Waiting game: Critics still haven’t received data on Sacramento traffic stops

City council reforms to police commission again seen as too weak

This is an extended version of a story that ran in the December 8, 2016, issue.

A police reform advocacy group says Sacramento officials still haven’t provided basic statistics regarding traffic stops in predominately black and Latino neighborhoods six months after it requested them.

The outstanding request from the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive, or LEAD, came to light during an emotional November 27 city council meeting. While elected officials did approve a number of changes to Sacramento’s embattled police oversight commission, the call-log numbers around traffic stops still had not been released, despite LEAD asking for them in a letter in July.

“LEAD is terribly disappointed in the city manager’s report. … We never got any data with regards to traffic stops in the city,” LEAD co-chair Richard Owen told council members. “We want to know who gets stopped, and for what reason, by geographic regions.”

At least two politicians put the blame on recently departed City Manager John Shirey.

Mayor Kevin Johnson assured Owen that newly appointed interim City Manager Howard Chan would provide the statistics that Shirey, who retired the week before, had not. “I just want to make it clear that it was our previous city manager who did not follow up on that item,” Johnson remarked. “But Howard is going to get you that data.”

Councilwoman Angelique Ashby expressed her own concern about the lack of responsiveness. “On the traffic stop data that was requested by LEAD and not provided by our previous city manager, do we have something we can give to them in relatively short order?” Ashby asked Chan.

“I’m going to have to follow up with our police department,” Chan replied. “I’m unaware.”

Ashby noted one of the police commission reforms the council approved would increase staffing in Sacramento’s Office Public Safety and Accountability and make it easier for members of the public to get police data in the future.

Other new measures included making the police oversight commission entirely civilian and having it report directly to the city council instead of city manager. Council members also enacted a directive requiring the Sacramento Police Department to release all video evidence within 30 days of a controversial incident. The policy allows for the police chief to obtain a waiver from council members in cases where it can be argued that releasing video evidence severely compromises an investigation.

Members of LEAD, Sacramento Area Congregations Together and local chapters of the ACLU and Black Lives Matter all criticized the council’s new policies as not going far enough to create a truly independent oversight commission.

“Should this policy have been in place when Joseph Mann was killed, the outcome would have still been the same,” resident Aleeka Bernard said during public comment, referring to the July police killing of a mentally ill homeless man. “There would still be no transparency and there would still be no accountability. … In my opinion, it’s an illusion of progress.”