While no one from the city of West Sacramento or the West Sacramento Police Department participated in the event on Sunday night at the Holy Cross Church in West Sacramento, at least 100 residents showed up, and as many as 20 spoke during a one-hour public comment session following the panel discussion.
We will have coverage later in the week on some of the public comments, which involved many residents speaking about very personal and tragic incidents. One woman talked about the mishandling of her son while he was incarcerated, which resulted in his death while restrained by police officers as they mistook a seizure for lack of cooperation.
There was also a general air of frustration that the residents felt powerless to change things and frustrated at the lack of official concern.
Stewart Katz, who is representing one of the victims of Sergio Alvarez, was unable to make it. Sergio Alvarez, a former West Sacramento Police Officer has been standing trial and charged with sexually assaulting, raping, kidnapping and burglary, along with enhancements, of five victims out of West Sacramento.
As of the end of the week on Friday, the jury has been deliberating for over a week, having received the case at the end of the day on February 14 following a nearly four-week jury trial. Deliberations are expected to resume today. (Click here for News 10’s update which includes an interview with the Vanguard’s Antoinnette Borbon).
Participating in Sunday night’s forum were Assemblymember Roger Dickinson and former state Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso.
“I have some background in dealing with issues that often become quite difficult both for members of governing boards as well as for the community at large when it comes to relationships with the law enforcement and the community,” Assemblymember Dickinson said. “A community works best and law enforcement works best when there is a relationship of trust and confidence between the two.”
Attorney Chris Moenig spoke about the Kevin Hughey case, which the Vanguard covered last month. On Sunday he explained that “there was a lot of evidence that the officer was lying. Thank goodness his partner had his audio device on. The officer who lied, his audio recording was apparently ‘not working.’”
Attorney Anthony Palik described the nearly decade-old Galvan case where the District Attorney office filed for criminal resisting arrest charges three times. The jury hung twice 11-1 for guilt, before a partial acquittal in the third trial and community outrage forced the DA’s office to drop the case.
As Mr. Palik described on Sunday, it was only with time that it became clear that the officer’s stories were misaligned with the facts. He also described the testimony of the use of force expert who he said testified that even a suspect on his knees with no shoes could be a potential lethal threat to police officers and therefore the repeated batons to the head were justified.
The prosecution claimed that these blows to the head were deflected blows, but Mr. Palik described that the injury pattern was consistent with direct head blows.
The San Francisco Weekly back in 2011 quoted a defense attorney with the description of police use-of-force expert Don Cameron as, “I don’t know if he’s ever seen a shooting or a use of force he didn’t like.”
Finally, Jim Chanin drove in from Oakland, and he is a civil rights attorney who does a lot of worked with famed civil rights Attorney John Burris. He described a 1990 incident in West Sacramento in which a motorist was pulled over and attacked with a police dog on an overpass. In defending himself he flipped the dog over the overpass, resulting in its death.
The police then turned to attacking the man and he ultimately fell or jumped off the overpass and died.
Both Mr. Chanin and Justice Reynoso were concerned that current laws protect police from scrutiny and accountability. Mr. Chanin was very critical of liberal legislators who nevertheless have both passed laws and protected police from oversight.
He described an exchange in which a legislator asked him how he would like it if his bar record were posted on the internet for all to see. He said, it doesn’t matter what I would think because that happens now. And he pointed out that, unlike police officers, he is not a public servant, he serves his clients who enter into private contracts.
The Sacramento Bee covered the event, along with News 10. Here is the Bee article.
Right now you can watch the streaming video of the panel discussion at the beginning and the wrap up at the end.
—David M. Greenwald reporting