By Crescenzo Vellucci
Vanguard Sacramento Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO – The Sacramento Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild announced Tuesday morning that it is filing a citizen complaint on “behalf of the citizens of Sacramento” over the violent “battering” of a protestor in downtown Sacramento Friday by a Sacramento police officer during police brutality demonstrations.
At a news conference in front of city hall, the NLG – which monitors police activity in Sacramento and most of the rest of the U.S. – said the group “witnessed and recorded Officer Smith, Badge #338, attack a protestor, throwing them against a wall and then violently slapped her phone out of her hand and broke the screen on the victim’s phone.”
The NLG said it is probing other abuses by law enforcement this past weekend. In this case, it is requesting an immediate investigation in its
filing with SPD Internal Affairs and the Sacramento Community Police Review Commission. It’s also asking for the immediate suspension of the officer.
NLG Sacramento President Elizabeth Kim observed the altercation, and spoke Tuesday, noting “The use of unnecessary and excessive force during a public demonstration against police brutality and police accountability adds insult to injury and is a clear example of why people are demonstrating in the streets in the first place – because of bad police officers, and officers that tolerate the actions of bad officers.”
“We are investigating complaints about law enforcement’s mistreatment of those demonstrating. Today, we are announcing our initial complaint of an incident Friday. There are others, and we will be announcing those in due course,” she said.
She identified a myriad of law enforcement agencies, including those from not just Sacramento police and County Sheriff, but personnel from San Joaquin County, Lathrop Police, Sheriff, California Highway Patrol, rangers from Fish and Game, CDCR, and “un-identified officers in military gear carrying what appeared to be live ammunition.”
Kim said officers “threatened to shoot anyone who walked up to them to ask for their badge numbers. The majority of the officers were wearing full riot gear or military attire, and carrying a range of weapons such as tear gas canisters, rubber bullet guns, pepper spray, batons, live ammo rifles, and zip ties. They were not displaying their badge numbers or names as the law requires, and all of them refused to give their badge numbers when asked.”
In the case that resulted in the complaint, Kim said she “witnessed an officer, badge #338, violently push a young woman to the ground, causing her to hit the wall and collapse to the ground, for walking alongside him. When she got back up and attempted to film his face and ask for his badge number, he slapped the phone out of her hand, causing it to hit the ground and crack her phone. Other officers nearby saw this and did nothing to intervene.”
The official NLG complaint lists 11 specific allegations, including force, battery, criminal conduct, prohibited conduct, harassment, improper search and seizure, improper tactics, false arrest, conduct unbecoming of an employee and discourtesy.
The complaint said that “Officer Smith, #338, violated SPD’s Use of Force Policy when he used excessive force against a person that was not detained, under arrest, attempting to escape, or resisting in any way. Officer Smith did not stop to ascertain the medical needs of the woman he assaulted unjustifiably, but instead again battered her by slapping her phone out of her hand.
“Officer Smith, #338, twice battered a young woman who was not subject to arrest or detention in violation to SPD’s policy on prohibited use of force (and) slapped the young woman’s phone out of her hand, damaging the phone, for the sole purpose of preventing the exercise of her First Amendment rights when a legitimate law enforcement purpose did not exist in violation of SPD’s policy on prohibited use of force (and) attempted to punish and/or retaliate against the young woman for participating in a demonstration that calls for police accountability for police brutality, and he responded with police brutality.”
The complaint requests that SPD “immediately suspend Officer Smith, #338, from any and all contact in his official capacity with the public. Officer Smith has shown he does not have the integrity, discipline, or emotional intelligence to interact in a professional and courteous manner with the public.
“We are also requesting the immediate suspension of the unknown officer described in this complaint because he did not come to the aid and support of the victim when he witnessed Officer Smith twice commit a battery against (and) did not report Officer Smith’s use of force.”
Kim was also told by police to get in front of the police line, and when she stated she was not a participant, they said, “Yea you are, you are a legal observer right? You’re one of them.”
“It is very concerning that Sacramento Police are referring to official National Lawyers Guild legal observers as participants, which demonstrates that they deem our observations of their actions and violations of constitutional rights as a problem. We are neither breaking the law, participating with demonstrators, or posing a public safety risk. We are merely observing, which we have a right to do,” she added, noting that law enforcement “our observing their behavior is a problem to them. They also lump working news reporters as a problem.”
Kim charged that law enforcement “repeatedly broke laws themselves, by assaulting, battering protestors physically, vandalizing phones used to record their identity and behavior, and illegally threaten(ing) to shoot legal observers and anyone asking for badge numbers.”
The NLG president put much of the blame on city and county officials, who she said, “have failed the community as leaders by issuing violence-inciting statements that embolden police misconduct and increase danger to human lives, speculating damage to property and buildings.”
She said the NLG is “asking city and county officials to stop their acts of abuse and violence against peaceful protestors, and comply with the international decree and numerous court orders recognizing legal observers as non-participants and to immediately cease all acts of threat, intimidation, excessive force and abuse against legal observers and honor the rights of civil rights activists to peaceably assemble under the First Amendment.”
“We ask city and county leaders to take constructive steps to repair their relationship with their constituents instead of continuing to divide and incite violence with inflammatory statements against members of the civil rights movement,” Kim said.
To sign up for our new newsletter – Everyday Injustice – https://tinyurl.com/yyultcf9