By Antonio R. Harvey | Observer Staff Writer
SACRAMENTO – The City of Sacramento announced this week that Dwight White has arrived in Sacramento and started his new job as the first Inspector General for the city.
City officials expect White, who is African American, to use his experience as an investigator for Chicago’s Civilian Office of Police Accountability to independently review use-of-force cases involving members of the Sacramento Police Department.
White made it clear that he appreciates what his career entails to get facts and he “loves being impartial,” he said. An attorney and a Certified Illinois Lead Homicide Investigator, White previously conducted investigations involving members of the Chicago Police Department.
“I thought this would be the perfect chance for me to make a difference and to move society forward,” White said.
“I love being an investigator; I love being impartial,” he said.
The role of Inspector General was approved by the City Council last July at the urging of Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg following mass protests over the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. White’s arrival is considered by many observers as long overdue but comes at a critical and necessary time.
Sacramento Police Department itself has been in a series of high-profile cases involving use of force and killings of unarmed people of color.
Joseph Mann (July 2016) and 22-year-old Stephon Clark (March 2018), both Black men, were shot and killed by Sacramento police officers and received national attention for the manner they were gunned down.
In both instances, police officers said they feared for their lives. Clark, killed in the backyard of his grandparent’s house in South Sacramento, was holding nothing but a cell phone. The county district attorney decided not to bring charges against the cops.
Mann, who was suffering from mental illness, was shot and killed by a Sacramento patrolman — whose firearm had once been confiscated by a judge following a domestic violence case. The SPD lobbied on his behalf and the officer’s revolver was returned.
The police department also denied that one of the officers tried to hit Mann with a patrol car while they were in pursuit of the troubled man, who was holding a knife. A video debunked the department’s denial, which was uncovered by a local newspaper.
When the City Council backed the idea to hire an inspector general, the council and mayor approved shifting a significant amount of the calls now handled by police to the City’s new “Department of Community Response,” which will employ social workers to respond to calls that don’t involve crimes.
Working in the City’s Office of Public Safety Accountability, White will conduct independent investigations and make recommendations for officer termination or discipline in cases where use of force results in death or serious injury, and in cases of sexual assault.
Those recommendations will be made public concurrently with the City Manager’s decision on what action to take.
“It’s a big check,” said Steinberg, who once said that there may be “implicit bias” practices within the police department. “The public will be able to compare and contrast the IG’s findings and recommendations with the City Manager’s.”
Mayor Steinberg had pushed for the IG findings to be made public before the City Manager decided what action to take, but was advised that this timing is not permitted by the City charter.
Prior to January 2019, little information could be made public about police personnel decisions, even when deadly force was used. SB 1421 broadly allows the release of records in use-of-force cases and sexual assaults. This new legislation paved the way for the creation of the IG position in Sacramento.