Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg Recounts His Experiences as Mayor During Summer 2020 at UC Davis Law’s Racial Justice Speaker Series

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Portrait by Marc Thomas Kallweit

By Cameron Perry

DAVIS – Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg spoke Wednesday afternoon at the UC Davis School of Law’s Racial Justice Speaker Series, touching on his experiences as mayor during this summer of racial reckoning.

Steinberg began by addressing the unfolding situation in Kentucky: “Today we should acknowledge that while a grand jury in Louisville indicted one officer for reckless endangerment, no officer was charged with the actual killing of Breonna Taylor. Another injustice.”

The mayor continued by commenting on local protests that caused $10 million in damage to property, saying “there is no damn excuse.”

He emphasized, however, his experience with a “die-in” of nearly 2,000 people that took place near his home in Greenhaven Boulevard on Jun. 5.

He admitted that his initial response may have been wrong, but human.

The ‘real’ response he said is: “Dig deeper. To ask myself, ‘What can I be doing different or better as a leader?’ To be a voice for the pain, for the injustice, and for the demand that we change what must be changed.”

Mayor Steinberg described what he calls “three pillars” crucial to the pursuit of racial justice in Sacramento.

The first: An independent inspector general that would review any officer-involved shooting, assault or complaint against an officer and make the results of that investigation a matter of public record.

Stephon Clark’s mother later asked how soon this independent inspector general would be put into place, to which he responded:

“We just had a meeting on it today. I believe the position will be advertised within the next week or two. Once that person is hired, however long that takes, 30 to 60 days, the office will be up and running.” Steinberg spoke directly to Clark’s mother, saying, “I’m honored to know you and your family. In Stephon’s case, it would have been different.”

He explained that an independent investigation would have reported to the public alongside the police and internal investigations.

Secondly, the mayor insisted that the city must “narrow the scope” of police duties.

One way the Mayor expects to do this is by shifting funding to community response that will replace armed police in situations that would benefit more from the presence of social workers.

He voiced his disagreement with the now common term “defund the police” as well.

The Sacramento Police Department’s 2020-21 budget as of now is $157 million, the highest it has ever been.

Lastly, Steinberg wants to expand the core responsibility of the city of Sacramento.

The city has a responsibility to its neighborhoods and community, one that will provide assistance and “inclusive economic development” the mayor said.

The Sacramento Mayor took most of this hour-long talk addressing these “three pillars”, leaving many of the 244 viewers with numerous questions.

It is prior to introducing these pillars that Steinberg’s focus was on racial justice reform.

As he went into depth with each of these concepts, however, justice in legislation and practice in Sacramento became more of a general talking point, with race brought in only to stoke the conversation.

Mayor Steinberg started as he should have ended when he said, “I believe very strongly and have articulated consistently that systemic racism is not some myth. It is real, and it is profound.”

Georgetown Law Professor Robin Lenhardt speaks at the next Racial Justice Speaker Series on Oct. 21 from 12:15-1:15 p.m.


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