Troubling Background Found on Officer Involved in Sacramento Shooting

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Police Shooting

Civil Rights Attorney John Burris held another press conference on Thursday in Sacramento, and, while the Vanguard was unable to attend, the Vanguard did receive information on court documents indicating that one of the Sacramento police officers was grappling with a long-term alcohol addiction, in addition to multiple, well-documented personal problems, which raise concerns about his fitness for duty at the time of the shooting.

Officer John Tennis, a long-time police officer with the Sacramento Police Department, was one of two Sacramento police officers who, on July 11, 2016, fatally shot Joseph Mann.

Mr. Burris in a statement said, “I am outraged to learn that the City of Sacramento permitted this officer to carry a gun, after he engaged in a series of troubling behaviors, unbefitting a police officer.”

Court documents reveal that the City of Sacramento was on notice in 2012 that Officer Tennis was barred by law from carrying a gun, when his wife was granted a restraining order, due to her claims that Officer Tennis abused her and their children. The City of Sacramento backed up Defendant Officer Tennis, by submitting a letter to the court, notifying them that Defendant Tennis would need to be granted an exception to the law, in order to keep carrying a gun.

The court record also indicates that, in 2014, Defendant Officer Tennis was the subject of an internal affairs investigation due to his alcohol addiction and dereliction of duties. The record also shows that, in 2014, Defendant Officer Tennis admitted to being a long-term alcoholic, and described how his addiction interfered with his duties.

“It is no wonder that the City waited so long to release the officers’ names, considering their knowledge of his unfitness for duty,” Mr. Burris stated.

A June 4, 2012, letter from Sam Somers, Deputy Chief from the Office of Operations, to El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Melikian stated, “On May 23, 2012, a temporary restraining order (Case FL2012-0419) was granted, identifying Sacramento Police Officer John C. Tennis as the restrained party. Pursuant to the temporary order, Officer Tennis cannot possess a firearm or ammunition. The ability to possess a firearm is a condition of continued employment for a sworn Police Officer with the Sacramento Police Department. The Sacramento Police Department is unable to re-assign Officer Tennis to another position where a firearm is unnecessary.”

The restraining order describes a 2012 incident in which Mr. Tennis was having a verbal dispute with his wife in front of their children.  She described that “he was speaking ill of me to and around the girls using a great deal of profanity.”  At this point she went upstairs and he “threw a full baby bottle narrowly missing (their daughter).”

His wife in 2012 alleged that his response was, “I don’t care.”

She detailed “verbal and emotional abuse” that had occurred against the children “through name calling and extensive use of profanity.” She claimed he was “investigated twice by CPS for physical abuse” against two of their sons.  In one case, he grabbed the boy “by his neck and pushed him to the ground.”  “Once on the ground, John began yelling and cussing” at the child.  He left a red mark on the side of his neck.

Officer Tennis was suspended for 40 hours in June of 2014 for alcohol abuse and ordered to read several books, acknowledge “this conduct was a violation of City policy and Police Department General Orders,” and meet with a Drug and Alcohol Officer at the SFPD Behavioral Sciences Unit.

In addition to the amended lawsuit, the Law Offices of John L. Burris has filed an administrative claim against the City of Sacramento for violations of the state constitution and common law by City of Sacramento Police Officers John Tennis and Randy Lozoya when they shot and killed Joseph Mann on July 11, 2016, while he was displaying obvious signs of mental illness.

Last week the Vanguard posted a video taken by a bystander at the scene.  Attorneys are requesting that the Sac PD release their video of the shooting.

“We are confident that the vantage point of the surveillance footage will provide evidence that will debunk the Sacramento Police Department’s false claims justifying the shooting, proving that Joseph Mann was standing stationary and not reaching for his waistband when officers closed in on him and opened fire,” said  Mr. Burris.

To date, the City of Sacramento Police Department has not responded to the Mann family’s multiple requests to view the surveillance video.  John Burris calls the City’s refusal to respond to the Mann family’s demand to view the video surveillance footage of the shooting seized by Sacramento Police Department, “Outrageous and insulting to a family desperate for answers.”

Mr. Burris further states, “We encourage the Sacramento media to pressure the police to release this critical evidence.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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14 thoughts on “Troubling Background Found on Officer Involved in Sacramento Shooting”

  1. Biddlin

    I’ve been covering the killing of Mary Knowlton by officer Lee Coel during a citizen’s academy training exercise in Punta Gorda, Florida for another blog. Here is another example of an officer who has a laundry list of issues and still we put them on the street with deadly force and a lack of impulse control. the outcomes are too predictable to be called aberrations. Get rid of all the hype and mythology about bravery and danger, look at the actual manner they perform their duties and demand that they meet the standards of character and performance, like any other civil service job I’ve held. If the boss knows that an employee is an abusive alcoholic and puts him on the street with a semi-auto pistol, scrub from the top down.

    1. Tia Will

      Biddlin

      look at the actual manner they perform their duties and demand that they meet the standards of character and performance”

      I agree with everything that you said with the above exception. Alcoholism is a disease, not a reflection of character. Once identified, the involved individual should be offered a treatment /rehabilitation plan which if completed and ongoing remission regularly documented could be allowed a plan for re incorporation into the department.

      I have seen this strategy used successfully through the years for surgeons who until fully recovered should no more be allowed to wield a knife or prescription pad than should an afflicted police officer be turned loose with a gun. However, this also need not terminate the career of a highly trained individual who may still provide a life time of valuable service if they are offered the ability to recover from this devastating disease.

      1. Biddlin

        “However, this also need not terminate the career of a highly trained individual who may still provide a life time of valuable service if they are offered the ability to recover from this devastating disease.”

        The city’s policy on substance abuse was first offense time: off w.o.p. mandatory rehab, second offense: your done. Zero tolerance for domestic violence was the written word.

        It has never been equally enforced, but that was the rule when I worked for them. I don’t think it’s particularly designed to salvage employees as much as it shows management dealing with the issue.

        During my 25 year career with the city of Sacotomatoes, in a number of positions in three departments, I never violated the oath all city employees swore or affirmed upon appointment. I don’t think they do that anymore, but they should. I was aware every minute of my tenure that I was there to serve the public with respect. The current police culture’s first concern is compliance.

        1. Marina Kalugin

          The rules should protect the public who the officer is sworn to protect, however when someone has put his life on the line they deserve to be treated fairly and with respect and everything possible should be done to help the officer to rehab, if that is what the officer also wants.

          Too often rules at large organizations don’t encourage those with difficulties to share and ask for help, at risk of losing one’s job.

          Supervisors and management should be trained in watching for issues, burnout, substance abuse, etc and be proactive in helping the person get back on track.

          Not each “employee” will be willing to do what is needed, however many will be thankful for the help and the whole office and culture will be better off as a result.

          Unfortunately, not many supervisors want to get that involved either, but those that do end up with a much happier and productive “work force”.

  2. Tia Will

    Two thoughts on this.

    The City of Sacramento backed up Defendant Officer Tennis, by submitting a letter to the court, notifying them that Defendant Tennis would need to be granted an exception to the law, in order to keep carrying a gun.” 

    I find the blatant placement of the “need” for an exception to the law over the need for public safety incredible. Do the supervisors in charge of police duty assignments really believe that wearing a uniform should place any individual above the law ?

    The ability to possess a firearm is a condition of continued employment for a sworn Police Officer with the Sacramento Police Department. The Sacramento Police Department is unable to re-assign Officer Tennis to another position where a firearm is unnecessary.”

    Does the Sacramento Police Department believe that “inability” to re-assign is sufficient cause to allow a known dangerous individual to remain in possession of a firearm ? Is there no policy regarding sick leave and/or a process for recovery and rehabilitation or does the police department not consider alcoholism an illness as suggested by  “ordered to read several books, acknowledge “this conduct was a violation of City policy and Police Department General Orders” and meet with a Drug and Alcohol Officer at the SFPD Behavioral Sciences Unit” ? To me this would seem to be a grave injustice to both the direct victims of this shooting ( victim and family) but also to this officer whose illness was allowed to pass untreated. Whether or not the officers are ever found guilty of anything, or whether they are completely exonerated, both will have to live with this action for the rest of their lives. This seems to have been a possibly preventable tragedy with multiple points at which different actions could have been taken.

  3. Marina Kalugin

    anyone surprised?    back in the 60s we used to say, what is the difference between a cop and a criminal?   the side of the bars they are on…

    in HS,  one of my best friends who was only 17 and an emancipated minor…got married to a cop….they all smoked dope and did other drugs  (many were confiscated items)….and then he physically abused her and she divorced him…

    stuff happens…. there is a percentage of the population which does such things and they can be found in all walks of life and all “jobs”…..

    thus it is not surprising  and it is not necessarily a blanket statement against law enforcement…  no one is immune from stress related issues either…

    unfortunately, the others in law enforcement will cover up for those who “have issues” or ” commit crimes” due to not being able to confront and handle issues head on or in some cases due to  some weird idea of loyalty or such…..

    if only the police and their unions would police their own people, much of this could be resolved and dealt with way earlier…and also then make it safer for others and also return some respect to the general public’s view of police and their reputations…

    1. South of Davis

      Marina wrote:

      > there is a percentage of the population which does such

      > things and they can be found in all walks of life and all “jobs…

      Smart people all know this but unfortunately every time a cop shoots someone we have large number of people on the left saying “look all cops are killers” (the same way we have racist idiots on the right saying “look all blacks are killers” every time a black guy shoots someone)…

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        I don’t think most people think all cops are killers. I am concern about the policies that allow an officer with this guy’s background be in the position to pull the trigger. That’s where I want to see the profession cleaned up.

  4. Frankly

    Get rid of defined benefit pensions in government to be replaced with a defined contribution plan.  The primary reason for this… if an employee is vested in a defined benefit retirement plan that employee would be motivated to stay on the job even if that employee is not a good fit for the job.  With a defined contribution plan, that employee can quit and do something else taking the value of their retirement plan with them.

    Note that with a perceived reduction in retirement benefit value, the salary paid to attract good cops might have to be increased.  However, the overall labor cost to the city should not increase.

    Get rid of police unions… because they prevent bad cops from being disciplined and fired.

    Implement professional human resource management.  This is a better mechanism for employee advocacy than are unions… which are primarily political entities.

    Be more aggressive in prosecuting people that can be proven to have lied about disability claims… make it criminal.  The reason for this is that cities tend to treat each new claim as being fraudulent and set a high bar for proof.  This then results in real disability cases being denied and then unstable cops on the street.

    Require all police in leadership positions to pass an extensive leadership training class that includes methods for identifying and dealing with employees that have personal or healthy-related issues that they bring to work and affects their performance at work.  Typically cops in leadership positions are just older patrol officers that got the job because of seniority.  They often are ill-trained to deal with the complexities of employees going off the rails.

    Make all police employment at-will.  If a cop is prone to making bad decisions and cannot control his/her emotions on the job, then that cops needs to be disciplined and fired before he/she makes a more serious mistake.

    Require all officers to undergo a health-assessment every year… that includes a psychological and mental assessment.  If failing to pass the assessment, require them to get more extensive treatment and a final professional “fit for duty” report.

    And then in terms of outside support, those showing any lack of respect to law enforcement need to be made justified victims of public scorn.

    1. Davis Progressive

      this is rubbish.  you don’t need to do all of that.  guy beats his kids, gets a restraining order, should no longer be a cop or at least no longer be allowed to have a weapon.

  5. Biddlin

    “Implement professional human resource management. ”

    “Require all police in leadership positions to pass an extensive leadership training class that includes methods for identifying and dealing with employees that have personal or healthy-related issues that they bring to work and affects their performance at work. ”

    “Require all officers to undergo a health-assessment every year… that includes a psychological and mental assessment.  If failing to pass the assessment, require them to get more extensive treatment and a final professional “fit for duty” report.”

    Fixed it for ya. You’re welcome!

    1. Davis Progressive

      you don’t need to do all of this stuff.  a guy who does that to his kids has anger management issues.  that’s a red flag and instead of heeding it, the police department got him special privileges.  that’s the problem.  there is no common sense.  the guy suffered from anger management problems and now someone is dead perhaps because of his poor judgment – that part remains to be seen.

      1. Biddlin

        “a guy who does that to his kids has anger management issues.  that’s a red flag and instead of heeding it, the police department got him special privileges.  that’s the problem.  there is no common sense.”

        True, but over-simplified. The depth of the problem is much greater. The whole system is fouled by this kind of officer and those who go to any means to shield him from accountability.   We have to stop hiring direct from the military and we have to start hiring people with normal capacities for reason and compassion.

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