By Jose Medina
SACRAMENTO, CA – In the aftermath of the former cop Derek Chauvin guilty verdict for murdering George Floyd on a Minneapolis street, the country has found itself in discussions on justice, accountability, and systemic racism.
Sacramento is no stranger to these topics.
In light of the recent verdict and in honor of National Victims’ Rights Awareness Week, California Coalition Leader for Abolish Slavery National Network Jamilia Land hosted a conversation between Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn and various family members who lost loved ones to police brutality.
Two of the attendees were Roxanne and Marissa Morales, the mother and sister of Augustine Morales who was killed by Sac PD in November of 2020. When asked about how she felt about the Chauvin verdict, Marissa Morales responded, “I was happy but at the same time I sat back and thought ‘but this doesn’t solve the problem.’”
She noted the Chauvin trial dealt with one police brutality case out of many across the country. Morales stated that “it’s upsetting to know that there are still thousands of cases out there and police officers that have not been held accountable.”
She believes that one of the main reasons Chauvin was held accountable was because of the publicity and pointed out that other victims do not have access to as much publicity and that “justice should be served for everybody regardless if the media is publicizing it or not.”
Morales emphasized that there are so many families out there that are waiting for the day to come where they can hold police officers accountable for the deaths of their loved ones.
Land then asked Morales what her plans are in pursuing criminal justice reform.
Morales stated that her family is fighting for impacted families by campaigning on the message that police killings violate the victim’s Constitutional rights. She added that it does not matter what the victim was up to or if they were a suspect, arguing, “I don’t care if they are a thug; they have a right.”
The Morales family started to get teary eyed as they remembered Augustine, maintaining “they took away our hero, my brother, and our protector.” Morales vowed to fight for Augustine and other impacted families across the nation.
Land then asked Morales about her family’s unique relationship with Chief Hahn.
Morales responded by stating that it is not a direct relationship since it is one that is through Land: “I’ve never really had a direct conversation with Chief Hahn so I’m not sure how to answer that per se.”
However, towards the end of the conversation Morales was given the chance to ask Chief Hahn a question on accountability. She inquired, “Since you oversee the officer that shot my brother, what kind of accountability have you done to hold the officer accountable for his actions, if any?”
Chief Hahn responded that “any use of force gets reviewed by us as a department and also through the legal system to see if there are criminal charges to come so that’s the whole accountability process through us.”
Morales then took the opportunity to ask Hahn to view the death of her brother the same way the police department views the death of Officer Tara O’Sullivan, adding that they both have loved ones that miss them very much. She added that “when they see the death of my brother on TV it should break their heart, too.”
Hahn agreed with Morales and expressed appreciation of her message. Land then opened the conversation to questions from viewers.
Dissatisfied with Hahn’s response to Morales’s question on the police department’s accountability, a representative from Black Zebra Press pointed out that the Sacramento community is “not seeing true accountability, we’re not seeing an accountability that stops the problem and stops people from being shot by police.”
She noted that Sac PD’s accountability process that Hahn mentioned earlier has come up short in providing justice for impacted families in Sacramento.
She then pressed Hahn on what accountability looks like to him.
Hahn responded that the systems and laws that are put in place hold people accountable, iterating that “organizations like the District Attorney’s and our Professional Standards Unit that compares actions to what the policies and laws are, and that’s what people are held accountable to.”
He added that “we have a research and development group division that constantly looks at policy, equipment, training and those sort of things and so we will continue to move in that direction.”
In light of the Chauvin verdict, Sacramento will continue the conversation on justice for impacted families and police accountability for weeks to come, he said.
In the midst of these discussions, it will be important to keep in mind that justice for impacted families “would have been their family members not being buried” in the first place, said the Black Zebra rep.
Jose graduated from UC Davis with a BA in Political Science and has interned for the California State Legislature. He is from Rocklin, CA.
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