Failed hall pass: City Council criticizes slow roll-out of shootout footage

Note from DA’s office doesn’t help interim police chief with his bosses

This is an extended version of a story that ran in the March 30, 2017, issue.

Sacramento’s interim police chief, Brian Louie, has not been shy about admitting he wants the permanent job of top cop around the capital. At the March 21 City Council meeting, however, Louie suddenly found himself facing a wall of skepticism about his handling of police videos from the very officials who will be making the hire.

Louie’s effort to use support from the county’s district attorney flopped, too.

In the wake of two highly controversial officer-involved-shootings in the city of Sacramento, council members passed new use-of-force policies that mandate all police-owned videos of OIS incidents be released within 30 days of the shots being fired. The policy allows the police chief to ask for an exemption in special cases where it can be clearly articulated that releasing the video compromises an investigation or puts members of the public in danger. On February 10, Sacramento officers were drawn into a gun battle near the intersection of Del Paso Boulevard and Marysville Road with Armani Lee, an alleged gang member they were attempting to take into custody for a shooting the previous week.

Lee survived multiple gunshot wounds.

Sacramento Police Department failed to release a host of videos in their possession on March 10, instead having Louie appear a week and a half later in front of the council to ask for a 60-day exemption to the city’s new policy. In doing so, Louie acknowledged that some 42 days after the shooting, his investigators had only reviewed three of the 23 videos of the incident in their custody.

Louie also came armed with a letter backing up his request from Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, the language of which did the chief no favors with council members.

“What we get is a letter from the DA that essentially states their position across the board that under no instances should the video be released before and investigation is completed,” Mayor Darrell Steinberg observed, “and you seem to be supporting that. … You’ve not come forward with a specific, fact-based justification for why releasing these videos would hinder the investigation.”

Councilman Jay Schenirer agreed and stressed the DA’s letter showed a general “lack of respect” for the City Council. Schenier added, “I think we made a commitment through the policy we passed, and I think we’ve already broken that commitment.”

Over the course 40 minutes, Louie and department brass heard concerns, if not criticisms, from every member of the council. Even Councilman Jeff Harris, who recently spoke glowingly of Louie in an interview with SN&R, said he was struggling to understand the department’s actions.

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby put it more bluntly. “It’s concerning that maybe your team didn’t take our pressure point seriously,” she told Louie, adding later, “We never want to see you back here again unless you have a good reason.”

The council voted unanimously to deny Louie’s exemption request. Six days later, the department began releasing videos of its shootout with Lee, none of which document shots being fired. According to court records, Lee, 27, faces three felony counts of attempted murder