Police departments across the nation have long been under scrutiny for officer-involved shootings, particularly of unarmed African Americans, and law enforcement officers in Sacramento, Calif., are no exception.
In addition to Stephon Clark, at least 16 people have been killed in encounters with Sacramento-area law enforcement officers since 2016, according to the Sacramento Bee.
It was the shooting of Joseph Mann in July 2016 that became a turning point for the Sacrament Police Department. Mann was fatally shot 14 times by officers, and dashcam video showed a police car trying to run him over. After that incident, advocates lobbied Sacramento’s City Council for changes that led to all officers being required to wear body cameras. The department also must release video in officer-involved shootings within 30 days in most circumstances.
“We made some progress, but obviously and clearly it’s not enough,” says Richard Owen, co-chair of the Law Enforcement Accountability Directive. “We need a change in the use-of-force policy. That’s the first thing that needs to change because that’s what will keep someone alive.”
Federal and state laws allow an officer to shoot at someone if in fear of his or her life. It’s one of the main reasons that officers are rarely prosecuted in shooting deaths.
While the battle for reforming Sacramento’s Police Department is a work in progress, Clark’s case highlights that there’s still a long way to go.
“Racism isn’t our problem. We didn’t start it,” Tanya Faison, founder of the Black Lives Matter Sacramento chapter, says in the above video. “So we’re not going to be able to end it. It’s going to take everybody. So get involved however you can.”