By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau
SACRAMENTO – The State Legislature sent controversial “use of force” legislation designed to reduce the number of peace officer killings of Californians to the Governor Monday – but about the same time, three Black families here accused city of Sacramento police officers of “terrorizing” their children last month with a gun.
Approved by the full Senate Monday, AB 392, the “California Act to Save Lives,” would reduce the number of deaths cause by police, according to author Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego). The measure was amended to appease law enforcement, which had sworn to defeat it. Co-author was Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento).
Still, most supporters continue to back the measure – state laws regarding use of force haven’t changed since 1872 – because they claim California peace officers kill more people than any other state.
In fact, the killing of unarmed Blacks and Latinx by police is almost epidemic. AB 392 would mandate that officers use deadly force to only when “necessary.” And use other non-lethal force when possible.
Woodland’s Marissa Barrera, whose brother Michael Barrera was killed in 2017 by Woodland police officers, said Monday: “My family and I have been fighting for change for the past two and a half years, since my brother was wrongfully killed. Since then, I have met countless other families that are affected by the loss of their loved ones to police killings. I see this bill as a start to change, which we desperately need.”
To many, the bill can’t into effect soon enough.
In Sacramento Monday morning – just across the street from the State Capitol where AB 392 was being heard – three Black families accused city of Sacramento police officers of “terrorizing” their children last month with a drawn gun.
The teens – two were 13 and another was 14 – were headed to breakfast at a south area McDonald’s Restaurant when they were confronted by Sacramento police, identified as officers “Virk” and “Matthew,” who detained the young teens June 21 with a loaded weapon.
The officers forced the teens to press their faces on the hot pavement, according to the families. Police later said they were looking for suspects in a crime. The teens were eventually released. No information was provided by police about the “crime” they said they were investigating.
“Our 13-year-old son’s life was changed forever. Our boys were clueless about what they did to deserve such treatment from law enforcement (who) they thought were there to protect them. Unfortunately, the officers assume all African American teens look alike, My son was treated like a criminal…he has not been the same since,” said Angel Totten.
Even after the officers realized the teens didn’t fit the description, added Totten, they “were still treated as if they were criminals. No apologies were given. We were only notified because one of the boys asked to call his mother….the officers failed to mention (to us) that the boys were held at gun point.”
Roderick Totten, the father of one of the teens and a local coach, said the trio were “aggressively approached” by police and ordered to the ground, with an officer drawing a gun “shaking.”
“There was a lack of empathy. It was traumatizing to my son. It perpetuates the division between police and the community,” he added, noting that police exhibited “fear.” Totten said that police were not only “unclear” but also “intimidating” by putting the call on speaker so that his son couldn’t speak freely.
Paris Flores said her son, 14, is “struggling to understand” what happened.
“These boys are babies (but) the officers treated them like they were a threat. It takes one second to pull the trigger,” Flores said, noting that the gun was pointed at the teens for 15 seconds.
“Sacramento police didn’t have dignity and respect. Those officers were once children. To me, this is harassment. These children can’t even get breakfast. It’s a hard lesson (but) now they know what it’s like to be their color,” said Flores.
Black Lives Matter Sacramento founder Tanya Faison, who called the news conference Monday at the ACLU offices near the Capitol, listed the families’ demands, including the “public” release of all audio and video (dash cams and body cams), a “pubic apology” by officers to the teens and the full names of all the officers involved.
Faison also demanded that Sacramento police “stop terrorizing” the Black and Latinx community, stop using “abusive language” and compensation, paid for the city or the officers, for mental health support for the teens.