A series of police reform measures approved by the Sacramento City Council last week are small steps in the right direction, but the city still has a lot of work that needs to be done and shouldn’t be lauded for such minor changes, legal experts argued on Wednesday.
The reforms were prompted by calls from local activists as part of a national movement following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed during a police encounter by a white Minneapolis police officer.
Since then, officials in towns small and large throughout the country have looked internally at what can be done to fix the fractured system of policing.
n Sacramento, city leaders passed a series of measures that, among other things, reallocated funds away from the Sacramento Police Department toward other community initiatives; banned the use of choke holds during most police encounters; and paved the way for the creation of an independent inspector general who would be tasked with the responsibility of reviewing allegations of police misconduct and abuse of force.
Legal experts in Sacramento said the measures were a long time coming — and should have come a lot sooner.
“The policy proposals from [Sacramento Mayor Darrel Steinberg] and city officials are much delayed and hardly reform,” Elizabeth Kim, the head of the National Lawyers Guild in Sacramento, told the Davis Vanguard in an interview.
Other steps need to be taken by the city, Kim said, including an acknowledgement that so-called “non-lethal” force approved in most cases is, in fact, extremely dangerous and can be lethal for the subjects of police encounters.
Criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel agreed, pointing out the inequities between ordinary citizens and law enforcement officials.
“Lawfully, [citizens] cannot resort to force if someone steals their car, their identity, or assaults their family,” Mark said. “But the police have that lawful right — the right to use force if needed.”
Mark said it was clear that Sacramento officers had been enabled to use that force because of the city’s inaction for a long time.