SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The head of a year-old Sacramento Community Police Commission has stepped down from his position.
Pastor Les Simmons made the announcement this morning, saying the commission he’d be in favor of needs more authority and power to create change.
“What’s relevant now is a commission that has more power,” said Simmons.
His decision to abandon his appointed post didn’t happen overnight.
“It’s worth backing off from a place of feeling like you accomplished something just because you were on a seat or a chair,” said Simmons.
There was a defining moment that led to the news conference this morning in front of Simmons’ church. The shooting death of Joseph Mann.
“There is people’s lives at stake. This hurts. There is pains,” said Simmons. “It allowed me and probably a lot of other people to see just what commission is needed for this moment.”
Currently, the commission serves solely as an advisory board. Simmons and several community groups are calling for more transparency and power. The groups are pushing for a commission that is:
– 100% civilian led
– Can review policy and procedures, budget and data
– Right to subpoena and conduct investigations
– Host mediation
“We’re trying to thread a needle here,” said Larry Carr, a Sacramento City Council Member, “and it’s a very small needle hole.”
Carr says they’re walking a fine line in police and community relations.
“We want our citizens to be comfortable with the people who are serving and protecting them,” said Carr.
On the other hand, they don’t want too much oversight to hamper difficult and dangerous police work.
“We don’t want them out there hesitating thinking the city council or commissioner is looking over their shoulder,” explained Carr.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Tim Davis with the Sacramento Police Officers Association about Les Simmons departure.
He also serves on the current commission.
“We haven’t finished our duty,” said Davis, “we haven’t finished our mission.”
He says policies and recommendations for better policing are coming together or are already in place.
“We have oversight that looks over events and specific incidents and a commission that looks at overall policies,” said Davis.
The city’s Office of Public Safety and Accountability is in charge of handling complaints about specific incidents. According to the Office’s Director, Francine Tournour, the investigations are handled by internal affairs.
She then looks at the thoroughness and fairness of the investigation. Tournour also says her department does not have the ability to call a police officer to make a statement, which is something, Simmons, Carr and others are calling for.
Carr says he’ll be working with community groups and invested parties to draft a police commission guidelines and plans to present the draft to council in the coming months.
Tournour added that more layers of transparency and accountability “couldn’t hurt.”