first published on April 14, 2017 by Matt Silvey
The Sacramento Police Department has been in the national news the last couple days. In less than five (5) days, the management at the Sacramento Police Department has demonstrated, to anyone watching, a perfect example of how NOT to run a police department. And from what I am hearing through the grapevine, last night their upper management doubled down on that.
But first, some history for those living under a rock. On Monday at about 5:30 PM, a Sac PD officer stopped a pedestrian for jaywalking. While several people have argued the basis for the stop, there are many codes, both state and local city ordinances, that can be used to justify the stop. During the encounter, the suspect refused to comply, stepped into the street, shed his jacket and, quite clearly (via the officer’s dash cam video) challenged the officer to a fight. The officer took the suspect down to the ground where the two exchanged a few blows, and the suspect was taken into custody.
Present during the fight, but not for the initial contact, was a friend of the suspect who filmed the encounter and then posted the video to Facebook. Local news station Fox40 ran with the cell phone video like it was gospel, and began generating and stoking mass public outrage.
In world record time, by about noon the next morning, Sacramento PD had thrown the officer involved to the wolves. Not only did they publicly state that he demonstrated “unacceptable conduct,” but they also stated that they had placed the officer on administrative leave, started an internal investigation, and were considering filing criminal charges against the officer. WOW!!! That was really quick, his actions must have been so ridiculously over the line that it required such a swift, firm stance, right? Yeah, not so much.
Sac PD also released dash cam video from several cars on the scene, including the primary officer’s car.
Fox40 also interviewed the suspect in this case. The suspect made numerous, blatant lies in his statement, and despite the fact that those lies were plain as day to anyone who watched the dash cam video, Fox40 decided to air the lies as if they were truth.
By Wednesday, this incident had hit the national stage and the officer’s actions were being called into question by just about everyone, except for those of us who looked at ALL of the evidence, including the suspect’s actions and words. Wednesday, I filmed a video in which I analyzed the situation and compared the information that was available. In my opinion, the officer did nothing wrong, and the actions by the management were absolutely disgraceful!
(Some mild cursing contained in this video)
Shortly after filming that video, two more bits of information regarding the suspect came to light. The information that came out helps explain his noncompliance and his hostility toward the officer. First, he had an active warrant for his arrest from another jurisdiction. This might explain why he refused to comply; he didn’t want to go to jail. Second, he has a history of fighting with the cops, and had previously been arrested in Fresno, CA for the same thing.
Now, some folks in the comments of my video analyzing this incident pointed out to me that from the video, it appeared that the suspect did not actually jaywalk, and folks said that the suspect used an “unmarked crosswalk.” I’ll be completely honest here; I do not know diddly about jaywalking laws. I never worked traffic and I do not recall ever in my career stopping someone for jaywalking. Since I was not fully informed on the laws, I dug into them, and boy there are quite a few. (You can see the list of applicable CA laws here: http://www.legal-news-california.tozerlaw.com/jaywalking_laws_california.html)
For those unable or unwilling to watch my video, the following are a few points that I raised in my video.
While, at least from what we can see in the video, it does appear that the suspect crossed the street using an “unmarked crosswalk” as defined by CA law, he did not appear to allow traffic sufficient time to stop and just stepped out into the roadway, a violation of VC 21950(b). Additionally, a cop from the Sacramento area sent me a message informing me about a couple of applicable Sacrament City Codes, namely SCC 10.20.20 and SCC 10.20.50. Those can be found here, and they address standing in the roadway interfering with traffic and crossing the street within 300 feet of a marked crosswalk, both of which could be applied to this situation. Now, you can argue against the need for jaywalking laws all day long, but the fact is they exist, and the suspect was in violation of those laws. The probable cause for the stop on the suspect is legit. He had a valid reason to stop him.
Next issue is the use of force, and whether or not it was justified. First of all, the suspect did not have the right to ignore the officer. We know, based on the fact that the suspect raised his hands, that he could hear the officer’s commands, and we can see based on his actions that he was refusing to comply. The officer continues to follow the suspect giving him verbal commands to comply. Eventually, the suspect stops, takes off his jacket, and challenges the officer to fight. Thus far, the suspect has committed two crimes (PC 148 and PC 415), in addition to the “jaywalking. “ The officer grabs the suspect by the shoulder (NOT the neck) and takes him to the ground where punches are exchanged, the cop wins the fight, and the suspect is arrested without any major injuries.
I spoke to a number of people who work for the Sacramento Police Department, and the scuttlebutt around their department is that a HUGE number of people just consciously made the decision to seek employment with other agencies, even senior employees. I’ve written in the past about the problems Sacramento PD has been facing with both hiring and retaining current employees, but this situation, and the way the department is handling it, just greatly exacerbated that problem.
Thursday Night, 4-13-17
This morning, I again spoke to a few people I know who work for Sacramento PD, because I was trying to verify a rumor I had heard. They had not heard the rumor I asked about, but they did have something new to tell me. Apparently, Sac PD upper management, as in Deputy Chiefs and others, showed up at roll calls at the various stations to speak to the working cops. Apparently, from what I am told, the chiefs and other management were very aloof about the whole situation, saying that they stood by how they handled it, and that is just the way it is, and the way it will be.
Needless to say, that crappy “tough shit” attitude displayed by their bosses was not well received by the men and women who should be able to count on management to have their backs. Instead, management told them to expect to be thrown under the bus. The way Sac PD management has handled this not only has assured their personnel problems are going to get vastly worse, but they have also demonstrated to ALL of the cops who work there that proactive police work will only get you in trouble. Expect proactive cop work to cease, and expect the safety of city residents to be vastly lessened. Odd, you’d think the idiots in charge over there might have heard of that whole “Ferguson Effect,” but apparently not.
I find it EXTREMELY ironic that a department that is constantly telling their officers to be kinder and gentler to the criminals they contact, those very managers cannot even reciprocate that same sentiment toward the people who are supposedly on the same team as them. Sacramento PD management has just driven that final nail in the coffin. If you happen to work in the backgrounds department of any neighboring agencies, I would expect to see a huge influx of lateral applicants as everyone bails from Sac PD’s rapidly sinking ship.