To Protect and Serve or to Terrorize Children? Sacramento Police Department Under Fire Again

In the 14 months that have passed since Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet gunned down 22-year-old Stephon Clark in the backyard of his grandparents’ home, the Sacramento Police Department has not managed to stay out of the headlines with negative news stories. Chief Daniel Hahn was purported to be ushering in a new day at the department, but what progress has really been made? How has the department made strides in rehabilitating its relationship with the community it serves?

If this latest news item is any indication, there has been no progress at all.

On April 29, a 12-year-old named Isaiah was out to have a little bit of fun at a neighborhood carnival with his sister and an adult chaperone. The chaperone instructed Isaiah to go back to the car and retrieve more change for them to use at the carnival and that is when things went horribly wrong.

Mark Harris, an attorney with Benjamin Crump Law who representing Isaiah and his mother, LaToya Downs, told The Root that as Isaiah was returning from the car and heading back to the carnival, he was accosted by a white private security guard employed with the firm Paladin Security. Harris describes Paladin as a “mercenary group” for the police, and said they work in tandem with the police in various markets. He said the guard in question is the man who chases the neighborhood kids away from the neighborhood shopping center. Harris says the security guard and Isaiah have history.

Isaiah and his mother, LaToya Downs  Photo: Attorney Mark Harris

Isaiah and his mother, LaToya Downs

Photo: Attorney Mark Harris

“Paladin Security is a private security company that specializes in ‘urban’ environments. They are headquartered in Canada, but they operate in 17 U.S. cities,” Harris said.

As Isaiah walked back from the car, the guard called him by name and stopped him to ask if he was stealing the car or stealing from the car. Isaiah showed the guard that he was in possession of the keys for the vehicle and attempted to continue on his way.

He was impeded by the guard, who, according to Harris, told Isaiah “You know you don’t have those keys legitimately” and tried to take them from him. It was at this point that Isaiah ran from him and tried to get back to his family at the carnival.

As Isaiah ran past Wienerschnitzel, a random white employee of the hot dog chain decided to involve himself and grabbed Isaiah for the guard.

Harris said that once police arrived, a crowd formed, and Isaiah’s sister noticed what was going on. She brought over the adult chaperone who tried to ask police why Isaiah was being detained. Throughout the video, Isaiah can be heard asking the same question. He also repeatedly asks for his mother to be called.

Officers can be heard in the video telling Isaiah to stop resisting, and at one point, an officer tells him “You’re just a little terrorizer.”

When they attempted to put him in the car, Isaiah resisted. When Harris later asked him why, Isaiah’s response was simple.

He said he was afraid that if he got in the police car, he would never get back out.

Harris told The Root that at one point the police had Isaiah on the ground with his face down in the asphalt and a knee in his back. Harris does not deny that Isaiah spit on one of the officers.

But was that reason enough to put a spit hood on him? Did it really take that many police officers to control a 12-year-old?

Isaiah has been charged with battery on a police officer and resisting arrest.

Harris said that what happened in the video is “a clear example of what police officers do quite often.”

The attorney said that the city, Wienerschnitzel and Paladin Security may all face civil liability in the incident.

The Root has reached out to the Sacramento Police Department for comment, and will update this story should they respond.

Bodycam shows Sacramento police detaining boy who spit on officer

By Jonathan Ayestas


SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) — Sacramento police released video of a boy being handcuffed and then having a spit mask placed on his head during a tense confrontation with officers last month.

Police released the video after cellphone footage from a witness was posted by Black Lives Matter. That video has been viewed more than 270,000 times on Facebook.

The Sacramento Police Department said the boy was running from a security guard around 7:50 p.m. on April 28 by a Wienerschnitzel near Del Paso Boulevard and El Camino Avenue when the two officers stopped to help detain the boy.

Footage from the three separate bodycams were released Wednesday by the police department.

Video shows the boy being handcuffed and carried toward an officer's vehicle. He's seen spitting on an officer, saying, "Yeah, I spit on you."

Bystanders started asking police why the boy was being detained. When officers tried to get the boy in the back of the patrol SUV, he resumed struggling -- the sound of spitting is heard again -- until he was pinned to the ground.

The boy is heard repeatedly telling officers they had no rights to put him in handcuffs and said he spit on an officer's face. The officer requested a spit mask, saying she was spat on about three times.

The boy later asked to have the mask taken off, saying he couldn't breathe.

The video then shows a growing number of people around the scene. A woman is seen trying to calm the boy down and told him not to spit again.

Officers got him into a patrol SUV. While sitting in the SUV, the boy told an officer that he would kick her if the mask wasn't taken off.

Police said the boy was later released to his mother who showed up at the scene. The boy was cited for battery against a police officer and resisting officers.

"Our officers involved in this incident appropriately used a spit mask to protect themselves and defuse the situation. I am grateful that our officers were willing to proactively intervene when they observed suspicious activity, and that nobody was injured during this encounter," Chief Daniel Hahn said in a statement.

"He was no longer a threat in any way. He was constrained with his arms behind his back in handcuffs and there was no spitting going on what so ever so clearly to me it was an effort to intimidate him, to punish him, to humiliate him," said Mark T. Harris, an attorney for the boy's mother.

VIEW: Bodycam 1 of boy being detained

VIEW: Bodycam 2 of boy being detained

VIEW: Bodycam 3 of boy being detained

Sacramento PD arrests 12-year-old Black child, places plastic bag over his head

by Mark T. Harris, Esq., special to California Black Media Partners

“Lettin’ the cat outta the bag is a whole lot easier ‘n puttin’ it back in.” – Will Rogers

Sacramento PD officer restrains young man from a still shot from the video captured by a bystander as seen on the Sacramento Black Lives Matter’s Facebook page

Sacramento PD officer restrains young man from a still shot from the video captured by a bystander as seen on the Sacramento Black Lives Matter’s Facebook page

Shocking. Shameful. Unconscionable. Intolerable. These are just a few of the terms used in reaction to word that a 12-year-old child was recently restrained by Sacramento police officers who then placed a white plastic bag over his head and shoulders. Let’s review recent events in the City of Sacramento, which many are now referring to as “SacraSelma” in reference to the civil rights struggles that emanated from Selma, Alabama, during the civil rights battles of the turbulent 1960s.

First, Sacramento police mysteriously apprehended an unarmed Mr. Daizon Flenaugh, who was detained without any legal basis. He wound up dead within 30 minutes of being detained by Sacramento police officers.

Next was the late Mr. Joseph Mann, who was guilty of nothing more than screaming at police officers and throwing a plastic water bottle at them prior to his being gunned down on the streets of Sacramento.

Following that was an unarmed Mr. Nandi Cain Jr., who was beaten by a Sacramento police officer for ostensibly “jaywalking” when it turned out Mr. Cain appropriately crossed the street from one corner to another.

Finally, and most dramatically, came the assassination of Mr. Stephon Clark, who was the victim of a barrage of Sacramento police gunfire while being guilty of nothing more than entering his grandmother’s home with a cellphone in his hands.

Now Sacramento residents are dismayed by word that a 12-year-old child, who stands 4-feet-10-inches tall and weighs fewer than 100 pounds, was inappropriately constrained by police officers and had a bag placed over his head to “shut him up,” according to witnesses on the scene during the incident. At the time this occurred, the child was pleading for officers to “call my mom” and telling officers that he “could not breathe!”

The young victim was born with significant upper respiratory complications and according to his mother and grandmother, suffered from breathing difficulties particularly when anxious. It did not help the child’s respiratory condition that officers grasped his neck, placed him on the ground, handcuffed him with his hands behind his back, placed a knee in his back and forced his face into the asphalt.

Many Sacramento residents are wondering when this madness is going to end. We were told that our “new” African-American chief of police would be the one to put an end to the oppressive and at times deadly behavior patterns of what we were told were merely a few rogue “bad apples” in an otherwise fine police department.

Let me say this. Our police chief is “blue” and not Black. In addition, it appears to many of us that when you have as many incidents of questionable police conduct directed towards one singular demographic group, within an entire community, the “cat needs to be let out of the bag.” The Sacramento police department appears to be representative of a “bad orchard” as opposed to a few “bad apples.”

Let there be no mistake. Shooting and killing an unarmed Black woman, who professed to be pregnant in Houston, Texas, or “bagging” a small in stature 12-year-old in Sacramento must be called out for what it is. These actions are more reflective of the practices of “slave catchers” and “Jim Crow” era law enforcers than of proper urban policing techniques focused on de-escalation and by governments truly committed to empower police officers to “protect and to serve” our entire community.

Mark T. Harris is a tenured lecturer and director of Pre-Law Studies at the University of California, Merced. Additionally, Professor Harris heads the Sacramento and Central Valley office of Ben Crump Law and his specialty is civil rights law. He can be reached at

Will Stephon Clark’s death pick up where Joseph Mann’s left off?


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.


I'm just sayin,...

From Villaraigosa for California Governor Campaign:


Former Assemblywoman and LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina Asks:

“If Gavin won’t show up for our community when he is looking for votes, will he care about our community when he is Governor?

Los Angeles - Former Assemblywoman and LA County Supervisor, Gloria Molina made the following statement regarding Gavin Newsom's refusal to participate in the Los Angeles Latino Chamber of Commerce debate.

Said Supervisor Gloria Molina:

“Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders met more than 20 times in debates and forums - if the Democratic candidates for president were willing to show respect to the voters by debating, why won’t Gavin Newsom debate?

“If Gavin won’t show up for our community when he is looking for votes, will he care about our community when he is Governor?

“Debates are also a sign of respect to communities who want to hear from the candidates. Antonio Villaraigosa has appeared at forums and meetings with a broad spectrum of groups in many parts of the state.

“The fact that Gavin Newsom is refusing to show up at debates hosted by two Latino organizations this month speaks volumes about his view of our community.”



Justice for Stephon Clark must start with righting injustice in Sacramento


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.

Remarks of Professor Mark T. Harris, J.D. before the Legislative Black Caucus

28 FEBRUARY 2018

According to Scottish author and philosopher Thomas Carlyle, economics is the “dismal” science. This is so because of a reference first made that humanity was trapped in a world where population growth would always strain natural resources and bring widespread misery. Stated differently, economics at its very essence, explores the science of scarcity, not enough nutritious food, or clean water, or breathable air. With regard to African-Americans who make up a scant 6.5% of California’s almost 40 million person population, scarcity relative to our economic impact, is a vast understatement.

A few statistics to ponder relative to African-Americans:

According to Forbes Magazine, white families on average, accumulate more wealth over their lives
than African- American families which widens the wealth gap as they age. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, in 2013, the median white household had $13 in net wealth for every $1 in net wealth of the median black household. Also, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts report. “With regard to the resources families available to them for financial emergencies, the typical white household has slightly more than one month’s worth of income in liquid savings, compared with just five days for the typical African-American household.”

The same Federal Reserve report said that whites are five times more likely to receive large gifts
and inheritances from their families than blacks are and the amounts tend to be much larger for
whites. “That is African- Americans are start at financial at ground zero from generation to

According to the Los Angeles Times, despite the President touting Black employment progress,
African-Americans are the ONLY demographic group in the country earning less today than in the
year 2000. The median income for an African-American household was was $41,363 in 2000. In 2016, it had dropped to $39,490, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Among African-American wage earners, the hourly pay gap has widened to the worst in 40 years.

Whites earned an average of $25.22 an hour vs. $18.49 for blacks, the EPI says. Declining
unionization, the failure to raise the minimum wage and lax enforcement of anti-discrimination laws have contributed to the growing black-white wage gap, according to the EPI.

With regard to home ownership, after fair housing legislation was passed in 1968 during the Civil
Rights era, the black home ownership rate increased for 30 years and reached nearly 50 percent in 2004. However, all those gains have been erased during the last 12 years. The home ownership rate for black households ended 2016 at 41.7 percent, near a 50-year low, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Black home ownership hasn’t been this low since the time when housing discrimination was legal. The typical white household aged 47 to 64 has housing wealth of $67,000; the typical African-American household in this age group has zero home equity, according to the December 2016 report, “Social Security and the Racial Gap in Retirement Wealth,” from the National Academy of Social Insurance. With no equity in our homes, African-Americans cannot even use our real estate as collateral for business loans or even bail.

African-American unemployment stands at roughly 7.7% as of January of 2018. This after dipping as
low as 6.8% during December of 2017, which was the lowest unemployment rate for African-Americans since records were first being kept starting in January of 1972. Just over 51% of African-Americans are employed wage earners; approximately 8% are unemployed; and over 41% are NOT IN THE LABOR FORCE AT ALL and do not even show up in “unemployment” statistics!

Since the 2008 recession, lending to African-American businesses has fallen by 75 percent. Although small businesses employ 70 percent of all workers, only six percent of African-American workers are hired by black-owned businesses. Nationally, of the close to 3 million black owned businesses, only 100,000 have employees. The vast majority are populated with “consultants” or those whom serve as “independent contractors,” without basic benefits such as healthcare or retirement. Black-owned businesses fly on tight operational runways. Fewer than 3% of small business owners make
more than $100,000 annually and fewer than 1/2 of 1% ever reach $1 million dollars in total

The average white family has more than $130,000 in liquid retirement savings (cash in accounts
such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s and IRAs) vs. $19,000 for the average African American. According to Prudential Wealth Management, only one in 10 African Americans work with a financial professional compared with one in four white Americans. Financial illiteracy is more profound in our community because “many African-Americans have had no history of someone who was an elder who possessed a high financial I.Q. or someone who gave them some level of financial education in their household.” Furthermore, African-Americans have expressed high anxiety when attempting to receive financial advice on wealth building and management from non-minority owned professionals. According to the Federal Reserve, the average balance of African Americans in 401(k)s is only $23,000. Social Security and the Racial Gap in Retirement Wealth found the average balance for African Americans in IRAs was $10,300, vs. $105,600 for white Americans. Couple those numbers with the fact that the average monthly Social Security retirement payment is only $1,200! 

With regard to stocks, bonds and other capital market investments, most analysts say that African-
Americans often shy away from investing in the stock market. Whatever discretionary income we
have, we tend not to invest in high yielding equities. The Dow Jones Industrial Average of blue chip
stocks is still near its ALL TIME high! The African-American community has largely missed out
on this increase in stock values. We must be IN to WIN, relative to capital market investment gains.

“African Americans are risk-averse,” says Deborah Owens, a former Fidelity Investments vice
president who calls herself America’s Wealth Coach. “So, one of the major reasons they have less in retirement savings is they are ultra-conservative, particularly African-Americans who work in the
public sector and nonprofit organizations.” Owens says black investors typically focus on guaranteed (e.g., annuities) or fixed income investments that are low-risk or virtually no-risk. As a result, their retirement funds aren’t compounding at a high rate of return. African-Americans must embrace the principle of reasonable investment risk. Our community is as capable as any in determining whether “the juice is worth the squeeze” relative to a risk/reward calculation.






Thank-you very much for allowing me to address you this afternoon and offer my brief observations and suggestions.

Mark T. Harris appointed to the California Fair Employment and Housing Council

Contact: Governor's Press Office
Friday, March 17, 2017
(916) 445-4571
Governor Brown Announces Appointments

SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today announced the following appointment:

Mark T. Harris, 59, of Sacramento, has been appointed to the California Fair Employment and Housing Council. Harris has been a visiting professor and continuing lecturer at the University of California, Merced School of Management and Business Economics since 2008. He was a visiting professor at the Shanghai Normal University, Tianhua College School of Education from 2011 to 2014 and an adjunct professor at the University of the Pacific Benerd School of Education from 2009 to 2014 and at the University of Southern California School of Policy, Planning and Development from 2000 to 2008. Harris served as undersecretary at the California Business, Transportation and Housing Agency from 1999 to 2001 and as deputy chief of staff at the U.S. Department of Commerce from 1990 to 1992. He was a member of the Sacramento County Planning Commission from 1988 to 1994 and chief deputy at the Alameda County Treasurer and Tax Collector’s Office from 1985 to 1988. Harris earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law. This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem. Harris is a Democrat.

"I am humbled to serve Governor Brown and the people of the great State of California in this new and important role."---Attorney Mark T. Harris