By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

This image, obtained by the Sacramento NAACP, was allegedly circulated by former Rancho Cordova Police Chief Kate Adams. NAACP President Betty Williams is calling for an investigation into the issue. Courtesy photo

Betty Williams, president of the Greater Sacramento Branch of the NAACP said she will ask the Attorney General of California to open an investigation into the Sacramento County Sheriff’s office.

According to Williams, there could be a “coverup” as to why a misconduct investigation of a former Sacramento County Sheriff captain and chief of police for Rancho Cordova Police Department (RCPD) ended when she retired.

“There’s so much that I am finding out but I don’t have proof because people are verbally telling me things,” Williams said. “But we want the full investigation to happen…reinstated. If this is a coverup, well it’s a crime.”

Kate Adams, who was acting as the chief of police of the RCPD, was on administrative leave for allegedly engaging in the distribution of racially charged text messages, memes, and photographs with staff members of the Sheriff’s department.

One of the images Adams is accused of exchanging with employees features a White man spraying a young Black boy in an inflatable swimming pool with a garden hose. The caption used for the racist image contained the N-word.

Adams retired from her position during her leave of absence and the investigation stopped, Williams told the OBSERVER. She said counsel for Sacramento County told her that the investigation ended when Adams moved.

“Besides the Sheriff’s office and District Attorney’s office, I also want a third party to look into it,” Williams said. 

The longtime president of the local NAACP said she got the notion to reopen the case when she learned that the state’s A.G. opened up an investigation similar to the County Sheriff’s office’s case.  

In December 2021, Attorney General Rob Bonta launched an independent review of the Torrance Police Department (TPD) to identify and correct potential systemic failures in the department’s policies and practices. 

The TPD Chief of Police Jay Hart requested assistance from the Department of Justice when concerning allegations of excessive force, racist text messages, and other discriminatory misconduct surfaced.

“As police chief of the Torrance Police Department, I am committed to accountability, and I will not tolerate any form of bigotry, racism, hate, or misconduct,” Hart said in a written statement released in December. “In partnership with Attorney General Bonta, I will ensure that needed changes are implemented to regain the public’s trust and confidence.”

The independent review of TPD is currently being conducted by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Enforcement Section with the assistance of the DOJ’s Division of Law Enforcement.  The review is aimed at promoting public safety and rebuilding trust between TPD and the community it serves.

Williams said she will gather with the NAACP’s “legal redress” to explore how to continue approaching the issue, and then move forward with contacting Bonta’s office. She too is concerned about the “culture” Adams may have been presiding over and if there were any violations of civil rights among Rancho Cordova’s citizens.

Adams announced her retirement from a 27-year law enforcement career on Sept. 16, 2021. She joined the City of Rancho Cordova’s police department in 2013 as the assistant chief of police. Adams was assigned to a new role in the sheriff’s office in 2017, but soon returned as Rancho Cordova’s Chief of Police in April 2020.

RCPD is under contract with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department and uses deputies to patrol the community. Williams said she would like to see the “arrest record” and traffic stops of “Black and Brown” people by RCPD’s officers under Adams’ watch. 

“I feel that the culture within that police department, the Sheriff’s department, has a culture of racial practices,” Williams said. “That could mean that there has been harm to many individuals who should not have been stopped in Rancho Cordova and she allowed those things to happen.”

Williams has asked state Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) to expand the investigation and employ a significant law that decertifies cops for misconduct.  Adams could seek employment as a law enforcement agent elsewhere if she emerges from retirement but could be stopped by Senate Bill (SB) 2.

SB 2 became California law on Jan. 1, 2022. It grants new powers to the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) to investigate and determine peace officer fitness and to decertify officers who engage in serious misconduct. SB 2 is authored by Bradford, who is the Senate Public Safety Committee chairperson.

“SB 2, I hope, will be the case example of when you put laws like this in place that cases like Kate Adams will not appear again in another law enforcement agency, office, academy….nothing. She should not be in law enforcement,” Williams said. 

The CLBC spoke out against the Sheriff’s office and RCPD when a video went viral of an officer beating a defenseless 14-year-old boy in April 2020 after he exchanged money with an adult for a cigarillo. 

Williams worked with Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, Sacramento County Undersheriff Erik Maness, and Adams to fire the cop. Black Lives Matter Sacramento founder Tanya Faison and social justice activist Stevante Clark exposed the wrongdoing of the officer when they obtained the disturbing cellphone video.

Bradford blames Jones and RCPD for the racial issues within the department. The senator demanded that Jones, who is not running again for the office, resign from his position. 

“I am concerned, outraged, but not surprised by this behavior,” said Bradford, the chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. “The pervasive, ongoing racism that is rooted in law enforcement and in America is an issue that all people of color should be concerned and outraged by. This ongoing, blatant racist behavior under Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones stops now.”

Williams insisted that the City of Rancho Cordova break its contract with the Sheriff’s office, citing that other local law enforcement agencies do not have the same high-volume problems.

Williams said the top five complaints she receives from the community are from the Sheriff’s office, the Sacramento County Main Jail, Rancho Cordova, and the City of Sacramento, “in that order,” she stated.

“The top three are all connected to the Sheriff’s department,” Williams said of the complaints of misconduct, excessive force, and traffic violations of people of color. “We did have that same issue in the beginning with the City of Elk Grove because they (used) individuals from the Sheriff’s department. [Elk Grove] decided to no longer contract with the Sheriff’s department, started its own police department, and those complaints went down.”

The OBSERVER made numerous efforts to contact Rancho Cordova councilmember Garrett Gatewood about the relationship between the City and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s department, but received no response .

Brandon Luke, who has 28 years of law enforcement experience with the Sheriff’s department and its agencies is currently RCPD’s police chief. He is the second African American to hold the position.

“I spoke to the (Rancho Cordova) city manager and said, ‘Ok, you hired a Black chief of police. Good,’” Williams said. “‘But the city of Rancho Cordova has not put out a statement of any kind saying that it denounces any racism or discriminatory practices.’ The city has been silent on the issue. So, there is a need to reopen Adams’ case.”