Sacramento City Police Audit Finds Possible Constitutional Violations, Racial Bias

Via Picserver

By The Vanguard Staff

SACRAMENTO, CA – An audit by a Sacramento city task force found in a long and often difficult-to-read, 190-page report provided this week by the city’s Office of Public Safety Accountability the Sacramento Police Dept. violates the Fourth Amendment and acts with racial bias, according to the Sacramento Bee.

And Tuesday night, at the Sacramento City Council meeting, the city’s Inspector General Dwight White and OPSA director LaTesha Watson showed a body camera footage where, according to news reports, white male officers yell into a house “we’re gonna kick the door down,” and then handcuff a 10-year-old Black girl in pajamas, crying, “I’m a baby…I’m scared, I’m scared, mommy.”

The Sacramento Bee reported, after less than a minute, the officer removes the handcuffs, but White said, “’She should’ve never been handcuffed in the first place…That will do lifelong trauma … A racial component did obviously play a role there. If this girl was a different race, she would not have likely been handcuffed by these officers.’”

In fact, the Sacramento Bee reported 19 drivers stopped by SPD officers during a “two-year span for tinted windows were either Black or Latino,” according to the city task force’s new audit. 

In the majority of the 19 window stops included in the report between June 2020 and June 2022, the “officer did not ask about the window tint — though the report did not give a specific number. The audit contends the stops appeared to be a ‘pretext to initiate an unrelated investigation,’” said the Bee.

“These interactions are intense and can become needlessly adversarial,” the report said. “Officers question drivers stopped for window-tint violations about their criminal history, specifically asking if the individual has ever been in jail, arrested, or whether they are on probation or parole even though the citizens were only being stopped for minor traffic violations.” 

During the two-year period, the department issued 445 citations for illegal window tint, said Police Chief Kathy Lester. 

But the Bee noted, in one example, the report said “an officer pulled over a Latino female driver for tinted windows and asked to see her ID, which she went to get from her purse. The officer then ‘quickly snatched’ the purse from her. The driver, still holding on to her purse, struggled to retrieve her purse from the officer,’” the report said.

“After a short struggle over the purse, the officer ultimately arrested the driver for resisting arrest. The officer then searched her purse and her car and found nothing. The woman had never been arrested before and did not have a criminal record. The officer had no legal authority to reach into the driver’s car or search the driver’s purse,” according to the report.

Lester wrote, reported the Bee, “the reason for the stop was legal. SPD determined the search was out of policy.” The report concluded that the department should end pretextual stops or set restrictions, such as those used by the San Francisco Police Department. SPD is currently examining our enforcement protocols including pretext stops and a department-wide effort is underway to support intelligence-based policing.”

The Bee also said the report also found, “Police officers engage in automatic pat-downs of citizens, which is against the 1968 U.S. Supreme Court decision Terry v. Ohio. Gang Enforcement Team officers can be heard on body camera footage saying, ‘I pat everyone down.’ They also patted down someone as a result of a routine traffic violation, which violates the Fourth Amendment.”

The report, noted the Bee, also said, in violation of state and federal law, SPD officers searched or seized cellphones in violation of state and federal laws, and even “forcibly seized” cellphones from bystanders legally recording officers in public.

The Bee wrote, “In one case, an elderly woman was calmly recording officers who were arresting her son. During the detainment, an officer grabbed the woman ‘while another officer twisted her arm until she lost control of the phone,’ then seized it.’” 

The report, said the Bee, also noted officers enter homes without warrants and perform searches without sufficient legal authority, adding, in some cases, “officers broke down doors or physically pushed residents aside to conduct so-called welfare checks.”

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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