By: Nicholas Ibarra | OBSERVER Staff

A Center for Policing Equity (CPE) study released July 27 shows that Black people are more likely to be stopped by Sacramento Police than people of other races.

Outgoing Chief Daniel Hahn commissioned the study in 2018 to identify problems of racism in the department and the way the community of Sacramento is policed.The study explored police practices and behavior in Sacramento as part of a larger national justice database project. The CPE wanted to see if disparities in police interactions with people of different races were caused by inequitable practices or factors within the department.

Hahn also released proposed solutions that the department and community can implement to reduce these racial disparities. “If we do not address these issues of race and difference collectively, we will not have the change we all desire,” Hahn said.

Asantewaa Boykin, co-founder of the Anti-Police-Terror Project and co-creator of MH First, said she was not surprised about the report’s findings.

“Black people and poor people are over-policed in Sacramento,” Ms. Boykin said.

The Sacramento Police Commission said via email: “Previous reports have shown the same pattern – African American people stopped disproportionally more than White people. It is good to see that use of force has decreased.”

The CPE observed several causes of racial disparities in police interactions: 

  • Individual characteristics and behaviors, such as mental health challenges, homelessness, and participation in criminal activity;
  • Community characteristics, such as poverty and high crime rates;
  • Individual officer characteristics and behaviors, such as how an officer might view a certain community;
  • Department culture;
  • Policy; and
  • The relationship between the community and the police department.

Many of the disparities were found within the Black community, including traffic stops, subject stops, and the use of force. It was also found that parolees and suspects reported to the police department in crimes – violent or nonviolent – were predominantly Black, about 40%.

The following factors were found to affect neighborhoods in Sacramento:​​

  • The highest percentage of people living below the federal poverty line;
  • The highest percentage of renters paying more than 30% of their income for rent; 
  • The lowest median income; 
  • Diversity;
  • The highest percentage of people with less than a high school diploma and fewest resources for education; and
  • The highest level of violent or person crimes, such as homicide, rape, and assualt and battery.

Hahn links many of these neighborhood issues to poverty. “We have to look at this not just as law enforcement, but as a community,” he said. “We created the neighborhoods the way they are, which gives me hope that we can change them back to the way they were with economic development and areas of prosperity.”

While these neighborhoods tend to have very little trust in the police, they have the highest volume of calls for service within the community and are where most of the police staff is placed.

The CPE presented a “pathway forward,” including: 

  • Measuring and monitoring progress within the community and department;
  • Investigating disparities to learn more;
  • Identifying risk factors and developing targeted interventions; and
  • Enforcing strong policies in the areas of racial profiling and use of force. 

The Sacramento Police Department is working on implementing all of these suggested pathways. In 2020 the Sac PD added an inspections and standards team that reviews various areas of the department, including body-cam footage, as well as a research and development division to study technology, training, equipment, and policy, which was implemented in 2018.

Sac PD teamed up with institutions such as Stanford University, Washington State University, the Department of Justice, and the American Leadership Forum to conduct research and training within the department. Police department officials feel these institutions’ work will go toward enhancing the department’s relationship with the community, fighting implicit bias, and improving training and policies.

Programs also are in place that expand officer experience and help them understand the wants and needs of communities and refrain from dehumanization. “Walk in My Shoes” partners recent academy graduates with a community member in a neighborhood that they are not from to help them better understand neighborhood culture.

“We, no doubtedly, have to continue to look at law enforcement and do things that improve law enforcement,” Hahn said. “But we must also address history, bias, and culture, as well as look at new ways of doing things – whether that’s through training, technology, or experiences – to improve the understanding and trust between the Sacramento community and police department.”

Ms. Boykin feels that the community is being given lip service and rehearsed answers regarding making change. She wondered what is actually being done to create it.

“Policy and procedure doesn’t change, and there is no actual trust-building that is being done with the folks who need to build those relationships,” Ms. Boykin said.

The Black community must continue to be vocal about its needs, continue to apply pressure, and reference data to find solutions, Ms. Boykin said. 

“We know that these conditions exist,” she said. “We experience them and the consequences of criminalization daily. It is time for us as a society to reexamine our priorities and what it really means for us to be collectively safe.”

As far as what the report means for Black Sacramentans, the Police Commission said, “We need to continue to look at police and practices used by police for non-traffic stops.”

The commission will continue to review the study and discuss how to approach the issues. It also has asked Sac PD for a formal presentation on the findings so that a public dialogue can be held.