SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The controversial chase in the shooting death of Stephon Clark is now paving the way for new policies for the Sacramento Police Department.
On Monday, Sacramento police announced a new foot pursuit policy – the first major policy change since the shooting back in March.
The policy has been in place since July 26.
“It’s not a modest change, it’s a significant change and I believe it will save lives in the long run,” said Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
Police Chief Daniel Hahn says the policy was created by their Use of Force committee, comprised of both community members and police officers. He says the committee did extensive research and used several model policies from around the country for guidance.
The short foot pursuit by two Sacramento police officers that led to the 22-year-old Clark being killed in his grandmother’s backyard is what’s inspiring this change.
“It gives direction on what officers should be thinking about when they’re initiating or terminating or continuing a foot pursuit,” Chief Hahn said.
“And that includes ‘what is the person they’re chasing wanted for? Did they run a stop sign, or are they wanted for murder?'”
Chief Hahn says officers now have to consider a number of safety factors, for their own protection and for the protection of the public, when deciding to chase suspects by foot -from the availability of backup, to how dark or unknown the area is.
He says officers must activate their bodycams and must identify themselves as officers.
“That doesn’t mean we just let people go, that might mean that they stop chasing, set up a perimeter, see if a helicopter is available,” said Chief Hahn.
The department has never had a foot pursuit policy, as they are considered rare among police agencies. But the policy, according to Chief Hahn, is similar to their vehicle pursuit policy that’s been in place for 15-20 years.
When asked if it guarantees that another confrontation like the Clark case would never happen again, Chief Hahn said: “There are no guarantees in life or in law-enforcement, but I believe wholeheartedly that is why we implemented this policy, that it will keep all of us safer.”
He adds that this policy is not suggesting that the officers in the Clark case did something wrong.
“No, this is just us saying as an organization that we can always be better,” said Chief Hahn.
“I’m pleased and I hope the community sees it that way, not as the end all and be all, but as a significant step towards the reform people have called for,” said Mayor Steinberg.
But after weeks of protest following the tragic shooting, some say it’s not enough.
“There’s no punishment in the policy if they violate it, so I don’t know if change has actually happened,” said Black Lives Matter Founder Tanya Faison.
Faison says the policy doesn’t outline specific penalties if officers violate the new rules.
But Chief Hahn says that’s not accurate; he says there absolutely is accountability.
“Again, this is for all of us, and we’re not gonna have a policy that people don’t pay attention to, that’s why we have the review process that we do,” he said.
Hahn adds that with body camera and radio recordings, everything an officer does now is on camera and serves as a great training tool. He says that supervisors will be sure the policy is implemented and that an officer’s review process holds them accountable.
Hahn says it’s about building trust in the community and he believes that the trust can be re-built.
Meanwhile, the Sacramento community police review commission delayed their support of the policy until they have more public input.