By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn announced Wednesday that he is planning to step down from the position at the end of 2021. (Photo by Russell Stiger Jr.)

Several prominent members of Sacramento’s Black community are urging city officials to take steps forward — not backward — as they begin to search for the next Chief of Police.

Daniel Hahn, Sacramento Police Department’s current chief, announced Aug. 11 that he will be stepping down at the end of the year. Hahn is the first African American ever to hold the position.

Hahn’s departure has some concerned about his replacement.

“It would be unlikely that any successor to Chief Hahn is as rooted in our community as Chief Hahn,” said local attorney Mark Harris. “He didn’t parachute into the community. He’s from the community.”

Harris, who — with his wife Dr. Marianna Harris and former local educator Richard Owen — talks extensively about police and community relationships on the KDEE 97.5 FM radio show “Family Matters,” said many will be watching the SPD’s changing of the guard.

“Let us not look back,” Harris said. “Whoever the new chief is, let’s not have a return to that Gestapo-style police force as we did under some of the other former police chiefs.”

Hahn’s announcement came weeks after SPD released a disturbing study that provides a breakdown of racial vehicle stops, pedestrian stops, and use-of-force in the city. 

The study by the Center for Policing Equity (CPE) lists Sacramento Police Department data and racial demographics from 2014 to 2019 compared against the City of Sacramento. Black people made up 38% of all who experienced traffic stops, the report says. According to 2019 information from the U.S. Census Bureau, Blacks are 13.2% of the city’s population.

Comparatively, Latinos account for 28.3% of Sacramento’s population and make up 23% of those who experienced traffic stops, while Whites are 33.1% of Sacramento’s population and account for 29% of those who experienced traffic stops, according to the audit.

Annual incidents of use-of-force declined 27.4% over the five years of the study. Yet, Black people were subjected to force 41/2 times as often as White people per year on average when taking into account each group’s population.

Hahn called for the study after the 2018 police killing of Stephon Clark not only to reveal possible inequities within the department, but as a way to chart the department’s path toward equity and diversity. 

Rashid Sidqe, the co-founder of the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive (LEAD), told The OBSERVER that the study reflects the “culture” of systemic racism within policing. LEAD seeks to forge better relations with law enforcement.

Sidqe said the next police chief and the city government should build on Hahn’s efforts of seeking and hiring individuals of color from outside the city and, perhaps, outside California to the police force.

According to the city’s “2017 Audit of the City’s Gender and Ethnic Diversity” report, 74% of SPD’s sworn officers are White. Latinos make up 10% of sworn officers, followed by Asians (9%) and Blacks (5%).

“There are different ways they can go about hiring African Americans and they have to be an intentional movement,” Sidqe said. 

“This is a problem because only (5%) of the police officers are African Americans,” Sidqe said. “… It’s something that not only should be addressed by the next police chief but the city manager, mayor, and city council.”

Sidqe, Harris, and community activist Faye Kennedy all agreed that Hahn worked hard to bridge the gap between the community and SPD, especially during a time of racial reckoning.

Whoever the next chief is, the Black community still demands transparency and accountability from the police.

Leaders such as Ms. Kennedy say the old practices and the ways SPD interacts with the Black community and the way the city does business with the police unions have to change.

“You can hire all the people of color that you want, but if the people at the top are the decision-makers and the policies are not being changed, we are still having the same problems,” said Ms. Kennedy, a member of the Black Parallel School Board in Sacramento. 

“The institution, the policies, and the practices have to be revised, changed, or thrown out. Black folks want things to change.”