Monday Morning Thoughts: Lack of Leadership Speaking Out on Sac Police Killing

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Police Blue

Did Joseph Mann actually have a weapon when he was fatally shot in July by Sacramento police officers?  That is a key question that needs to be addressed at some point by the police.

Witnesses told reporters that they saw a small folding knife in the hands of Mr. Mann prior to the cops arriving.  Was it open?  Was he threatening them?

Spokespeople for attorney John Burris, who is handling the case, say that no knife has been produced – open or closed.

It is not clear from the videos released by the police that he had one.  But the video shows that when he was running from the police, he did not lunge at them with a knife.

Regardless, Sacramento Bee columnist Marcos Breton points out in his column this weekend, “Yet instead of de-escalating the situation or using nonlethal means to subdue the individual, police employed deadly force.”

But Mr. Breton goes further – much further – in his assessment of the case,  noting the similarities between the case of Joseph Mann killed on July 11 by Sacramento police and the death of Deborah Danner, killed last Tuesday in her Bronx apartment by New York police.

Mr. Breton writes, “Sacramento police say Mann had a knife when two officers shot him 14 times in North Sacramento. NYPD said Danner tried to strike an officer with a baseball bat before she was killed.”

The biggest difference was the response of New York Mayor Bill de Blasio versus the response of Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

“Our officers are supposed to use deadly force only when faced with a dire situation,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio less than 24 hours after Danner was killed. “It’s very hard to see that standard was met.

“Deborah Danner should be alive right now, period,” Mayor de Blasio continued. “If the protocols had been followed, she would be alive. … Something went horribly wrong here.”

In this case, even NY Police Commissioner James O’Neill was force to agree.  He said, “That’s not the way it’s supposed to go.  It’s not how we train; our first obligation is to preserve life, not to take a life when it can be avoided.”

Marcos Breton points out this is not how Sacramento officials have reacted.  Mayor Johnson and others “have called for more transparency and accountability from the police.”

He points out that, while public officials have called for public release of the videos, others have resisted.  “It was only after The Bee’s Anita Chabria got hold of surveillance from a private citizen in late September that police finally released footage.”

The video is disturbing, to say the least, with an officer heard saying, “I’m going to hit him.”  His partner says, “Ok, go for it.”  After that, the two officers, John Tennis and Randy Lozoya, exit their vehicle and open fire.

Mr. Breton notes, “Even though they previously had been briefed on the incident by [Police Chief] Somers, City Council members said the first time they heard the conversation between the two officers was when news outlets reported on it, a situation Councilman Allen Warren called ‘extremely alarming.’”

He continues, “But even after seeing the footage and hearing the officers’ words, few council members have said anything of consequence about the incident.”

“I have opinions about (the Mann video), but I don’t share them because we live in a society of due process,” Councilman Jeff Harris said last week. “Right now, there is a civil case in process, there is a legal case in process, and until those processes are completed, you really won’t know if our process works or not.”

Mr. Breton notes, “Councilman Larry Carr has said that council members are refraining from commenting on the Mann video in the same way President Barack Obama refrains from making specific comments about police shootings.”

But that is not how New York is responding.  Mr. Breton charges, “The response from New York officials not only has been far more decisive than Sacramento’s – coming within hours compared to months – it also reflects political courage that’s lacking here.”

Then again, the shooting in New York is just the latest in a string of shootings and killings that have hit NYPD since the infamous death of James Garner in July 2014.  Perhaps New York has simply grown tired of covering for mistakes for its officers.

But then again, Mayor de Blasio has long battled with the police unions angry with the mayor for supporting anti-police protests, following the decision by a grand jury not to indict the police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner.

On the night that decision was announced, Mayor de Blasio invoked the mantra of the protest movement, “black lives matter,” and said he warned his biracial son about interacting with police.

While Mr. Breton notes structural differences between New York and Sacramento, the problems in New York go far deeper than just the recent string of incidents.  Moreover, as Mr. Breton correctly notes, “The sense of paralysis in Sacramento’s response to the Mann killing has been compounded by the political reality that Johnson, Shirey and Somers soon will leave their jobs.”

On Tuesday, incoming Mayor Darrell Steinberg, addressing the Mario Obledo dinner at the West Sacramento City Hall, noted that problems within the police will be a high priority for his new administration.

Still, Mr. Breton points out, “De Blasio obviously understands that he represents all New Yorkers and not just powerful constituencies such as police unions. The fact that New York’s top cop was openly critical of his department reflects an understanding that’s absent in Sacramento.

“The details surrounding the New York shooting will be investigated to determine if the officer operated within the scope of the law. But what O’Neill and De Blasio have done is to speak frankly and directly about policy, tactics and about what they expect of their officers,” he writes.

“They have spoken about how NYPD must always attempt to preserve life at all costs. And they have said what happened in the Danner shooting did not reflect the city they want New York to be.  That is effective civilian leadership. That sets a tone for public discourse and demonstrates clearly who is in charge in the city,” he continues.

“Who is in charge in Sacramento right now? Who knows?” Mr. Breton asks.  “Anyone who has viewed the Mann video can tell what happened was not right and not reflective of what Sacramento would want from its police officers. It’s just that no one in charge has had the courage to truly say it out loud.”

Unfortunately, that problem does not end in Sacramento – it is endemic to the rest of the region.

—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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19 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Lack of Leadership Speaking Out on Sac Police Killing”

  1. Barack Palin

    “Yet instead of de-escalating the situation or using nonlethal means to subdue the individual, police employed deadly force.”

    Non-lethal means like this in the video below where the female officer ended up in the hospital with a concussion, chipped bones and other injuries.

    Chicago Superintendent Eddie Johnson visited the female officer in the hospital and said that officers are second guessing themselves and not using enough force during encounters with suspects because of the fear of backlash.
    The suspect smashed the officer’s face into the pavement repeatedly until she was unconscious.
    “As I was at the hospital last night, visiting with her, she looked at me and said she thought she was gonna die, and she knew that she should shoot this guy, but she chose not to because she didn’t want her family or the department to go through the scrutiny the next day on national news,”

    http://lawofficer.com/tactics-weapons/watch-chicago-officer-beaten-by-suspect-on-pcp/

      1. Barack Palin

        Did you see that they tasered the guy but it had no effect because he was on PCP?  She said she should’ve used her gun but she was afraid of the backlash so now she’s in the hospital with serious injuries.  I heard on the radio last night that she had a cracked skull and possibly will be on disability for the rest of her life.

        It’s you that’s being ridiculous.

        1. Marina Kalugin

          this is an isolated case, BP>… it is way more often on the other side that a supposed perp gets his head bashed in for jay walking or something

          At the same time, I really feel for the lady cop who was compassionate and caring….it is unfortunate that people like her are the ones who are often the victims….while the corrupt cops get away with murder

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            In addition, the record of these guys with drinking and DV and past complaints suggest they were not the ones that should have been making life and death judgments.

        2. Barack Palin

          Funny, when cops get hurt or killed it’s just written off as an exception but it seems like everytime a black person has a bad police encounter it’s national news.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            There have been nearly 1000 fatalities at the hands of police this year, 100 police killed. As I’ve pointed out before, police need to err on the side of preserving life and they blatantly violated it in the Mann case – escalating a situation that called for deescalation. They were in a police car, the guy was on foot, there was no threat until they got out of their car and shot him.

        3. Barack Palin

          If that lady cop had drawn her gun and shot the black man on PCP that would be the story today.  Instead she lays in a hospital bed recovering from serious injuries.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            In the case at issue here, the officers were driving in their car and tried to run over Mr. Mann before getting out and shooting them. How does the case you are citing have anything to do with the facts in this particular case?

  2. Marina Kalugin

    many a time I would ponder “why do police shoot to kill when they could just as easily shoot to blow the gun out of a hand”….  I mean those who are fit to carry a gun, should have had enough training, right?

    I have heard all of the police, CHP, state trooper, prosecutor and military rationalizations…yet….now when I see a dead body killed by police, I expect to find that they- the gunman aka officer or whatever name they go by-  screwed up and are covering up the evidence…

    prove me wrong….if you want…….show me the evidence that is not the case

    1. quielo

      “why do police shoot to kill when they could just as easily shoot to blow the gun out of a hand”

      Because life is not a hollywood movie. That is also the reason they don’t often fire two powerful handguns while doing mobius flips through the air, even if John Woo thinks that is best practice, if that is going to be your follow-up question.  

      Why don’t they train police officers to cross draw two guns while doing mobius flips? Not sure maybe someone else can explain.

      1. hpierce

        Quielo is absolutely correct… what is unfathomable is why the man was shot 14 times… a “double tap” would likely have rendered the guy harmless to the officers… but 7 times that?

        Think basketball… you watch the hips… not the head, and not the arms, not the legs… likewise, if you feel a need to shoot, you aim for the torso… more likely to hit the target, less likely to have a stray bullet kill/maim bystanders.  Anyone in law enforcement would likely verify that.

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          Did you watch the video of the pursuit? He crosses the street, they try to hit him. Then they get out and chase him and end up shooting him on the far side of the street. If he had a knife, which is in some question, why get out of the car?

        2. hpierce

          David…read!  I corrected Marina’s silly (would say more, but would get moderated) idea of shooting suspect’s weapon (if any) out of his hand… I questioned number of shots hitting the victim/suspect… this is a poster child case for ‘wrongful death’… and what do you do?  You criticize my post, with a lot of “silly” questions… whatever…

          Guess you need to “overcharge” this case… fine with me… just be fair if a case is overcharged the other way…

          If he had a knife, he was still a threat to others, even if not the officers…

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            Where did I say anything about charging the case? The officers created the confrontation and put themselves in harms way. There are other ways to handle it.

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