Sacramento police officers have a new foot chase policy as of late last month, and it is reportedly in response to the shooting death of Stephon Clark five months ago.
KCRA reports that the new policy requires officers to consider their personal safety, the safety of the public as well as the suspect, and “the importance of making an arrest.”
Additionally, officers who begin a foot chase are required to activate their body cameras immediately and broadcast the reason for the chase as well as a description of the suspect.
The chase can be called off at any time by the pursuing officers or their superior “if the risk of pursuing outweighs the need for apprehension.”
If you recall, the night police said they feared for their lives and shot Stephon Clark for holding a cell phone in his grandmother’s backyard, he was only being pursued for what would have amounted to a misdemeanor vandalism charge. He hadn’t taken anything. He hadn’t threatened anyone. He hadn’t harmed anyone.
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At the time that they shot him, Stephon Clark had no idea it was two Sacramento police officers who were chasing him. A sheriff’s helicopter circling in the air above him guided the police to his location, but not once were any commands given to him from the helicopter.
Instead, police chased him into his grandmother’s backyard. They peeked around a corner, yelled “Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun!” then unloaded 20 shots—ten shots each—seven (or eight, depending on which autopsy report you believe) of which struck and killed him.
Stephon Clark died not knowing who shot him because the police did not identify themselves until five minutes after he was shot and killed. No commands from the helicopter. No identification from police.
Oh, but the new policy covers that as well. Officers are now required to identify themselves as police and issue a command to stop.
KCRA asked Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn if this policy would have changed anything about the night Stephon Clark died.
Hahn told the station, “Well, that I don’t know as we’re not completely done with the entire investigation. But, we get into foot pursuits on a daily basis in this city.”
There were no announced penalties for not obeying the new policy, so it seems like something that will be easily ignored by offices who wish to sidestep it.
Hahn told the Sacramento Bee, “(I)t’s really a policy to give direction and guidance ... around what our officers are supposed to do, what they’re supposed to think about, what they’re supposed to weigh anytime they get into a situation when they’re chasing after a suspect.”
Oh, so it’s just “direction,” “guidance,” and something “to think about” when they get into a pursuit situation.
Identifying yourself as a police officer should be Police Officer 101-level knowledge. It’s hard to understand how that wasn’t already part of police policy.
Again, these officers were chasing after someone accused of breaking windows—not a murder suspect. Understanding when it’s important to continue a chase and when you could safely let it go should also be Police Officer 101-level.
This is a bandaid on a deadly bullet-wound.