighbors door.
Officers shot Dazion Flenaugh after they say he charged at them. Video of that moment hasn't been released among the clips officers made public.
"He's lying in the street bleeding out. And these inhumane folks are having that kind of discussion," said attorney Mark Harris. "His mother, when she saw that, lost it as you can imagine."
Family members say Dazion Flenaugh wasn't a violent person, but rather severely mentally ill. His father said he was bi-polar.
They took issue with comments officers made just before the shooting that were caught on camera. One officer can be heard calling Dazion Flenaugh a freak, and then the following exchange another officer had with a neighbor.
"There's some nut, tweak just freaking out," one officer said. "If you see him, hit him with a baseball bat a couple of times. That'll mellow him out."
"Not one of them cared about my brother’s life. Not one,” Damon Flenaugh said.
Harris said the city hasn’t provided the family a police or autopsy report, something they've been after for nine months. Sacramento Police officials and Mayor Darrell Steinberg declined interviews for this story, but in a statement, Steinberg said in part:
Friday afternoon the Sacramento District Attorney’s Office announced it would not pursue any charges against the three officers involved in the shooting death of Flenaugh, saying their actions were justified.
DA clears police officers in shooting of armed mentally ill man in South Sacramento
BY: ANITA CHABRIA AND NASHELLY CHAVEZ
January 13, 2017
The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office on Friday released findings that three officers who shot a mentally ill homeless man in south Sacramento acted lawfully and will not face charges.
Officers Jeffrey Carr, Eric Toomey and Dustin Southward fired 16 shots and struck Dazion Flenaugh seven times during the April 8 incident.
The District Attorney’s Office concluded that the officers were justified because they reasonably believed they were defending themselves and others from death or severe injury. All three have returned to regular duty, according to the Sacramento Police Department.
The district attorney’s report said Southward saw Flenaugh standing behind a gray SUV on Center Parkway, after responding to a call in which multiple officers were searching for the suspect after he escaped from the back of a patrol car on a nearby street.
Southward yelled for Flenaugh to “come over here, get down on the ground,” according to the report. Carr and Toomey were behind Southward and witnessed the interaction.
Flenaugh allegedly “stared at (Southward) and moved down the driveway towards the rear of the SUV.” There, he “sprinted down the sidewalk at full speed directly towards” Southward holding what the officer “thought looked like a large meat cleaver in one hand and a kitchen knife in the other hand.”
Southward “feared that Flenaugh was going to kill him” and fired eight shots. Carr fired twice, and Toomey fired six times, both from a distance of about 25 feet, according to the report.
Though the findings weren’t made public until Friday, the District Attorney’s Office sent its report to the Sacramento Police Department on Wednesday, the same day that police widely released video and audio recordings in the case. The Sacramento Bee obtained the footage Tuesday after having filed a Public Records Act request for the recordings.
About half an hour prior to the deadly confrontation, the report said, Officer Paul Fong had encountered Flenaugh after responding to a call that a suspicious man was peering into yards and windows. Flenaugh was initially calm and accepted Fong’s offer of a ride home without being under arrest.
While sitting in the back of Fong’s police cruiser, however, Flenaugh grew agitated and frantically sought a way to escape the car, based on the footage released this week. When Fong opened the door, Flenaugh bolted out and ran down the street.
He then jumped over fences and went through backyards, at one point grabbing a pickax and swinging it three times at a front door. He later broke into a woman’s house, sending her screaming outside, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Flenaugh got hold of a 12-inch butcher knife and 13-inch narrow-bladed kitchen knife and held them in his hands as he stood on the street, according to the report. Officers said they told him to drop those weapons before he charged at Southward.
Flenaugh, 40, was a homeless man who suffered from bipolar disorder, according to his family. He was in the south Sacramento neighborhood after having stayed overnight at his mother’s home a few blocks away.
Officials have not released a toxicology report, but the District Attorney’s Office said amphetamine and methamphetamine were found in Flenaugh’s blood.
The report was released Friday hours after the family of Dazion Flenaugh held a news conference to protest the way in which police handled the incident. They asserted that officers should have recognized that Flenaugh was mentally unstable and done more initially to calm the situation.
They took issue with Fong calling Flenaugh a “freak” and telling a bystander to “just hit him with a baseball bat a couple times” to “mellow him out,” based on police video. Fong faced an administrative review for his remarks because his comments were “unbecoming of an officer,” according to police spokesman Bryce Heinlein.
Flenaugh’s brother, Damon Flenaugh, said Friday afternoon that he was not surprised by the district attorney’s conclusion but disagreed with the outcome.
“I’m heartbroken,” he said. “You would hope that a human life would mean more for a society as a whole.”
Damon Flenaugh said he still believed more could have been done to de-escalate the tense situation that led to the shooting of his brother. It was clear from video footage before the shooting that his brother’s mental state was impaired, he said.
Mark Harris, an attorney representing the Flenaugh family, said Friday that relatives had not been allowed to see toxicology, autopsy or police reports related to the case.
“The bottom line is that I would love to see the evidence that has led her to her conclusions,” he said of the district attorney’s review.
Harris submitted a report Friday to Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg that investigated the policies and practices of the Sacramento Police Department. The review was conducted by nationally renowned firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and is part of an effort by activists to force police changes.
The Police Department offered thoughts and prayers for the Flenaugh family and said such incidents “weigh heavy on the hearts of our officers and are a constant reminder of the challenges of the profession.”
“This incident is heartbreaking and has impacted the family, community and our organization,” Interim Police Chief Brian Louie said in a statement. “The officers involved in this incident acted courageously to protect the citizens of our community. I am very proud of the work these women and men do daily, serving our city.”
What happened after Dazion was killed? Why did it happen that way? What are they looking for? Why can't the family get basic information?
VIDEO CREATED AND EDITED BY ERICA TALBOTT AND JOHN LYNCH
Newly released video of fatal police shooting gives insight into mentally ill man's death
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
January 10, 2017
Sacramento police late Tuesday released video and audio related to the April officer-involved fatal shooting of a mentally ill homeless man in south Sacramento, providing insight into a 29-minute encounter that escalated from a routine incident to a frenzied chase ending with multiple officers firing their guns.
Dazion Jerome Flenaugh, 40, was allegedly armed with knives when he was shot seven times by three Sacramento police officers after a chaotic pursuit, according to police statements and review of video by The Sacramento Bee.
Police spokesman Bryce Heinlein said Flenaugh had a knife in each hand and was “charging” at officers when they shot him. No toxicology report was available Tuesday, but Heinlein said Flenaugh had amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system.
Police released six videos and five dispatch audio files from the April 8 incident near Center Parkway and Lerner Way in response to Public Records Act requests made by The Sacramento Bee. The city blurred out the faces of police officers, Flenaugh and bystanders in the video; the personal information provided by 911 callers was also redacted.
Flenaugh’s death was not captured on video, though dispatch audio captured an officer reporting that shots were fired.
In two videos, officers tell Flenaugh they are going to give him a ride home, then put him in the back of a police cruiser without handcuffs. Flenaugh quickly grows agitated. He chews on his nails. Then he searches for any way to get out of the police vehicle, banging on the door, climbing on the seats to find an exit.
Other videos include a K-9 officer’s body camera footage of his approach to the incident and arrival to the scene after shots were fired, his dashcam video and a resident’s surveillance tape of Flenaugh swinging a pickax into her door three times. A bystander’s cellphone video also shows the aftermath from a distance.
The video and audio files were first provided to the Sacramento City Council during a closed session Tuesday evening. Immediately afterward, members of the Flenaugh family viewed the footage at City Hall, said their attorney, Mark Harris.
After viewing the videos on Tuesday evening, Mayor Darrell Steinberg said there “are some aspects of this early on in terms of some of the actions with the individual that are troubling but ultimately …when you see the video tape you’ll see what I saw …which is that the individual was unfortunately holding knives …it appeared to be a very, very serious situation.”
The first police officer arrived that April morning in the neighborhood of modest ranch homes after a 911 caller said at 8:24 a.m. that a man was peering over fences and into windows.
Flenaugh had spent the previous night at the home of his mother, Christina Robbins, a few streets away from where the 911 call was placed. Robbins said that Flenaugh was gone when she woke up but his wallet, phone and belongings were still there. A Bible he liked to read was sitting on a chair on the front porch. Robbins said she thought Flenaugh might have gone to buy cigarettes.
Witnesses contacted by The Bee in October said Flenaugh acted confused and disoriented, speaking into an imaginary phone and walking up and down the street into driveways. The first officer made contact with Flenaugh at 8:34 a.m., then detained but did not arrest him. Flenaugh was sitting on the front bumper of the patrol car when a second officer arrived on scene at 8:38, according to Heinlein.
Dash camera video next picks up the incident 30 seconds before police put Flenaugh in a patrol car. Flenaugh appears calm and compliant as he goes into the back seat without handcuffs. The officer tells him he is not under arrest.
In a second video that covers the same time frame but is focused on the back seat of the cruiser, the officer can be heard saying, “I’m just going to take you home, bud. Come on,” as Flenaugh gets into the car.
Inside the car, Flenaugh grows agitated. “Look at this, mother------” he says, apparently speaking to himself. He tries the door and grows more frustrated after he can’t open it. Around 8:40, he yells, “Sir,” seemingly trying to gain the officer’s attention and pounds on the door. He then stands on the seat, apparently looking for a way to get out. He seems to calms for a moment, then says, “I’m dead.”
“I’m just going to f------ jail,” he yells. “For the rest of my life, huh,” he adds a few seconds later as he resumes looking for an exit.
“What are you doing, you freak?” the officer can be heard asking on a separate tape.
“What are you doing?” the officer asks a second time, as he opens the car door at 8:41 a.m.
Flenaugh responds, “I’m looking for a …” before bolting past the officer out of the car.
The officers do not give vigorous pursuit. The second officer can be seeing walking calmly back to his vehicle, while the first officer drives down the street. Within seconds, audio picks up a bystander telling the officer that, “He jumped over the fence right here.”
The officer drives around the corner, parking and climbing onto the hood to look into backyards. Later, a bystander asks what is happening.
“There’s some nut, tweak, just freaking out. He’s back there somewhere. If you see him, just hit him with a baseball bat a couple times,” replies one of the officers. “That’ll mellow him out.”
Flenaugh ran through a series of backyards and attempted to enter at least two homes, according to police and witnesses. More police were called to the chase. Heinlein said that between 8:46 and 8:59, police pursued Flenaugh through the area as residents gave his location to officers and two more 911 calls came in.
Penny Reader, a resident who encountered Flenaugh, said surveillance footage from her security camera showed Flenaugh attempting to break into her house. The video shows Flenaugh running up to her front door with a large pickax and hitting the door three times in an attempt to get in. When the door holds, he jogs off, pickax in hand.
Flenaugh jumped a fence and ran one street over to Lerner Way into the front yard of Albert Gray’s home. Gray said Flenaugh kicked in two wooden fence boards to get into his backyard. Gray saw Flenaugh jump the fence into another neighbor’s yard.
The yard Flenaugh jumped into belonged to Gracia Camargo. Carmargo said she was getting ready for work when her dog began barking. She locked her back door as Flenaugh approached.
“He said, ‘Open it,’ and waved the ax,” Camargo said. “I just said, “No, please don’t hurt me,’ and I just started running.”
Camargo said Flenaugh seemed “a little bit in his own world.”
Quang Nguyen, who lives across from Gray, said he followed police as they drove three houses down to Center Parkway, where they turned in the direction Flenaugh had gone. Officers confronted Flenaugh in a front yard a few houses down, Nguyen said.
An officer says on the dispatch tape, “I think he’s running, he’s running.”
Moments later, at 9:01 a.m., police opened fire on Flenaugh after finding him “concealed” in a front yard, said Heinlein.
After a dispatcher says, “Suspect down,” the K-9 officer arrives and multiple officers with weapons drawn are seen. Police yell for bystanders to go inside their homes.
Officers later handcuff Flenaugh – common police procedure even after a suspect has been shot, according to Heinlein.
Flenaugh’s family was not immediately available for comment Tuesday night. But their lawyer, Harris, said he was “struck by the humanity of the interim chief ... he was very sensitive, very thoughtful in how he handled this.” However, Harris said the family was frustrated that it still had not received requested information, including the police and autopsy reports. The family also has concerns about the way initial officers handled the situation.
“For a person who was struggling with mental illness, he was reacting to a feeling of feeling suffocation, of being caged,” Harris said.
In October, Robbins said Flenaugh had been homeless for a number of years and had never found steady work after serving jail time in the Bay Area when he was 19. She said he had been diagnosed as bipolar, based on his jail release papers.
Flenaugh was sentenced to prison in 1997 for grand theft in Alameda County involving a farm animal, according to records. His sentence was suspended, and he was placed on probation. Flenaugh also had a series of local misdemeanor offenses in Sacramento County, including one in 2005 for carrying a concealed weapon.
The release of the video was facilitated by the passage of a package of police reform measures by City Council in late November. Under the new ordinance, the Sacramento Police Department is required to release video in officer-involved fatalities within 30 days if it “does not hamper, impede or taint” an investigation.
Based on the passage of that law, The Sacramento Bee requested the Flenaugh footage but was initially turned down, as it had been for previous requests in the case. However, the city later reversed its position. Interim City Manager Howard Chan said that the ordinance did not apply retroactively to fatal shootings prior to its November implementation, but he believed the intent of the law was to increase transparency.
“Quite honestly, it was the right thing to do,” said Chan. “This is not the movies. This is real life and I think it’s important that people understand what happened.”
Steinberg said he backed that position.
“Ultimately releasing this information not only is respectful to the community, to the family, but its also good for our Police Department,” he said.
It marked the second time in four months that the Sacramento Police Department released footage from an officer-involved shooting after long rejecting media requests for video. In September, the Police Department released a host of video from the July police shooting of Joseph Mann on Del Paso Boulevard after The Bee obtained surveillance footage of his death from a private source.
The videos prompted national scrutiny of the department after it showed officers attempting to hit Mann with their police cruiser before shooting him dead. The police department said in July that Mann lunged at the officers with a knife. The case is still under review by the district attorney, and the city has hired an outside investigator to examine both the Flenaugh and Mann cases.
Steinberg said that he plans to discuss police reform and training at next week’s council meeting, and would introduce a proposal that all Sacramento police officers undergo crisis intervention training.
“I’ve made it very clear to the (city) manager and the police chief that when we do make mistakes we acknowledge them. When we act appropriately even in a tragic circumstance we assert that,” Steinberg said. “Our job is to make sure that our officers ... all of them have the best qualitative training around crisis intervention in the state and the country.”
Heinlein said the police concluded their investigation June 17 and sent finding to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office for review. That review is ongoing. The three officers involved in the shooting, Dustin Southward, Jeffrey Carr and Eric Toomey, are on regular duty, according to Heinlein.
Interim Police Chief Brian Louie said in a statement that, the “death of Mr. Flenaugh is tragic and affects everyone involved; the family, the community and the entire Sacramento Police Department. This incident weighs heavily on the hearts of our officers and is a constant reminder of the challenges of this profession.”
The Sacramento Police Officers Association did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Sacramento City Council approves police reforms, but critics aren't satisfied
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
November 29, 2016
Facing a chamber filled with vocal activists, the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday passed a package of police measures that could increase access to videos of officer-involved shootings and revamp a civilian oversight commission criticized as ineffective.
Council members unanimously approved four measures meant to address concerns that escalated after the July police shooting of Joseph Mann, a mentally ill man armed with a knife in North Sacramento.
Community activists called the plan “slightly better” and a “small step” forward but some wanted the council to reject the proposal and provide greater civilian oversight of the Police Department. The Tuesday plan leaves investigations of police misconduct in the hands of the department.
“Having just the police look out for the police is not good enough,” said Lanette Davies of the ACLU of Sacramento.
The city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability currently monitors and reviews internal affairs investigations of police misconduct and reports to the city manager, who also oversees the Police Department. The council voted Tuesday to have the office answer to the City Council instead.
The package also creates a new civilian oversight commission that will have broader powers to examine complaints against police and fire personnel filed directly with the accountability office. The panel cannot access the confidential personnel records of officers, which are protected by state law.
Both the accountability office and new oversight commission have only advisory and review powers; they cannot directly investigate misconduct allegations or impose discipline.
Under the approved ordinance, the director of the accountability office could ask the City Council to issue a subpoena to investigate, but the council would be under no obligation to do so.
Council members praised the plan as a step in the right direction, while promising to examine future changes.
“I think we walk away, none of us feeling purely satisfied we are where we want to be, but we are a whole lot farther along,” said Vice Mayor Rick Jennings, who helped craft the plan. “We have gone as far as we can.”
Councilwoman Angelique Ashby said during the meeting that the police officers’ union also opposed the proposal. The union did not respond to requests for comment.
Community critics focused on its lack of civilian investigatory power into allegations of police misconduct.
Mayor Kevin Johnson encouraged activists to pursue a ballot initiative for 2018 if they want greater civilian oversight than is currently allowable under city rules.
“If you are not satisfied with the pace we are moving, you can do it yourself. That's the beauty of this dynamic,” Johnson said.
The new measures require the Police Department to publicly release video in officer-involved fatalities within 30 days if it “does not hamper, impede or taint” an investigation. The police chief will need a waiver from the council to withhold video under those circumstances.
Faces in the video would be blurred, possibly including those of police officers, according to Francine Tournour, director of the accountability office. The family of the person killed would have the opportunity to view the video before public release.
The changes also call for the department to implement a body camera program. Interim City Manager Howard Chan said the city plans to purchase the equipment early next year.
The new rules do not specifically call for releasing body-camera footage to the public, but require the department to have a policy that “enhances transparency and availability of data to the public.”
The council also passed a resolution that requires the department to emphasize nonlethal methods when confronting suspects, though specifics will be developed by the department with approval of the city manager.
The Mann incident occurred July 11 in North Sacramento as tensions were brewing nationwide. It was four days after a sniper killed five police officers during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Dallas. That came after national unrest over police shootings of a black man in Louisiana and another in Minnesota.
Mann, described as mentally ill by family members, was armed with a knife when two police officers attempted to hit him with their cruiser, then shot him 14 times. The incident sparked community calls for reform after private surveillance video was released by The Sacramento Bee, prompting the Police Department to release dash-cam and other footage.
Sacramento City Passes Ordinance Reforming Police Use of Force Policy
BY: DREW BOLLEA
November 29, 2016
SACRAMENTO (CBS) – The Sacramento city council unanimously passed an ordinance that reforms the police use of force policy and restructures a police oversight commission.
“This is a good first step,” said Danielle Williams, an advocate for openness within police departments.
She says change is needed.
“You can look at us in comparison to other commissions and other police accountability systems, we are doing the bare minimum,” said Williams.
On Tuesday, council votes to make the Community Police Commission 100% civilian-led. They also have more power to review complaints against the department and make policy recommendations. But Williams and other who spoke at the meeting say more can be done.
“Law enforcement is still taking the lead on investigating themselves and we’ve heard cries across the country that there needs to be an independent eye on that,” said Williams.
She and others are calling for the commission to have subpoena, discipline, and investigative powers.
The city attorney said that’s currently not legal under the city charter. The council would have to propose a change, or the community could petition for a ballot initiative in order to change the city charter.
The Sacramento Police Officers Association was not pleased with council’s decision.
“People are rushing to make changes that may or may not even be needed,” said Tim Davis, the SPOA president.
Davis says limiting law enforcement input can create an unbalanced commission.
“We’re asking for a prohibition of activists from being on the commission too,” said Davis.
Davis also expressed concerns about a key point of the police use of force policy which would require the release of video by 30 days.
“It just confuses things when the city as council members try to weigh into an area that they’re not experts in,” said Davis.
The changes passed in tonight’s ordinance won’t take effect until June 2017. In that time, Advocates say there is plenty of work to do.
“We have to continue to stay connected to the city Council and the mayor,” said Richard Owen, “monitor it, staying engaged as citizens. That’s the only real way to continue to improve relationships.”
Heavyweight Los Angeles law firm to challenge Sacramento on police practices
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
November 27, 2016
Sacramento police-reform activists have retained a nationally-renowned law firm to push for police accountability measures that go beyond what the City Council intends to pass Tuesday night, potentially as a launch pad for changes that go beyond the capital city.
The Law Enforcement Accountability Directive and its head, Sacramento attorney Mark Harris, have retained Los Angeles-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP to pursue police reforms beyond those the City Council has proposed in recent days.
“It’s a very serious firm and I’d take them very seriously,” said Kevin R. Johnson, dean of the UC Davis School of Law. Johnson added the firm was “a bedrock of the legal community certainly in California.”
Gibson partner Marcellus McRae said Monday that his firm would “assist (the Directive) in their efforts to negotiate reforms,” but declined to say how the firm would do that, or if it would involve litigation against the city.
McRae is a former federal prosecutor who also served as the deputy general counsel to the Citizens’ Commission on Jail Violence for the county of Los Angeles, which investigated deputy misconduct in local jails, according to a biography provided by the firm.
Harris declined to say exactly what legal issues could be raised but that “(a)ll measures will be considered including litigation.”
Any litigation would likely not be tied to a particular instance of police misconduct, but would look at larger systemic issues within the department in regards to training and policy, he said.
Gibson Dunn has handled numerous high-profile cases and argued more than 100 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In California, the firm won the initial 2014 verdict in Vergara v. California, suing on behalf of nine California students and charging that teacher tenure rules created a system biased against low-income and minority students. The decision was later reversed on appeal.
The firm also successfully won the landmark case Perry v. Schwarzenegger in 2010, which deemed a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage in California unconstitutional.
The Sacramento City Council is expected to pass a package of police reforms Tuesday, which emphasizes non-lethal interventions by police and the public release of video in officer-involved shootings.
But Harris said he believes the changes do not go far enough and are a “Band Aid solution” to a problem that “has festered ... and is oozing over with pus.”
Harris said he retained Gibson Dunn on a pro bono basis to help determine what reforms are legally possible and identify places where the city could take further action. One of the challenges for reforms currently is that there is not a comprehensive local or state analysis of what oversight is currently legally possible, he said.
“It’s not as well settled as some people believe,” said Harris. “There may be some places where the city is willing to change ... We want the city to say we either can’t do that for this reason, or we won’t.”
City Attorney James Sanchez said that, “Gibson Dunn is a well-established law firm and we welcome all points of view on this important topic.”
Harris said the firm would also likely conduct research on best practices for policing practices and law enforcement oversight that could be used nationally.
“This is the state capital of the largest state in the country, and what happens in California tends to spread,” he said. “We hope to have a full, complete model that will stand up for this city, this state and this country.”
Sacramento plan would provide video, expand civilian review of police shootings
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
October 31, 2016
Responding to two fatal officer-involved shootings this year that have drawn questions from community leaders, the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday will consider strengthening civilian oversight of the Police Department and providing greater public access to incident video.
The changes are designed to bolster public confidence in the Police Department and ensure that officers are following procedures. The reform package comes as law enforcement nationwide faces growing scrutiny over the use of deadly force, particularly against African American men.
The July death of Joseph Mann drew national attention after dashcam footage showed two officers attempting to run him over with their cruiser before shooting him dead in North Sacramento. Mann had been acting erratically and waving a knife, witnesses reported.
In that case, police officials declined to provide footage until The Sacramento Bee obtained a surveillance video of Mann’s death from a private citizen. Mann’s family had sought the police video in the previous months and said the department had refused to answer questions about the shooting. The relatives filed a civil rights lawsuit against the city, saying Mann was victim of excessive force, and community leaders said officers failed to adequately respond to a mentally ill individual.
Under the council’s plan, video in police shootings would be released to the public unless the department could show that doing so would impede an investigation, violate state law or run afoul of police union contracts, according to City Council staff.
The reforms would also create a civilian oversight commission with its own investigator to review allegations of police misconduct, including shootings and deaths of suspects while in custody. The panel would launch investigations based on community complaints.
Currently, the Police Department conducts its own investigations of shootings by officers and in-custody deaths. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office also reviews such shootings for potential criminal charges.
The 11-member commission would not be able to impose or recommend discipline of officers, nor could it subpoena witnesses. Activists have called for such powers, but state law precludes those abilities.
The eight council members would each appoint one commissioner, and the mayor would appoint three, based on a copy of the proposal reviewed by The Bee. The commissioners would receive training on police policy, legalities of investigation and police union rules.
The commission is modeled after Berkeley’s. The new board would revamp the Sacramento Community Police Commission, which activists have said lacks real oversight power. Les Simmons, the former chair of that commission, resigned in protest in September.
Councilman Larry Carr, who has pushed to change how officers use deadly force, said Berkeley is “something to emulate” because the city has already installed a strong model that works within the confines of state law.
The council will also consider strengthening the Office of Public Safety Accountability, which now conducts limited investigations of police misconduct and reviews police shootings for violations of department policy.
It’s staffed by a single person who reports to the city manager. The office has been criticized by community leaders for not having enough resources or autonomy to successfully provide oversight. Some suggest that it has a conflict of interest because it answers to the same person that oversees the Police Department.
Under the new proposal, the office would report directly to the City Council and mayor, giving it independence akin to the city auditor. It would have its own budget, and the investigator and staff for the commission would become part of the Office of Public Safety Accountability.
“It would give the office a lot more independence,” said Councilman Allen Warren, who was not involved in crafting the plan. It “needs to be free of any politics. (It) needs to report back to us.”
Some law enforcement activists questioned if the proposed reforms go too far.
Jake Shockley, founder of Back the Badge Sacramento, said that police across the country have to “walk on eggshells,” and law enforcement agencies already have multiple layers of oversight.
“Police departments have the proper investigative tools to investigate on their own,” Shockley said. “Then we have outside sources like the DA and the Department of Justice if needed ... Having a community member doing their own investigation, I just don’t think it’s a good idea.”
Some community activists said they oppose the reform proposal because it provides too little, too quick.
“It’s business as usual, and the city doesn’t hear us,” said Mark Harris, an attorney for the family of Dazion Flenaugh, who was shot and killed by police in April in another high-profile incident.
Harris said he agreed with the recommendations for the Office of Public Safety Accountability, but opposed the plan for the commission and other reforms for not providing enough civilian power.
He said his police-reform group, Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, would like the council to take more time to consider other options before moving forward and wait until after Mayor-elect Darrell Steinberg takes office in December.
“We don’t know enough yet to know if what (the city) is proposing will have unintended consequences that will set us back ... I want all the best practices we can get our hands on to come before the council. I want to see them have the gold standard on this.”
The city plans to hold community forums in coming weeks, and the City Council plans to vote on the package Nov. 29.
DA clears 3 deputies in fatal shooting; Sacramento hires investigator to review 2 other cases
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
October 28, 2016
The Sacramento County district attorney on Friday cleared three sheriff’s deputies of legal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of an armed black man after an attempted traffic stop in October 2015.
On the same day, Sacramento city officials announced they are hiring a former federal civil rights prosecutor to review fatal officer-involved shootings of two homeless men that occurred this year.
The three instances of officer-involved shootings have been at the center of local calls for changes in how law enforcement uses deadly force with African Americans and mentally ill individuals.
District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said that deputies shot Adriene Ludd 13 times after he pointed an assault weapon with a high-capacity magazine at officers. The District Attorney’s Office ruled that the deputies “shot Ludd in self-defense” after he attempted to ambush them.
“But for his gun being temporarily inoperable, it is almost certain that Ludd would have killed or seriously wounded” the deputies, the report states.
The District Attorney’s Office investigates all county officer-involved fatal shootings to determine if police acted legally. The DA’s Office is in the middle of reviewing the Sacramento police shootings of Dazion Flenaugh in April and Joseph Mann in July – the two cases for which the city is hiring an independent investigator.
Police have legal latitude to use deadly force if they think their lives or bystander lives are in jeopardy.
Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Tony Turnball said the department conducts an extensive “process of review,” internally as well, and is “happy to see the progress through this, to the conclusion of this portion of the investigation.”
Activists protested the Ludd shooting at a Board of Supervisors meeting in July, calling it a case of excessive force. On Friday, Mark Harris of the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, an organization advocating for police reforms, said that the district attorney’s decision was “sad” but “not surprising.”
Community leaders have used the three incidents as examples in their call for greater transparency, accountability and a greater emphasis on nonlethal tactics in the Sacramento Police Department and surrounding jurisdictions.
The consultant chosen by the city of Sacramento, Michael Gennaco, will review the July 11 shooting of Mann, a mentally ill homeless man who was shot 14 times by two officers during a frenetic one-minute encounter in which the officers first attempted to hit Mann with their vehicle. Mann was acting erratically and had a knife before the deadly confrontation, according to police and witnesses.
Gennaco will also examine the April 8 shooting of Flenaugh, a homeless bipolar man who led police on an extensive chase after becoming agitated and fleeing from the back seat of a police cruiser. Flenaugh armed himself with a pickax, then discarded it for two kitchen knives before being shot by three police officers on a south Sacramento street.
In the Mann case, an attorney for the officers said they acted appropriately and used force to protect the public from harm.
“The review further reflects our effort to be open and perform an objective review of police officer actions,” said City Manager John Shirey in a statement.
Shirey said findings from the review would be made public.
Councilman Larry Carr, who is leading an effort to craft new policies on when officers should use deadly force, said he believed the outside review would help “uncover the truth ... two police officer shootings in a short period kind of require that we take a look at our policies and processes and procedures.”
But Harris expressed anger with the city’s decision to hire an outside consultant to review the two Sacramento Police Department shootings without seeking public input.
“I think it’s just bad business ... to welcome him to Sacramento as a fait accompli,” Harris said. “He hasn’t been vetted to our satisfaction ... They should solicit input from the community, the very people who have been talking about these issues in Sacramento.”
Gennaco said his independent review, expected to start in early November, is “intended to take a look at the Police Department through using these two incidents sort of as pointers with regards to how deadly force incidents are reviewed, the policies that guide officers in regards to deadly force, training and any other issues that become evident.”
The review will not “duplicate the criminal investigation” but will examine both the actions of the individual officers involved in the shootings as well as larger tactical and procedural policies in the department as a whole, he said.
Gennaco said that in examining the actions of the officers who fired shots, his examination would be “broader than the district attorney” review focused on the legality of officers’ actions at the moment shots were fired.
“We will look at the decision-making that predates the decision to fire,” said Gennaco. “We will also be looking at the department’s response.”
Gennaco has conducted similar reviews of police departments throughout the country. In 2016, he has reviewed use-of-force cases at the Oxnard Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Department and Denver Sheriff’s Department, according to a résumé attached to Shirey’s email. It also lists Gennaco as an ongoing consultant with the Anaheim, Inglewood and Pasadena police departments in Southern California.
NAACP members got sick - now they're suing luxury hotel for millions
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
October 25, 2016
Hours after dining on salmon and salad during the 2014 state NAACP conference at a Redwood City luxury hotel, Sacramento community leaders were among the 127 people who grew seriously ill, with some vomiting in the lobby and suffering diarrhea, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The suit alleges that the Hotel Sofitel San Francisco Bay was negligent by serving fish contaminated with norovirus toxin that caused the illness.
Mark Harris, attorney for the plaintiffs, said that the hotel failed to use dishwater hot enough to kill the virus. The suit also alleges the hotel failed to help those so sick they couldn’t leave the hotel without medical assistance.
Harris is seeking “multi-millions” on behalf of the individuals who became ill, he said.
Alice Huffman, Sacramento-based president of the California-Hawaii state NAACP, said the illness struck most of her group the morning after dining on the infected food as guests were attempting to check out of the hotel on a Sunday. Without access to their rooms, some guests became so ill they were unable to move from the hotel lobby. A conference member called 911.
Twelve people were taken to a hospital, including a hearing-impaired 5-year-old girl, Harris said. The oldest victim was 83, he said.
The suit alleges that the hotel was sanctioned two times for food safety issues prior to the NAACP event. In 2008, San Mateo County Health System found “major violations associated with poisoning by contaminated food” during an event for the Redwood Chamber of Commerce, it said. It also alleges a food-poisoning outbreak at a Johnson & Johnson event shortly after that.
Huffman, who was ill for two days from the outbreak, said Tuesday that during the incident in the hotel lobby, “Older people had just sunk in their chairs, they couldn’t even move. Kids were vomiting in the wastepaper baskets.”
AccorHotels, the parent company for Sofitel, responded Tuesday that it had confidence it would prevail in the suit.
“We respect the plaintiffs’ right to pursue legal action, even though we are confident their allegations will not hold up in court,” said AccorHotels spokeswoman Sandra Pinto Duhamel. “The safety and welfare of our guests and staff are always our highest priority and our hotel staff went to considerable lengths to provide aid both during and after the incident.”
Harris said that the suit is seeking money to cover medical bills, lost wages and emotional distress. The plaintiffs have unsuccessfully attempted to settle the claim for two years, said Harris.
Former Oakland Mayor and Assemblyman Elihu Harris was also one of those sickened and briefly went into a coma from the infection, said Mark Harris, who is not related.
The attorney filed a separate suit in that instance and won a “six figure settlement” for the former legislator.
The new suit also alleges that race may have played a factor in the hotel’s response. The majority of the NAACP guests are black.
Huffman said that during the incident, “no one from the hotel made any overtures to help ... I think they didn’t really treat us with dignity.”
Duhamel disputed the NAACP’s claim of discrimination.
“Our hotel staff went to great lengths to assist all those impacted both during and after the incident,” she said in a statement. “Any attempt to make this a racial issue is inexcusable.”
Hear witness, police, describe pursuit and shooting of Daizon Flenaugh
BY: Anita CHABRIA & CYNTHIA HUBERT
April 8, 2016
The encounter between Dazion Jerome Flenaugh and police on a cool morning last April began peacefully enough, with an officer helping Flenaugh into a patrol car. It ended with afrenzy of bullets that left Flenaugh dead on a south Sacramento street.
A witness said Flenaugh, 40, was tranquil when officers approached him while responding to 911 calls about a man roaming the area, peering into windows. He was not handcuffed when he was put in the car.
But within minutes of Flenaugh being locked in the back of the police cruiser on April 8, his calm switched to panic before he fled on foot. Officers would pursue Flenaugh in a chaotic chase during which police say he armed himself – first with a pickax and then two knives – and broke into a home before being shot multiple times.
Flenaugh was the second of eight people shot and killed by police this year in Sacramento County. His mother, Christina Robbins, said he had untreated bipolar disorder.
Six months after the shooting, members of the Flenaugh family said they haven’t been told exactly how he died, including how many times he was shot.
Robbins and her family have seen the family of Joseph Mann, another homeless mentally ill man shot by Sacramento police, fight their own battle to obtain information. In the Mann case, the Sacramento Police Department released dashcam videos of the pursuit and shooting only after The Sacramento Bee obtained and published surveillance video and Sacramento City Council members pushed for answers.
“I can’t even put my feelings into words,” said Robbins. “When I last saw my son, he was a full walking, talking human being, and at the end, all I end up with is a box of ashes. … My son is dead. I need to know the truth. If you’ve got the truth, just tell it.”
From interviews with family members, neighbors, authorities and others, The Bee has attempted to reconstruct the circumstances that led to Flenaugh’s death.
The Sacramento Police Department on Saturday morning also responded to a Bee request for information. A spokesman said the department concluded its investigation of the incident in June and handed off its findings to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office. The three officers involved have been returned to regular duty, and the department is not conducting an additional internal affairs investigation.
Flenaugh spent many of his days in the River District neighborhood north of downtown, and others roaming Parkway, the modest neighborhood of single family homes off Mack Road where his mother lives. The night before the shooting, he showed up at Robbins’ tan and white house, where he sometimes slept in her converted garage. Robbins called Flenaugh, the second-oldest of her five children, by the nickname “Jay.”
Robbins said Flenaugh had been homeless for a number of years and had never found steady work after serving jail time in the Bay Area when he was 19. He was sentenced to state prison in 1997 for grand theft in Alameda County. The stolen property: a farm animal, according to records. His sentence was suspended, and he was placed on probation.
Robbins said she discovered her son had been diagnosed as bipolar by looking at his jail release papers.
Flenaugh later accrued a series of misdemeanor criminal offenses in Sacramento County, including one in 2005 for carrying a concealed “dirk and dagger,” or knife.
Shortly after Flenaugh arrived at the house, he came into Robbins’ bedroom where she was resting, she said.
“He got on his knees at the end of my bed. He said, ‘Mama, I just need a safe place to stay, I need mercy,’ ” she said.
“Mercy?” she recalled thinking, “I don’t know how to take that.”
But she said she told him, “ ‘OK you can stay, take a shower, clean up.’ ”
She and Flenaugh sat at her kitchen table that evening and ate chicken burritos. Flenaugh told his mother that he was having trouble with police, she said.
“He said the police had been harassing him and he was stressed out,” she said. Flenaugh was worried people were in front of the house, she said, and kept peering out of the window near the front door.
They went to bed.
When Robbins woke up the next morning, she said, Flenaugh was gone. The side door to the garage was open. His phone was on the charger and his backpack was on a table. A Bible he liked to read was sitting on a chair on the front porch.
Robbins said she thought her son might have gone to buy cigarettes.
‘Maybe a blue house’
She began shampooing her rugs at about the time events were escalating for Flenaugh a few blocks away on a curved street of neatly kept homes.
Penny Reeder, a resident, said she spotted a thin, wiry man she did not recognize standing across the street from her home that morning at around 8 a.m. He was holding one hand up to his ear, as if he was talking on the phone. But he had no phone.
Reeder worried that the stranger, who started walking up and down the street and into driveways, might be casing homes to burglarize. Before leaving for work that day, she asked her neighbor, Geoffrey Jones, to watch him.
Jones, who has lived for two decades on Prescott Way, where officers first encountered Flenaugh, watched the man wander the street from his front porch. He said Flenaugh appeared confused.
“I’m lost,” Flenaugh told Jones as he stepped onto his driveway.
“Where do you want to go?” Jones recalled asking him.
“I don’t know,” Flenaugh answered. “Maybe a blue house.”
Flenaugh seemed cooperative with the officer who arrived a few minutes later, answering questions and willingly entering the police car without handcuffs, said Jones, who thought the situation was over.
Within minutes of being locked in the cruiser, Flenaugh’s calm vanished. He became agitated, kicking at the door and hitting the barrier between the front and back seats, according to witnesses and a Police Department press release issued the day of his death.
The press release said an officer opened the door of the cruiser to check on Flenaugh’s welfare. He bolted, running down the street. Police chased, with more cars responding.
“He ran right past me,” said Jones. “He was not fast. He had heavy feet, heavy jeans, a big afro. I thought police would pick him up, take him downtown, and it would be a done deal.”
Reeder said home surveillance video that she turned over to police showed that Flenaugh ran to her home and attempted to break in. Reeder said she did not keep a copy of the footage.
The video, Reeder said, captured Flenaugh “running at full tilt,” carrying a pick ax that he may have been taken from another resident’s backyard. He “wailed on the front door,” badly damaging it before jumping a fence and attempting to enter through the home’s back door.
He never got in, she said.
Flenaugh ran one street over to Lerner Way, passing the yellow roses and palm trees in the front yard of Albert Gray’s home. Gray said Flenaugh kicked in two wooden fence boards to gain access to his backyard. He saw Flenaugh run past and jump the fence into another neighbor’s yard. Then he heard screams.
The yard Flenaugh jumped into belonged to Gracia Camargo. Carmago said she was getting ready for work when her dog began barking. She went to her open back door just in time to see Flenaugh leap over with the pickax. She locked the door as Flenaugh approached.
“He said, ‘Open it,’ and waved the ax,” Camargo said. “I just said, “No, please don’t hurt me,’ and I just started running.”
Camargo said Flenaugh seemed “a little bit in his own world.”
Carmago ran into her front yard. Flenaugh used the ax to break her glass door and enter, apparently cutting himself in the process. Camargo later found blood in her house. Flenaugh then discarded the ax, according to police, and armed himself with two knives from Camargo’s kitchen drawer.
She said one was a table knife and the other a cutting knife with a blade about 4 to 5 inches long.
Flenaugh then apparently made his way through an adjoining backyard and out to the side street, Wardell Way, and back onto Lerner Way. Gray rushed out of his house when he heard Camargo yelling, and the two were in the front yard when Flenaugh appeared again from the side street, according to Gray.
The press release issued by the Police Department on April 8 said Flenaugh confronted a citizen about this time in the pursuit and attempted to stab him several times.
Gray said he and Carmago were the only ones near Flenaugh, and that he did not attempt to stab them. “When I told him to get away, he just walked,” Gray said.
Flenaugh jumped another fence into the backyard of Quang Nguyen, who lives across the street from Gray. Nguyen said Flenaugh waved a knife at him as Nguyen stood in his kitchen, then Flenaugh ran through the backyard and jumped another fence to the west of Nguyen’s house.
Nguyen said a neighbor called 911 and two police cars arrived within minutes. He said the officers drew their weapons and he directed them to where Flenaugh ran.
Quang’s neighbor, Julian Delgado, was in the backyard with his girlfriend when Flenaugh jumped in. Delgado said Flenaugh told him, ‘I’m not going to hurt you,’ and asked Delgado not to tell police where he was. Delgado told his girlfriend to go inside and lock the door, while he opened the garage door to let police in. Delgado said at least one officer also jumped his rear fence and pursued Flenaugh, and at least one officer was armed with a Taser, identifiable through its yellow coloring.
Flenaugh again jumped a fence to escape.
Nguyen said he followed police as they drove three houses down to Center Parkway, where they turned northwest onto the broad boulevard, the direction Flenaugh had gone. Officers confronted Flenaugh in a front yard a few houses down, Nguyen said.
‘Face down in the gutter’
In the press release issued after Flenaugh’s death, the Police Department said he hid near a car, ignored multiple commands to drop his weapons and charged officers.
“Fearful for their lives and for the safety of community members, officers shot the suspect multiple times as the suspect charged at them with both knives in hand,” police said.
Danita Williamson said she was upstairs at her mother’s house when she heard gunfire out front.
Her first thought was for her daughter, who had walked outside for a cigarette. Williamson stuck her head out the second-story window and saw officers both to the northwest and southeast on the street. She said she heard 16 or 17 shots total coming from both sets of officers.
Police spokesman Bryce Heinlein said three officers, Dustin Southward, Jeffrey Carr and Eric Toomey, fired 16 rounds total, hitting Flenaugh seven times.
Williamson estimated officers to the northwest were about 40 feet away from Flenaugh, and the officers to the southeast about 15 feet.
Williamson said police yelled at her to get her head back inside the house. She said she did not hear police yelling prior to the shots, but she continued to watch the scene, leaning out of the window.
Flenaugh lay “face down in the gutter,” with his legs in the road, she said. He was pronounced dead at the scene by responding paramedics, the Police Department said in its press release.
Williamson said she did not see a weapon, but police later told her a knife was recovered at the shooting site. Williamson said she recognized Flenaugh from his wanderings in the area and had given him cigarettes many times.
“I don’t know what happened that day,” she said. “He was not a violent man.”
Shortly after Flenaugh was shot, two coroner’s deputies and a law enforcement chaplain went to Robbins’ house to notify her, said Sacramento County Coroner Kimberly Gin. They asked to look in Flenaugh’s belongings for an identification card, which Robbins allowed.
Two police officers arrived shortly after and asked to search Flenaugh’s belongings, Robbins said. This time, the family declined.
That, Robbins said, was the last time she heard from police.
“From that day, I have not heard anything from anybody in authority,” she said.
Heinlein said homicide detectives have made “multiple attempts to meet with and talk to Mr. Flenaugh’s father,” and he has refused to talk or return calls.
Damon Flenaugh, Dazion Flenaugh’s brother, said their father, Louis Flenaugh, “hasn’t been in the picture,” and lives in Richmond. Damon Flenaugh questions why the department did not contact his mother.
Heinlein said the department concluded its homicide investigation and sent it to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office on June 17. Shelly Orio, a spokeswoman for the district attorney, said her office is investigating whether any laws were broken.
In addition to wanting to know why Flenaugh was shot, family members said they have questions about the policies and procedures that allowed the situation on Prescott Way to escalate. Robbins said that she believes her son was running from fear, and that knowing Flenaugh was behaving irrationally, officers could have used nonlethal force and de-escalation techniques.
“He did not start out with those weapons,” she said. “I just need to know what made my son so afraid.”
Brittany Flenaugh, Dazion Flenaugh’s niece, said that her uncle was safely detained in the back of the police car when he began acting violently and could have been transported either to jail or a care facility without endangering officers or the public.
Heinlein said there is “no formal internal affairs investigation” of the Flenaugh case. An internal affairs investigation would be conducted if officers were suspected of violating department policy. Heinlein said all three officers are back on regular duty.
Based on what she saw on her home security video, Reeder said she believes the police acted appropriately. “I think they probably were justified in shooting him,” she said. “They’re doing their jobs, protecting all of us.”
Joel Fay, a psychologist and former cop who teaches crisis intervention training, said he could not speak directly about the Flenaugh case. But he said officers sometimes find themselves in a no-win situation when confronted with someone who is mentally ill and potentially dangerous.
“What if someone is running down the street, you let him go and he kills someone?” Fay asked. “The challenge is that, if you pursue someone because he is a danger to himself or others and the encounter goes bad and he dies, you get blamed.”
Robbins said the silence on the part of the Sacramento Police Department compounds her pain. She said she has no intention of giving up on her search for answers.
“I am a bitter, broken mother,” she said. “I won’t forget and I won’t forgive and I’m not going to apologize. … I am going to find out the truth. Some kind of way, it’s going to come out.”
The Bee’s Phillip Reese contributed to this report
State Lawmakers Paying Attention to Calls for Police Shooting Reviews in Sacramento
BY: JOE KHALIL
October 15, 2016
SACRAMENTO -- State lawmakers and city officials alike are beginning to listen to renewed calls for change in the way Sacramento's police force is reviewed after officer involved shootings or suspicion of police abuse.
Applause echoed through city hall chambers, and temporarily shut down a city council meeting Thursday.
"Keep applying pressure," shouted one man, one of many who spoke out during the 10 minute recess after council members left the chambers in an attempt to restore order.
Council demanded quiet, but members of the public demanded changes to how police review their own cases of officer involved shootings.
"Every citizen who was in city hall last night was mortified at the response of the city," said Mark Harris, Co-chairman of Law Enforcement Accountability Directive (LEAD).
After the shooting deaths of two mentally ill men -Joseph Mann and Dazion Flenaugh - at the hands of Sacramento police, community groups including LEAD, have come together behind a proposal to create a new, independent review team of police misconduct.
"Should law enforcement have one of their own do the investigation, should there be an external investigation. Those are the things we're attempting to work through with the city," said Harris.
Now, lawmakers on the state level are jumping into the fight.
State assemblyman Kevin McCarty is behind a bill that'll require a special prosecutor, outside of sacramento, to handle investigations for cases like that of joseph mann.
McCarty told FOX40 over the phone that Assembly Bill 86 has been proposed before, but he plans to reintroduce it largely as a result of police shootings in Sacramento.
Another of LEAD and other community groups' main objectives is to require law enforcement to be more responsive to victim's families.
Harris says the Flenaugh family's been waiting since April for information about their family member's shooting with no answers.
"His family has requested a police report, a toxicology report, an autopsy report, the 911 tape if there is any, the dash cam video, they've gotten nothing."
Massachusetts Supreme Court Says It's Perfectly Legitimate for Black Men to Flee Police
BY: JOHN G. MALCOM
September 23, 2016
Has it really come to this? On the heels of dramatic disagreement between the two major party presidential candidates about how to react to ongoing tension between the police and the African-American community, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has unanimously concluded that a black man fleeing from a police officer investigating criminal activity is indicative of—nothing at all.
In the wake of recent shootings of African-American civilians by police officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, followed by violent protests in Charlotte, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had dramatically different reactions.
Clinton laid the blame on “systemic racism” and “implicit bias” and called for more community policing. Trump was equally troubled by these events, but called for more extensive use of stop-and-frisk tactics in high-crime areas. He speculated that perhaps the officer involved in the Tulsa shooting had “choked” when faced with a tense situation.
In the meantime, in a unanimous opinion issued on Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts gave implicit approval for black men to run when the police ask to speak to them.
The facts in Commonwealth v. Jimmy Warren are pretty straightforward. Sometime after 9 p.m. on Dec. 18, 2011, in the Roxbury section of Boston (a high-crime area), a teenager entered his bedroom and saw a black male wearing a “red hoodie” jumping out the window. When he went to the window, he saw two more black men, one in a “black hoodie” and the other in dark clothes, running away.
The thieves had taken a backpack, a computer, and five baseball hats. The victim relayed the information to Officer Luis Anjos, who drove around the neighborhood for approximately 15 minutes looking for anyone who matched the victim’s admittedly vague description.
Because it was a cold night, Anjos did not encounter any pedestrians until he came upon Jimmy Warren and another black male. Both were wearing dark clothing, and one of them was wearing a hoodie.
Anjos decided to conduct a “field interrogation observation” (FIO), police jargon for a consensual encounter in which the officer asks someone what they are up to, and the person remains free to leave at any time. Anjos asked the two males to “wait a minute,” and they made eye contact with him before jogging away into a park.
Anjos radioed what happened to his station and was overheard by two other officers in the neighborhood, who saw the two men coming out of the other side of the park. One of the officers said, “Hey fellas,” and one of the two men—Warren—ran back into the park. The officer observed Warren clutching the right side of his pants (consistent with carrying a gun in his pocket) as he ignored repeated requests to stop.
Following a brief chase, one of the officers drew his weapon and, after a struggle, arrested Warren. The officers found a gun near where Warren was apprehended, and he was subsequently charged and convicted of unlawful possession of a firearm.
Prior to trial, Warren moved to exclude the firearm as evidence, claiming that its discovery was the result of an illegal stop because the police lacked “reasonable suspicion”—the applicable legal standard under the Fourth Amendment to justify an investigatory stop—to stop him in connection with the breaking and entering that had occurred roughly a half-hour earlier.
The trial court denied the motion, but the Supreme Court of Massachusetts held that the motion should have been granted. In doing so the court noted, correctly, that an investigatory stop cannot be based on a mere hunch. However, the court acknowledged, “a combination of factors that are each innocent of themselves may, when taken together, amount to the requisite reasonable belief that a person has, is, or will commit a particular crime.”
The court noted, again correctly, that the victim’s description of the perpetrators was extremely vague. Besides, since the victim was not sure where the thieves went, and since nearly 30 minutes had elapsed, it was hard to connect the location where Anjos first spotted Warren to the crime Anjos was investigating.
Based on those facts alone, the officers would not have reasonable suspicion to tie Warren to the crime. Warren would have been well within his rights to tell the officer that he didn’t want to speak to him and to walk away. Yet that is not what Warren did.
Instead, Warren made eye contact with the officer and then hightailed it out of there, grabbing for his right pants pocket in the process. Would that be enough to justify an investigatory stop? Not according to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, which stated, “Where a suspect is under no obligation to respond to a police officer’s inquiry, we are of the view that flight to avoid that contact should be given little, if any, weight as a factor probative of reasonable suspicion.”
Noting that African-Americans are involved in a higher percentage of police-civilian encounters relative to their percentage of the city’s population, the court cited a study by the American Civil Liberties Union and an older internal study by the Boston Police Department.
According to Boston Police Commissioner Bill Evans, the latter study did not indicate any bias by the Boston police who were, and are, targeting high-crime areas. It is sadly a fact that violent crime rates are much higher in communities of color in and around the Boston area.
So what is a police officer to do when he wants to ask someone a question, and the person simply runs away? Well, according to the Massachusetts Supreme Court, if the person doing the running is African-American and the officer does not have solid evidence tying that person to a crime, the answer is: nothing.
As has been noted, there is a lot of tension between police officers and many members of the African-American community. This is regrettable, to be sure, but asking the police to blink at reality and ignore what they see happening right in front of them is a bridge too far.
As far back as 1896, the U.S. Supreme Court in Allen v. United Statesstated that “the law is entirely well settled that the flight of the accused is competent evidence against him as having a tendency to establish his guilt.”
The natural and eminently reasonable reaction of police officers, indeed of most people, is that unprovoked flight by an individual who encounters a police officer strongly suggests that the fleeing individual is connected to criminal activity that has been or is about to be committed. At the very least, the inferences that can be drawn from such flight should be enough to establish reasonable suspicion to support an investigatory stop.
The Massachusetts Supreme Court’s opinion will only serve to exacerbate racial tension and will handcuff the police in their attempts to rein in the crime epidemic that many of our inner cities are currently experiencing.
Council walks out of Sacramento meeting on police use of force
Crowd demand changes to police commission
BY: NATALIE BRUNELL
October 13, 2016
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —Protesters stopped a Sacramento City Council meeting for 15 minutes Thursday night during a discussion on use of force by police. During the break, protesters continued the meeting and called for a new police commission.
The crowd got boisterous while radio host Jay King spoke during the public comment section of the meeting.
“We are tired of being harassed, bullied, mistreated and disrespected by the people we pay to serve and protect us,” King said to loud applause.
Councilmember Larry Carr told the crowd not to interrupt twice, saying council members will leave.
“If you want to leave, leave! Go!” members of the public yelled.
Then, one by one, city council members exited the council chambers. While they were gone, the crowd continued with the meeting, crying out for change.
The crowd’s frustration comes in the wake of Joseph Mann’s shooting death. He was shot 14 times by police in July on Del Paso Boulevard in north Sacramento. Witnesses called police when they saw Mann acting erratically – some said he was armed with a knife and a gun. Family members said Mann was mentally ill.
Months after Mann’s family demanded police release dashcam video of his death, they agreed. The family also called on the city council to release the videos sooner and review police policies, but the members held off when the city attorney said they should wait for the investigation to be completed.
"We have to go after several people and that's what we're going to do,” King said.
King and people in the audience want a new police commission with more teeth: one that doesn't include members of the police union or department, just private citizens with the power to investigate use of force incidents.
“The police here have become so disrespectful of its citizens,” King said.
When the council returned, they continued to hear more public comment.
“I want to see them step up and hold the police unions accountable for their actions in these shootings,” Kevin Carter said during public comment.
The city this week explained its police oversight, breaking down how much it spends on body and dashboard cameras. Council members also said officers get more training than required by the state and quoted the penal code about use of force.
City officials said Thursday night the police and the community need to work together.
"We have to remember it's a two-way street, and we have to work effectively and collaboratively to bring about changes,” Councilmember Allen Wayne Warren said.
“Things are being pretty much at a stand-still when it comes to policies on police shootings and accountability and transparency,” Carter said.
Sacramento City Council meeting stopped after protesters turn rowdy
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
October 13, 2016
Thursday night’s Sacramento City Council meeting was shut down by police-reform protesters only 20 minutes into a discussion about use-of-force policies.
Protesters from Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, Black Lives Matter and other groups took over the chambers during a 15 minute hiatus when Mayor Pro Term Larry Carr shut down the meeting after warning attendees not to clap or make noise during public comments.
Twenty-six people were signed up to comment on Carr's proposed policy, but only two made it to the podium before chaos erupted.
That second speaker was Jay King, radio DJ for for 97.5, a station popular with black communities. When Carr admonished protesters against snapping or clapping in order to allow speakers to be heard, King fired back that people were making noise because they were tired of not being heard.
While council members were absent, about 150 people chanted and spoke while others walked out of the meeting in protest.
The meeting resumed around 6:45 with protesters promising to remain silent during public comment, but many continued to hold up their hands to show support of speakers.
But by 6:52, the audience was clapping again and Carr was once again admonishing.
The Council was hearing from speakers regarding a use-of-force proposal that could restrict officers from resorting to deadly measures after public outcry over the fatal police shooting of a mentally ill homeless man in July.
The 12-point policy presented by Carr authorizes lethal force “only when there is an imminent threat to life and such force is strictly unavoidable to protect life.”
The recommendation also calls for publicly releasing video in fatal police shootings if it “does not hamper” the investigation and after relatives of the person killed have an opportunity to view it. Sacramento police have long cited an ongoing investigation as a reason to withhold footage.
Thursday’s Council meeting was filled with community and religious leaders pressing for changes to the department after the July shooting of Joseph Mann, a mentally ill man who was armed with a knife and acting erratically in North Sacramento.
Want to be a cop? Sacramento State launches job path for police, CHP hopefuls
BY: DIANA LAMBERT
October 12, 2016
Sacramento State officially joined forces Wednesday with the Sacramento Police Department and California Highway Patrol to launch the first program in the nation that promises law enforcement jobs to eligible students who graduate.
The university and law enforcement agencies see the Law Enforcement Candidate Scholars Program as a way to recruit more minority officers and provide firsthand job training for students.
The criminal justice department at California State University, Sacramento, is the largest west of the Mississippi River and has the seventh most diverse student enrollment in the country, according to Shelby Moffatt, director of the new program and a former Sacramento Police Department officer.
The two-year program will begin in the spring with about 25 students, Moffatt said. It is open to students in all majors and includes 10 to 12 workshops a year in leadership, cultural competence, force de-escalation, defensive driving and physical training, among other things.
Students will complete internships at law enforcement agencies during their final year in the program. Those who qualify for and graduate from the CHP or Sacramento Police Department academies will be guaranteed jobs as long as space is available.
Sacramento police Chief Sam Somers Jr., California Highway Patrol Assistant Chief Jonni Fenner, CSUS President Robert Nelsen and other university officials signed documents launching the program in a university ceremony Wednesday morning. Minority students constituted nearly 70 percent of U.S. students last fall at Sacramento State, according to campus data.
“We strive to mirror the community we serve,” Fenner said. “CSUS reflects the diversity we hope will build bridges ... with the communities we serve.”
Law enforcement agencies have faced increasing scrutiny in recent years after high-profile, officer-involved shootings of black men have been documented on video. Nelsen said the new program will attempt to “help de-escalate a lot of what has been happening in law enforcement.”
Somers said the scrutiny has made law enforcement careers less appealing. He said his department has “about 50 percent” fewer job applications right now.
“When you look nationwide at the different law enforcement entities, it is not a job that is appealing – with the amount of scrutiny that comes over every action and decision,” said Somers, who announced his retirement last month amid controversy over the July 11 fatal shooting of Joseph Mann, who was mentally ill and acting erratically with a knife. “The decisions law enforcement has to make are extremely complex.”
“It’s about getting out in the community,” Somers added. “You can be educated, but that doesn’t mean you will be able to do this job. It takes a very special person that really understands what it is, understands it is a calling, understands you have to have thick skin because people are going to criticize what you do.”
Mark Harris, a community activist and founder of the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, said the program is a good first step but won’t solve problems stemming from what he considers the “militarized” culture of law enforcement. Harris, an attorney, represents low-income families in lawsuits against law enforcement agencies, including Mann’s family for a time.
“Every attempt to try to be more responsive to diversity and community needs is a good thing,” he said.
The problem is not ethnicity as much as cultural, he said, adding that a number of recent complaints against officers involved in shootings nationwide have been leveled against African American and Latino officers.
“It’s a culture of blue,” he said. “It doesn’t need to be reformed, it needs to be re-created.”
The CHP has no problem filling its academy, said Sgt. Norman Vandermeyde, who leads Valley Division recruitment. “We are just trying to get the best qualified applicant through the pipeline and I think this program is going to allow us to do that.”
Vandermeyde would like to see the program picked up by other CSU campuses that will partner with their local CHP offices.
Sacramento State recruiters are reporting that students have applied to the school based on discussions about the new program, according to university officials.
“I’m really excited about it because when you do something unprecedented like this, you really have a chance to change what is happening in America,” Nelsen said.
Applications for the program are due Nov. 30.
Head of Community Police Commission Steps Down, Calls for a Commission With More Power
BY: DREW BOLLEA
October 11, 2016
SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The head of a year-old Sacramento Community Police Commission has stepped down from his position.
Pastor Les Simmons made the announcement this morning, saying the commission he’d be in favor of needs more authority and power to create change.
“What’s relevant now is a commission that has more power,” said Simmons.
His decision to abandon his appointed post didn’t happen overnight.
“It’s worth backing off from a place of feeling like you accomplished something just because you were on a seat or a chair,” said Simmons.
There was a defining moment that led to the news conference this morning in front of Simmons’ church. The shooting death of Joseph Mann.
“There is people’s lives at stake. This hurts. There is pains,” said Simmons. “It allowed me and probably a lot of other people to see just what commission is needed for this moment.”
Currently, the commission serves solely as an advisory board. Simmons and several community groups are calling for more transparency and power. The groups are pushing for a commission that is:
– 100% civilian led
– Can review policy and procedures, budget and data
– Right to subpoena and conduct investigations
– Host mediation
“We’re trying to thread a needle here,” said Larry Carr, a Sacramento City Council Member, “and it’s a very small needle hole.”
Carr says they’re walking a fine line in police and community relations.
“We want our citizens to be comfortable with the people who are serving and protecting them,” said Carr.
On the other hand, they don’t want too much oversight to hamper difficult and dangerous police work.
“We don’t want them out there hesitating thinking the city council or commissioner is looking over their shoulder,” explained Carr.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Tim Davis with the Sacramento Police Officers Association about Les Simmons departure.
He also serves on the current commission.
“We haven’t finished our duty,” said Davis, “we haven’t finished our mission.”
He says policies and recommendations for better policing are coming together or are already in place.
“We have oversight that looks over events and specific incidents and a commission that looks at overall policies,” said Davis.
The city’s Office of Public Safety and Accountability is in charge of handling complaints about specific incidents. According to the Office’s Director, Francine Tournour, the investigations are handled by internal affairs.
She then looks at the thoroughness and fairness of the investigation. Tournour also says her department does not have the ability to call a police officer to make a statement, which is something, Simmons, Carr and others are calling for.
Carr says he’ll be working with community groups and invested parties to draft a police commission guidelines and plans to present the draft to council in the coming months.
Tournour added that more layers of transparency and accountability “couldn’t hurt.”
Fatal Sacramento police shooting heads to internal affairs review
BY: ANITA CHABRIA
October 11, 2016
The Sacramento Police Department decided Tuesday to conduct an internal affairs review of the July police shooting of a mentally ill man in North Sacramento.
On the same day, Les Simmons resigned as head of the Sacramento Community Police Commission, saying the city’s advisory panel was “not relevant” in the aftermath of the shooting that left Joseph Mann dead.
The city declined to directly confirm the Mann case would go to internal affairs, citing confidentiality of personnel matters. But City Hall sources confirmed that at a meeting between city officials and police Tuesday, Chief Sam Somers Jr. forwarded the case for further review.
“The civil investigation process is a confidential process, but we can state that the investigation is not yet complete,” said City Attorney James Sanchez in a statement. The Police Department is no longer commenting on the case and has been directing inquires to the City Attorney’s Office.
Kevin Ross, a member of a community group calling for greater transparency and accountability, said that withholding details of the investigation, including any sanctions the officers could eventually face if found to have violated department rules, highlighted the need for police reforms.
“The secrecy and the lack of transparency is what makes the distrust and maintains the mistrust,” he said.
An internal affairs investigation would examine whether officers followed department policy and procedure, but does not review the legality of officers’ actions, said Francine Tournour of the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability. The Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case for criminal action.
If officers are found to have violated department policy and procedure in an internal affairs investigation, disciplinary action could be taken against them. However, the public would likely never know since those actions would be part of their confidential personnel record.
Joseph Mann was shot multiple times by Officers Randy Lozoya and John Tennis on Del Paso Boulevard after police responded to a call about an armed man acting erratically. Mann, who had a knife with a 4-inch blade and was described as mentally ill by his family, was initially followed by other officers who attempted to de-escalate the situation minutes prior to the shooting.
When Tennis and Lozoya arrived on the scene, they attempted to hit Mann with their vehicle before pursuing him on foot and shooting him 14 times in a frantic encounter that lasted less than one minute. The officers’ attorney, Judith Odbert, has not returned calls. But in a statement last week, she said, “Lethal force was deployed due to the direct threat that (Mann) posed to the citizens of this community and the officers.”
The incident has become a local flashpoint for community activists calling for police reforms, including a civilian oversight board with powers to investigate police shootings .Simmons was joined at the news conference by members of Black Lives Matter, the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, or LEAD, and Sacramento Area Congregations Together. The coalition called on the city to create a civilian police oversight committee that has direct power similar to what exists in other cities such as Berkeley.
Simmons, a local pastor who headed the Police Commission since it formed last year, said at a news conference Tuesday that he was “not being relevant and true to my community” by continuing to serve on the police commission without that power. The board can only make recommendations to the City Council and is not able to investigate incidents such as the Mann shooting or have access to information in such cases.
“Unfortunately where we are today is a defining moment as the result of July 11, the shooting of Joseph Mann,” said Simmons during a news conference with local community and religious leaders. “This commission needs to be strengthened … It was relevant for a time and it’s continuing to build. However for this moment that requires oversight, requires transparency and requires accountability, this commission, the community is asking of it something it doesn’t have.”
Commission member Tim Davis, head of the union that represents officers, said that the commission was “doing good work” and needed more time before its success was judged.
Davis said that the commission had this week crafted a policy recommendation to increase diversity on the force, including raising pay to match other local law enforcement agencies to help retain officers, and that it would continue to listen to community input to make further recommendations.
“I think its premature to say it is not working,” said Davis. “It hasn’t even existed for a year yet.”
Mark Harris, a member of LEAD, said the commission should have the power to review police policy and procedures, to subpoena information and witnesses and be staffed with civilian investigators to independently review allegations of police misconduct.
“It’s lacks credibility with the community, the entire community of concerned citizens,” he said. “With no power and a clear lack of relevancy it is not only an impotent agency but one that is counterproductive.”
Little-known Sacramento County board hears public complaints about Sheriff's Department conduct
By: ELLEN GARRISON
October 8, 2016
There is a way to bring community concerns directly to Sheriff Scott Jones, but most residents don’t seem to know it exists.
The Sheriff’s Outreach Community Advisory Board meets several times a year to discuss citizen concerns about the Sheriff’s Department, often with the sheriff himself when he attends the meetings. The meetings are open to the public, but meeting minutes for the five meetings in 2015 show only one member of the public addressing the board.
In a meeting last week, the county supervisors talked about bringing attention to the advisory board and fully implementing its duties as a place for debate about issues facing the department – the goal when the board was established in 2007 under then-Sheriff John McGinness.
Since 2013, seven people have been shot and killed by Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies, according to a Bee review. During a July meeting, Black Lives Matter and other area activists brought their concerns to the supervisors, protesting the Sheriff’s Department’s handling of an officer-involved shooting.
Supervisor Patrick Kennedy said he started looking for opportunities for more oversight and transparency after that meeting.
“The good news is, we have this. The bad news is, we haven’t used it,” Kennedy said last week.
Ken Providence, clergy leader for Sacramento Area Congregations Together, said in an email that the advisory board hasn’t been on the organization’s radar.
“Sacramento ACT has been calling for increased accountability and transparency in our sheriffs department, and had no idea about this board,” Providence said. “We are calling on our Board of Supervisors to step into greater leadership and work with community stakeholders to develop a real commission with real power to oversee our sheriff’s department.”
Local attorney and advocate Mark Harris said the county needs a board with more powers and responsibilities to truly provide transparency and accountability for residents.
Five members of the board are appointed by the sheriff, five are appointed by the supervisors and several are from cities in the county. The five members from the community, one from each supervisor’s district, attend community events and receive community complaints that they then pass on to the sheriff.
Kennedy said there are more proactive things the advisory board could be doing, such as suggesting policies that could help avoid future problems.
“The reason that I was interested in having this conversation is it’s part of a bigger national conversation that I think is going on, and I think it’s important that we stay in front of it,” Kennedy said during last week’s meeting.
Supervisors also asked that a formal role be created for Inspector General Rick Braziel, who was appointed in December as the county’s independent watchdog to review internal investigations and advise the sheriff on community concerns.
Though the name suggests otherwise, the sheriff doesn’t control the board and attends because he is invited by the members, said Sgt. Alex McCamy. McCamy, who attends the meetings with Sheriff Jones, said the department is on board with efforts to bring more attention to the group, which provides input from the community.
Dr. Sonney Chong, chair of the advisory board, said the sheriff gives updates on hiring, firing, conditions at the jail and high-profile incidents in the community and each board member gives a report of issues that have come up in their community.
“We have had times when we’ve received input about a particular issue in the community and have immediately directed more focus,” McCamy said. “Each member of SOCAB is able to have direct dialogue with the entire group. So any concern will be immediately addressed … they’re not having to go through lengthy channels.”
The group has a county website where its meeting times and some member emails are posted, but the process for sending in complaints is not clearly laid out.
Trump's uncensored lewd comments about women from 2005
"For whatever Secretary Clinton's faults may be, each new revelation about "The Donald" shows him to be revolting as a human being and completely UNFIT to serve in the office of President of the United States!" -Mark T. Harris
Black men stand united at sacramento city council meeting
BY: GENOA BARROW
July 22, 2016
SACRAMENTO – As he stood before the Sacramento City Council on Tuesday, calling for an end to racial profiling and shootings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement officers, Mark T. Harris was likely having flashbacks of being pulled over himself, just last week.
Moved to action by his own negative interactions with local law enforcement and the recent police involved shootings of Black men across the country, Harris, a local attorney and university professor, is among a group of “concerned and determined Black men of Sacramento” who took over City Hall this week.
The group, which includes retired educator Richard Owen, civil rights advocate Dr. Marion Woods, and area pastor Rev. Kevin Ross, mobilized more than 200 Black men to attend this week’s Council meeting.
More people showed up than the Old City Hall chambers could hold.
An overflow room was set up and even more people waited outside hoping to make it into the meeting. Councilmembers called the two-hour discussion, “unprecedented.”
“It is in the collective interests of all who call our beloved city home to take seriously the rising voices calling for change,” Harris said.
The group is championing its Project LEAD (Law Enforcement Accountability Directive), a list of demands that range from the use and management of dashboard and body cameras to wanting detailed information on training procedures for sworn officers to public accounting on the effectiveness of entities created to address police accountability.
“The recent killings of Alton Spencer and Philando Castile are simply the latest in a long list of unanswered grievances by the African American community. The only thing new is that we are now videotaping it and exposing it for folks who didn’t believe it was happening in the first place,” Owen said as he addressed the City Council.
Owen, a former Sacramento High School principal and former Superintendent of New Technology High School, said the group wants to be proactive and prevent what’s happening across the country from happening in Sacramento. He also condemned the recent killings of police officers that have occurred in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana in apparent retaliation for recent officer-involved shootings of unarmed Black men.
“It should only underscore the urgency of our concerns, however we want the same respect and the level of indignation when one of our Black men is murdered at the hands of someone who is supposed to protect us,” he said.
After incidents where they shoot Black men to death, law enforcement officers often say they acted out of fear for their lives. Many who spoke at the meeting shared that it’s the other way around, that they have reason to fear the police.
“When a person makes a call (to police) from East Sacramento, the officer arrives with an attitude of services, committed to protect the safety of the caller. Too often when a citizen in South Sacramento or Del Paso Heights calls for a police officer, the officer arrives with an attitude of suspicion and annoyance,” Dr. Woods shared.
“When a citizen of East Sacramento sees a patrol car cruising down the street, they feel protected. When citizens in South Sacramento and Del Paso Heights see a car cruising down the street, they feel like suspects even though many have never been arrested or charged with any type of crime. We need to change the view of the police as an army of occupation in some of our poorer neighborhoods,” he continued.
Area educator Will Brown shared similar comments before the Council.
“If you’re a Kings fan or a long time resident of Sacramento, you know that if a referee thinks the Kings cannot beat the Lakers in Game 7, they will ref the game in that way. The same way that if you are raised to assume that Black men are violent people, you will police them as if they were violent people. If you see them as sub-human people you will police them as if they are sub-human people and you’ll treat them that way in your professional life and in your personal life,” Brown said.
Dr. Woods wants to see law enforcement officers who demonstrate racist behavior or a pattern of excessive force against people of color psychologically evaluated or terminated. District 8 Councilmember Larry Carr said there should be a policy that dictates termination for officers who shoot an unarmed person.
Some of the most impassioned remarks of the evening came during the public comment part of the evening meeting. Among them were Marjorie Beazer, the mother of six Black sons, who implored the Council to take action.
“I know your power is limited … but within the confounds of the power you have, my expectation is that you work to create enforcement mechanisms for rules, policies and regulations that are reasonable in that when I get up in the morning, I’m not wondering which one of my children is dead today because somebody pumped 50 bullets into him in the back of a cruiser, simply because he ‘fit the description.’”
Rev. Ross said council members “sit in treasured seats and hold positions of power and influence.”
“Tonight these African American men who are assembled here are assembled here by crisis — a crisis that is not new to this Council and not new to our nation. You who are seated here today have an opportunity to help relieve and eliminate the crisis,” said the Unity Church pastor.
“We have the chance, friends, to bridge the gap and to create one community where law enforcement and African American citizens no longer deem themselves as strangers, but as builders of a world that works for everyone,” he added.
City Councilman Allen Warren said working together, all must be constructive in their actions.
“It’s very important that we get this right. We don’t want to condemn all of law enforcement because we know that’s not the answer and that it’s not all of law enforcement. We need a healthy law enforcement community, but we don’t want to feel like we have to be afraid of those that our taxpayers are paying to help keep this city safe,” Warren said.
“There’s a balance that we need to have. It’s going to take discipline in the midst of all the emotion that has been expressed tonight and that will continue to be expressed and we’re going to have to work at building something that works for this city.”
Carr said he wants to see data on “customer satisfaction” on how people perceive local police based on ethnicity, age, the district they live in and income level “so we can determine where our problems are and what has to be done to fix it.”
“My charge will not be to specify a prescription for how the police will make that happen, how they will even that scoreboard out, but that they will even it out. That’s a direct charge to the city manager, that’s a direct charge to the police chief and if they aren’t in compliance, then we get another city manager and we get another police chief,” Carr added.
Project LEAD organizers now plan to create a committee comprised of members of local community based organizations. Committee members say they will continue to work to see their demands addressed.
Sacramento grappling with video that appears to show police trying to run over mentally ill man they later fatally shot
By: PAige st. john, richard winton and tony barboza
October 2, 2016
A graphic police video that appears to show two Sacramento police officers trying to run over a mentally ill homeless man with their cruiser has sparked tough questions from both city leaders and some law enforcement use-of-force experts who say it might be hard to justify the behavior.
Patrol car recordings related to the July 11 fatal shooting of Joseph Mann were released by police Sept. 20. But it wasn’t until last week that enhanced audio from one dash camera inside a police cruiser revealed one officer using an expletive and saying, “I’m going to hit him.” The other officer can be heard saying, “Go for it" as the patrol car turns sharply toward Mann.
Mann died less than a minute later after officers chased him a short distance on foot and opened fire, striking him 14 times. Police were pursuing Mann after receiving reports of a man wielding a knife in the neighborhood.
Two experts in police tactics said the video and audio recording raised several troubling questions about the officers’ actions. They note that for most of the pursuit, officers were safe inside their cars and no members of the public appeared near Mann.
Ed Obayashi, a Plumas County sheriff’s deputy and legal advisor on police use of force, called what he saw on the videos "Lone Ranger-ish." He was most concerned by the officer stating his intention to harm Mann half a block away from the suspect, even before seeing what Mann was doing.
"I have a real issue with officers declaring their intent in the heat of the moment,” he said.
"The issue [is] ... the use of lethal force with the radio car as a weapon. That is tough to defend,” said Charles "Sid" Heal, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff's commander.
“It is impossible to be definitive because the situational awareness is developed beyond what the video depicts, but without substantial provocation and urgency, deciding to employ lethal force before confronting the suspect is going to be difficult to defend,” Heal said.
Former Los Angeles Police Department Capt. Greg Meyer, a prominent use-of-force expert, cautioned that the officers' comments are open to interpretation. The remark "I'm going to hit him" does not necessarily mean "run him over,” Meyer said Sunday.
The revelations contained in the recordings have shaken Sacramento officials, who are unsure of exactly what problem they are dealing with, and how deep it runs.
“I need to understand, from the police chief himself, is this customary? And then what happens? I’m looking for answers and a path forward,” said Alan Warren, a City Council member who is pressing Sacramento police officials to disclose more about their investigation into the shooting.
A year ago, Sacramento was celebrating its distinction as the most integrated major city in the United States. The Mann shooting and an earlier case have prompted Sacramento to examine the issue of how law enforcement treats blacks, part of a national debate.
The April 2016 police shooting of a homeless man, Dazion Flenaugh, had drawn little attention. Similarly, the shooting of Mann was treated as a local crime story. Television coverage focused on the officer who injured himself while attempting to catch the 50-year-old suspect, who police said had charged them.
In August, cellphone and security camera videos obtained by private investigators revealed it was Mann who had been charged, by two police officers shooting at him. Last week, the Sacramento Bee reported the officers’ dialogue, pulled from enhanced audio from their dash cam.
Mann had attended college and worked for 17 years at a grocery store and then as an administrative clerk for the state corrections department. He slid into mental illness after his mother’s death three years ago.
He had no home of his own but slept in the homes of his family members in Sacramento. “He was not the most attractive victim, unemployed, African American,” said Mark T. Harris, a Sacramento lawyer who has taken on the community action side of the case alongside Oakland lawyer John Burris, who has filed a federal lawsuit against Sacramento on behalf of Mann's elderly father and three siblings.
“The dash-cam video and audio is the most disturbing view into the mind-set of local law enforcement of anything I’ve personally been involved with in the 35 years I’ve been practicing law,” Harris said Sunday.
Both in community forums and in the lawsuit, the lawyers challenge why police did not follow now-standard police procedures to de-escalate confrontations with mentally ill subjects, but instead did “the absolute opposite.”
After residents called to report a strange man in their neighborhood wielding a knife and/or gun, a patrol car tailed Mann for several minutes at a slow pace as an officer repeatedly ordered the oddly gesturing man to “drop the knife.” A second car arrived and attempted to intercept Mann. But he jogged around it, and at one point threw an object — identified by Harris as a plastic water bottle — at a patrol car.
It was inside a third cruiser, just arriving on the scene, that an officer declared, “I’m going to hit him,” as Mann began to cross in front. The other officer urged, “OK. Go for it. Go for it.”
But it is unclear if the reference was to hitting Mann with the car, or in a body tackle. Video from another police car shows the officer had his door open on the side closest to Mann as the subject scrambled away.
The same officer shouted, “Watch it! Watch it! Watch it!” seconds later when the pursuit car again almost clipped Mann. They pulled to the curb and chased Mann on foot, trapping him against a high fence. A voice off camera shouts “Come on — !” just before gunfire erupts. Mann instantly drops to the ground. Sixteen shots were fired. Fourteen hit Mann.
Officers later found a knife with a 4-inch blade, according to police.
There is no public video of the death of Flenaugh, shot by Sacramento police in April. The 40-year-old was wandering a neighborhood, peering into windows and doors, when he was picked up by officers and detained in their car. After Flenaugh panicked, he was released and ran, taking a kitchen knife from a home. In a pursuit by police, he was shot six times.
Six months later, the Police Department has not released its report of the killing or Flenaugh’s autopsy.
"It is not small-town Mayberry, but [Sacramento] has been the place where that kind of stuff doesn't happen," Harris said.
Sacramento neighborhoods are so diverse that Priceconomics, an online data journal, published a report identifying the city of 479,000 as the nation's most integrated.
However, Harris and others said there long have been problems with how the Sacramento Police Department treats minorities, especially in largely minority neighborhoods such as Del Paso Heights, where Mann was killed.
“They have to regain our trust. They have to do it as if they want to, in their hearts, and not come into our community as though they’re at war with us,” Tanya Faison, with the Sacramento chapter of Black Lives Matter, told members of a police advisory commission in August.
Amid the call for independent scrutiny, Sacramento's Office of Public Safety Accountability will release its own review of the shooting in two weeks, director Francine Tournour said Sunday.
Both of the officers involved in Mann’s shooting had been with the department more than two decades.
Reducing civilian firepower would boost police and community safety, Stanford expert says
In addition to restricting the firepower a person can amass, Stanford law Professor John J. Donohue advocates efforts to build trust between communities and law enforcement agencies as a way to enhance both police and citizen safety.
By: CLIFTON B. PARKER
July 15, 2016
Improved community bonds and gun control that limits the amount of firepower that people can access would increase both police and citizen safety, a Stanford scholar said.
Stanford News Service recently interviewed John J. Donohue III, a law professor who has been conducting empirical research on gun violence and gun control for more than 25 years. Donohue is the C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law at Stanford.
WHEN AND HOW CAN THE POLICE LEGALLY SHOOT AND KILL A PERSON? ARE THERE FEDERAL AND STATE DIFFERENCES?
Stanford law Professor John J. Donohue says improved community bonds and gun control that limits the amount of firepower that people can access would increase both police and citizen safety.
Police use of deadly force is typically constrained by both applicable state law and by the United States Constitution. While there are some state law differences, they tend to be less important than the attitudinal differences that exist in various regions of the country that may lead prosecutors and juries to reach different conclusions based on their differing worldviews. In general, the more dangerous the crime that the officer believes someone to have committed and the greater the threat to safety the individual poses, the greater the ability of the police officer to use force, including deadly force.
As the Supreme Court stated in Graham v. Connor , “All claims that law enforcement officers have used excessive force – deadly or not – in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other ‘seizure’ of a free citizen should be analyzed under the Fourth Amendment and its ‘reasonableness’ standard.” The Supreme Court went on to stress that “the ‘reasonableness’ of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.”
DO THE DATA SHOW A RISING OR FALLING NUMBER OF POLICE-INITIATED DEATHS OF CITIZENS?
The FBI publishes annual figures that are said to capture the number of incidents in which the police justifiably kill a citizen. This data on killings by police is of very poor quality, however, because the FBI simply publishes whatever police departments voluntarily give them. Not surprisingly, then, the FBI counts of such deaths are far below the actual counts, but I estimate the proper number is in the neighborhood of 1,000 to 1,500 per year. The imperfect data may still give us an insight into the trendin killings by police, and the trend shown in the data has been down. I suspect that police killings of civilians are in fact down from the early 1990s, as the FBI data suggests, because overall crime rates have fallen substantially since that time.
The FBI does a good job of collecting information on the number of police that are killed in the line of duty, and this number is now at an all-time low of roughly 62 officers killed per year out of roughly 800,000 sworn officers, down steadily from about 101 annual police deaths during the Reagan years. This is not purely the result of better body armor and medical treatment, because the number of assaults per 100 police officers is also down from 12.7 in 2000 to 9.0 in 2014 – the last year for which we have data.
WHAT CAN BE DONE IN TERMS OF LEGISLATION OR POLICY TO PREVENT THESE TYPES OF SHOOTINGS?
In a country with massive prevalence of guns, police are always aware that they are in danger, and as noted above, even though assaults on the police are down, they are still at a distressingly high level – about a 10th of the police force is assaulted every year. The primary cause of death to police officers from intentional assaults is from guns. Efforts to improve officer safety through body armor and effective training can lessen the threat they feel and thereby reduce the number of “quick trigger” events. Unfortunately, the relationship between the community and police is often one of confrontation and disrespect, which is unhelpful to everyone. The community often needs to better understand that the police overall play an enormously important role in reducing crime and thereby making everyone safer.
At the same time, police officers who harbor prejudice against certain members of the community or who are overly sensitive to perceived slights from the public are highly counterproductive and increase the prevalence of illegal misconduct. Better police training and hiring practices are two obvious ways to reduce the use of excessive force overall and deadly force in particular. As one might expect, a relatively small number of police officers generate a disproportionate number of problems, and the behavior of these outlier officers needs to be changed or they should be eliminated from the police force. Body cameras on police officers can be effective in restraining misbehavior of both the police and the public.
Finally, as we saw in Ferguson, Missouri, cities that intentionally structure their police force to use ticketing of civilians as a way to finance their operations will necessarily court trouble, and systemic reform is needed wherever this behavior is prevalent.
WHAT CAN ENHANCE POLICE SAFETY, GIVEN THE EVENTS IN DALLAS?
Reducing civilian firepower is an obvious measure to enhance police safety, as is banning armor-piercing bullets, although both of these measures are strongly resisted by the NRA [National Rifle Association]. The measures enumerated above that are designed to promote better relations between the police and community – as well as any measures that lead to lower crime rates – will also be helpful.
One important study that merits further investigation found that states with high rates of civilian gun ownership are more dangerous for the police. The study examined data on the number of homicidal deaths of police in two groups of states with roughly equal number of police officers – the eight states with the lowest levels of gun ownership and the 23 states with the highest rate of gun ownership. The study found that, over the period from 1996 to 2010, the rate of police homicide in the high-gun prevalence states was three times as high as the rate of police homicide in the low-gun prevalence states.
WHAT IS THE TREND OVERALL ON MURDER BY GUNS IN THE U.S.?
Overall, crime is down substantially from the peaks of the early 1990s. This includes overall murder rates and gun murder rates. Still, even with this improvement, our murder rates are far higher than those in other affluent countries, and this is largely explained by the higher rate of gun homicides. Lamentably, preliminary data for the 50 largest cities suggests that the murder rate in these large urban areas rose by almost17 percent from 2014 to 2015, which is still considerably below the level of 25 years ago.
Despite the improvement since the early 1990s in overall crime and murder rates, there does seem to be a sustained upward trend in mass shootings, which are more frequent, and with each episode more deadly, since the end of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004. While the total deaths in these mass shootings is small relative to the overall homicide rate, mass shootings are particularly high-visibility events and are quite shocking to the public and unsettling to the sense of public safety.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF CALIFORNIA’S NEW GUN CONTROL MEASURES?
California continues to lead the way in trying to reduce the number of gun homicides, suicides and accidents, and should be highly commended for doing so. The state now has the ninth lowest overall gun death rate of any state nationwide, when in the early 1990s, it had the 35th lowest rate. Over the last 15 years, the firearm death rate in California has fallen by roughly 20 percent while the national rate has largely been unchanged. One of the new measures is to fund research that could clarify how California has been able to achieve this reduction, which should provide useful information for all states.
The latest gun control measures are designed to continue this progress. For example, one measure will make it harder for prohibited purchasers – felons, domestic batterers and the severely mentally ill – to use their guns by requiring background checks for ammunition. Two other measures – the new ban on high capacity magazines and prohibition of enabling the easy conversion of lawful guns into assault weapons – represent additional moves in the right direction. A fundamental principle is that civilians should have no more firepower than is demonstrably needed for lawful purposes.
Stanford researchers study how to reduce deadly police force in Rio de Janeiro
Stanford researches seek better strategies to control the lethal use of police force in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Their finding offer implications for police and communities elsewhere, as the researchers are studying how social and psychological factors affect police and how body-worn cameras can be used most efficiently.
BY: CLIFTON B. PARKER
December 14, 2015
In striving to understand and to curb the use of lethal force by police in Rio de Janeiro's poorest neighborhood's, Stanford researchers seek to help inform the widespread debate about police conduct and behavior.
Beatriz Magaloni, an associate professor of political science at Stanford, is leading an international research effort to understand why Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro has one of the world’s highest police-on-civilian fatality rates. Herresearch shows that between 2005 and 2013 there were 4,707 police killings and 17,392 homicides for a total of 22,099 violent deaths in Rio.
“In many developing countries, the police institution is exceedingly dysfunctional,” said Magaloni, a senior fellow at Stanford’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
“Either cops are corrupt and work in partnership with organized crime, are poorly staffed and trained, or they abuse their power, including using torture and excessive lethal force,” she said.
Magaloni points out that violence is an obstacle to progress, peace and prosperity in developing nations like Brazil. But police-involved deaths are not limited to developing nations. She cited recent minority deaths at the hands of police in U.S. cities, including Chicago; Ferguson, Missouri; and New York City, as an indication that police everywhere sometimes act too aggressively. And so, strategies that can be used anywhere – like body-worn cameras on police – are part of her study.
UNDERSTANDING POLICE BEHAVIOR
In 2013, Magaloni created the Stanford International Crime and Violence Lab, which designs research-based strategies to control violence, a central challenge for poverty alleviation in areas like Rio de Janeiro. Support for the research came from Stanford’s Global Development and Poverty Research initiative.
The Rio research has emerged from that effort. For their project, Magaloni and her team have partnered with the Minister of Security and the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, and nongovernmental organizations working in the city’s slums. So far, this involved more than 100 interviews and focus groups with police officers and citizens. The researchers also conducted a survey of 5,000 officers, or 20 percent, of the Rio de Janeiro police force.
“The goal is to advance knowledge about police behavior and violent crime, as well as provide feedback to policymakers in Rio de Janeiro to design better strategies to control police violence and homicides,” Magaloni said.
Most victims of police violence have been young black men living in the slums, the researchers found. Also, police killing rates were five times higher in the poorest parts of Rio than in the wealthiest areas.
COMMUNITY BONDS CRITICAL
The researchers found that one promising reform already enacted by the government is “proximity” policing. This involves assigning newly graduated police officers trained to not reflexively engage in shootouts to the poorest areas of Rio. Also called “Pacifying Police Units,” this initiative significantly reduced police killings of civilians in the areas studied.
“Police killings in the favelas [slums] would have been 60 percent higher without the Pacifying Police Units, which means that the reduction in police killing can largely be attributed to the proximity policing strategy,” Magaloni said.
Another problem is police deaths while on duty, which have doubled since 2011. She attributed the increase to poor relationships between police and their communities.
“Police officers often treat citizens with disrespect, and racial stigmatization is common. Hence,favela residents do not trust police officers and seldom offer cooperation, including giving information to the police about suspects and violent criminals in the community,” Magaloni said.
But the consequence is that a police force that feels vulnerable is more likely to use lethal force, she added.
Magaloni’s team is also studying how many bullets individual police officers used in their daily shifts during the 2005-2014 period. Other variables under review include officers’ age, gender, training and the effect of promotions.
One big issue is how police units encourage “violent subcultures,” she said. This point was recently made clear when five adolescents were killed by Rio police officers in a unit infamous for its violent history and reputation.
“Using a variety of statistical methods, including network analysis, our research will be able to better understand how violent subcultures are engendered and how easily these can spread across units,” Magaloni said.
VIOLENCE BREEDS VIOLENCE
Prior research shows that violent societies tend to produce violent police forces – whether in Rio or elsewhere, Magaloni said.
“One of the most revealing aspects of the survey research is that police officers in Rio de Janeiro have been exposed to high levels of violence during childhood,” she said.
According to Magaloni’s research, during their childhood 18 percent of Rio police officers saw a homicide, 32 percent had a person close to them killed by a criminal, 25 percent were constantly surrounded by gunshots and 20 percent were afraid of being killed when they were children.
Such experiences have long-lasting psychological effects on people who become police officers, she said.
In Rio, Magaloni said, police often use the “resistance to arrest” defense in cases of civilian killings, which has exacerbated the violence problem. In fact, during the late 1990s, the government introduced a “bravery bonus” that financially rewarded police officers if they engaged in shootouts with so-called “criminals.” Parts of Rio are known as havens for drug traffickers and criminal gangs.
The bonus program has been terminated, but its effects linger. Magaloni’s research revealed that police officers who received such bonuses in the past continue to use more lethal force on the job today.
Cultural and social attitudes play other roles. Forty-two percent of Rio police officers in one of Magaloni’s surveys agree with the statement that a “good criminal is a dead criminal.”
“Police killings have unfortunately been vindicated by the larger society, which has trivialized violence, especially when this affects black people in the favelas,” said Magaloni, who is also the director of the Program on Poverty and Governance for the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law at Stanford.
CHECKING POLICE AGGRESSION
Magaloni’s team suggests that body-worn cameras, which have been adopted by some U.S. police departments, could help reduce the police-on-civilian killings in Rio de Janeiro. She acknowledges that impediments exist, such as whether police officers will keep the cameras on when interacting with citizens.
As a result, her study will investigate whether it is more effective when police keep their cameras on during their entire shifts or when they only turn them on when interacting with citizens. The study will also explore the most effective protocols for processing images, which Magaloni said is often problematic for police.
“Which videos should be audited and what strategies should commanders and supervisors follow to deliver feedback to police officers?” she noted.
This study involves cameras randomly assigned among police units in Rocinha, Rio’s largest slum neighborhood. Launched in late November, it will last between nine and 12 months, she said.
“We seek to evaluate not only if cameras can reduce lethal violent confrontations, but also other forms of violent interactions, including disrespect and aggressions by the police and the community against police officers,” said Magaloni.
Finally, in 2016 she plans to begin another project with the Rio police on developing a “scorecard” that identifies the most violent police officers at all levels of their careers and randomly selects a group of these for a cognitive-behavioral intervention to practice impulse control, emotional self-regulation and developing a sense of personal integrity.
“Our research suggests that cultural and psychological factors shape police violence,” Magaloni said.
Young Students a Glimpse of College Life, Leadership
By Brenda Ortiz, University Communications
Ke-Myrion Anderson had never set foot on college campus before he spent a week at UC Merced in July.
The Fresno eighth-grader was one of 150 students from across California who were invited to live and learn at the university as part of the Willie Lewis Brown Jr. Youth Leadership Development Program this summer.
Anderson’s peek into campus life inspired him to keep his sights on college.
“It made me feel like I was actually a college student,” he said. “I’ve heard of UCLA. But now that I’ve been here, I want to go to UC Merced!”
Mari Harris, a Student Affairs staff member who focuses on African-American student recruitment efforts, teamed up with UC Merced students to develop the summer program to bring young students to campus.
The program was named after former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown Jr. for his leadership qualities. Harris served as an Assembly fellow while Brown was speaker of the California State Assembly and said he played a critical mentorship role in her life.
Harris partnered with the Fresno Unified School District, UC Merced’s Center for Educational Partnerships, the Metro Boys and Girls Club of Los Angeles, and Roberts Family Development Center in Sacramento, who selected the participants.
“Exposure is everything,” Harris said. “You’ve got to expose kids, especially those who you think would thrive with this kind of motivation and would be prone to work harder.”
Harris, a former Sacramento high school principal who spent 25 years in education, vividly remembers the summer she visited Cal Poly San Luis Obispo after her family moved from Texas. Her mother attended a program to earn her California teaching credential, and Harris and her two sisters stayed in the dormitory with her.
“I was in middle school at the time she took us, and I was sold on college,” she said.
Harris and her husband, Mark, a continuing lecturer of management and business economics at UC Merced and a practicing attorney in Sacramento, have mentored underprivileged students for the past eight years through their nonprofit, Central Valley Leaders.
Sukhman Sekhon, who is from Selma and graduated from UC Merced with a degree in economics in 2015, has volunteered with Central Valley Leaders for years and was instrumental in developing the summer program.
“Our job is to educate young students and give them the resources to be leaders within their communities,” said Sekhon, who is attending law school in Orange County. “Their willingness to learn and be engaged is amazing because they don’t know what to expect.”
During the five-day Youth Leadership Development Program, students slept in residence halls, learned about leadership and careers, attended a class lecture and participated in team-building activities. They visited Yosemite National Park — most for the first time — and met park ranger Shelton Johnson and UC Merced researchers. They also spent a day with student-athletes at nearby Lake Yosemite.
Like one-third of UC Merced’s student population, student leader Estefani Avila was the first in her family to go to college.
“If my high school didn’t have AVID or the Marine Science Academy, I wouldn’t have found out about college at all,” said Avila, who is from Inglewood and graduated in May with a degree in management and business economics. “Some students don’t have the opportunity to enroll in those programs and learn about universities.”
In addition to exposing young students to UC Merced, the summer program gave alumni the opportunity to pass the torch to incoming leaders like first-year student Andrew Williams.
Williams, a public health major and a member of UC Merced’s graduated from high school in Sacramento in June. When he learned about Central Valley Leaders, he headed to campus early to serve as a student leader for the summer program.
“I heard we were going to work with kids, and I am all for that,” Williams said. “This program was a good way to start my college career.”