Civil Rights Attorneys, Social Justice Organizations Respond to Findings from Sacramento Police Dept Audit, Calling SPD ‘Wrong’


Kellan Patterson, civil rights attorney (left) and criminal defense attorney Keith Staten (right) responding to an audit which found racially discriminatory practices and misconduct of Sacramento Police Department on Tuesday, June 28, 2023. (Photo by Robert J. Hansen)

By Robert J. Hansen

SACRAMENTO, CA – Attorneys and social justice organizations, including the Sacramento Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and All Of Us Or None, said at a news conference here Wednesday outside City Hall they agreed with an audit that found Fourth Amendment violations with racially discriminatory practices and misconduct in the Sacramento Police Department.

“Law enforcement here in Sacramento has been, let’s just say, doing things wrong,” Keith Staten, criminal defense attorney charged, adding “Law enforcement should not ignore the importance of protecting our rights. It is their duty to respect them.”

The audit found the largest proportion of completed misconduct complaint cases with sustainable Fourth Amendment violations arose from improper searches and seizures related to unlawful detention during traffic stops.

“To promote law and order, there is an interesting balance that has to be done but that is not the way to do it,” said Kellan Patterson, a civil rights attorney.

Findings include an overwhelming number of incidents of racial profiling during traffic stops, warrantless and unconstitutional searches and seizures, and handcuffing of a 10-year-old girl, without any basis for detention or arrest.

The response to these findings from Police Chief Kathy Lester did not offer any legal explanation for these findings, other than that “there is room for improvement” within the department.

“I think there’s bias throughout the community. Certainly, if it occurs in the community it’s going to occur within the department,” Lester said at last week’s meeting.

To improve the narrative in police-community relations, especially in pre-dominant black communities, the Sacramento Police Department must respect and value Fourth Amendment rights, according to Patterson.

“This is especially true in communities that historically had their rights against unreasonable searches and seizures dismissed by law enforcement as a display of unbridled authority over their bodies, space, and time. Law and order simply cannot be obtained at the expense of violating constitutional rights.”

Henry Ortiz, All Of Us Or None, stated racially charged traffic stops and illegal searches and seizures are indicative of the “slave-catcher origins of law enforcement” and must not be allowed to continue.

“Policing comes from an oppressive history. Their legacy has been about enslavement and slave catcher tactics, especially in our African American communities,” Ortiz said. “These systems of enslavement are fueling these high numbers of incarceration.

There have been 11 lawsuits against SPD dating back to 2016 which have cost taxpayers nearly $10 million, according to the Mark Merin Law Firm.

One of these lawsuits came from the two police officers who shot and killed unarmed Stephon Clark on March 18, 2018, while he hid in his grandmother’s backyard. The resulting lawsuit was partially settled for $2.4 million.

Another incident on March 6, 2017, cost the city $5.2 million after three police officers chased an unarmed man who had been allegedly loitering in front of a convenience store into a hospital where he was then tased, beaten, and pinned to the ground until he asphyxiated to the point of coma, according to the lawsuit.

Staten said though these violations of Constitutional rights are serious, any civil lawsuit would likely not award any damages or even bring about any change within the police department.

“I don’t know if we can sue from anything we saw in the audit,” Staten said. “The change is going to come from what we do in the voting booth.”

Staten said what citizens can do if they are pulled over is to exercise their rights by asking if they are being detained and, if they are, by telling police that they cannot answer any of the officer’s questions without an attorney.

In a statement released by Organized Voices founder Elizabeth Kim, she noted “civil rights attorneys emphasize the long list of cases against the city and county over the years continues to grow without improvement, which indicates that the problems remain in failed leadership.”


About The Author

Robert J Hansen is an investigative journalist and economist. Robert is covering the Yolo County DA's race for the Vanguard.

Related posts

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
Sign up for