By Catherine Pentoney
SACRAMENTO – The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department announced this week through their Facebook account that, effective Feb. 15, 2021, the “specialized units of Gangs, Homeless Outreach, and North Problem Oriented Policing (POP) will be equipped with body worn cameras.”
Maybe a case of a little too late for victims of police violence, who often cite lack of body-worn cameras in their complaints against the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department.
Most recently, following the shooting death of Kershawn Geyger by undercover officers from the Sheriff’s Department’s Gang Suppression Unit on Jan. 15, 2021, Geyger’s friends and family were left with only grief and unanswered questions.
Geyger was shot and killed on Jan. 15 during an undocumented interaction with members of the Sacramento Sheriff Department’s “Gang Suppression Unit.”
Geyger was but 25 years old at the time of his death. He was shot and killed outside of the Crestview North Apartments where he had just dropped off his two-year old daughter and his daughter’s mother.
There was no body cam footage and no dash cam footage.
The Sheriff’s Dept. does have dash cameras in patrol vehicles, but in addition to not having body cameras, there are no dash cameras in undercover vehicles, like those of the “Gang Suppression Unit” that pulled up on and ended up killing Geyger.
Tanya Faison of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, along with family and friends of Kershawn Geyger, held a press conference outside of the Sacramento County Jail on I Street just a few weeks ago.
She delivered demands to the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department on behalf of Geyger’s family and the Sacramento community.
During the press conference, Faison stated that “the fact that this law enforcement agency has killed so many people in Sacramento is exactly the reason why our Sheriff needs to be moving with urgency.”
She asked that the Sheriff’s Department begin using body cameras immediately, stating that “this is something that they know should have already been in place.”
Faison stated the Geyger family has not received any response from the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department about their son’s death.
On Jan. 21, this year, the Sheriff’s Department released a concerningly prejudicial 13-minute 29-second video on YouTube containing staged narration and re-enactments of the incidents of Jan. 15 which resulted in the death of Kershawn Geyger and the non-fatal shooting of an officer.
In response to the video released by the Sheriff’s Department, Faison stated: “We demand that the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department stop using propaganda through media to validate their narrative and influence the community’s perspective without providing any proof of facts. Part of this action would be to immediately detach the video of a separate incident where there is absolutely no proof of Geyger’s involvement.
“This video can impact Geyger’s brother’s current and future court proceedings by creating bias based on non-factual information,” added Faison, who demanded that future video and audio releases not be accompanied by a narrator.
Faison also pointed to the racism and profiling inherent in Law Enforcement Gang Units.
“Since the gang units in any agency are sent out to racially profile Black and Brown folks in our community, while ignoring White gangs and hate groups that terrorize communities of color, we demand that the County of Sacramento and the Sheriff’s Department abolish the Gang Unit—or the ‘Gang Suppression Unit’—by divesting from it and re-investing those funds in the communities that are over-policed by these units.
“Work with the root of the problem fixes the problem… (but) sending police to terrorize Black and Brown people, then institutionalizing them, does not resolve anything, and has shown only to create an atmosphere where folks continue to re-visit the cycle,” she added.
Sergeant Rodney Grassmann told the Sacramento Bee that the detective and sergeant involved in the death of Geyger “were conducting surveillance that night in unmarked vehicles” and that “those vehicles are used in undercover assignments, and there are no dashboard cameras.”
As such, there is no publicly known video footage of the interaction between Geyger and the undercover officers on the night of his death.
The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors approved funding for body worn cameras in September of 2020. At that time, Sheriff Scott Jones told ABC10 News that he “wanted to have them fully implemented for all his officers within six months.”
The Sheriff’s Department has blamed the Covid-19 pandemic for the fact that the Sheriff’s Department still had yet to implement use of body cameras by the start of 2021.
Catherine Pentoney is a 3L at Lincoln Law in Sacramento and works in the Vanguard Sacramento Bureau.
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