By Rachel Wulff

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – As thousands rally for social, economic and political change in black communities this Juneteenth, police leaders say they are listening.

A celebration of the ending of slavery in the United States more than 150 years ago, Juneteenth is being recognized nationwide, including places like Cesar Chavez Park in Downtown Sacramento, where the idea is to spark interest in what’s become a movement.

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Kindra Montgomery-Block helped organize the event in Sacramento and said, “we want to have community conversation around investing in community practices, healthy policing practices that bring about change in vulnerable communities.”

Organizers say the event is a chance to reflect on the history of over-policing since slavery and reorganize amidst recent social upheaval over the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis in May. Law enforcement says it is a clarion call to action.

“And requires us as law enforcement not to just acknowledge it, not just as a singular event but as the latest example of a historical pattern of misuse of justice and larger issues of inequity in our country,” said Chief Jeremy Bowers with the Piedmont Police Department.

Sixteen African American police chiefs, including Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, addressed these issues at the state Capitol.

“We standing here before you today are proof we have come a long way since 1865 and unrest in our country is proof we have a long way to go,” Chief Hahn said.

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Chief Hahn says the time is right for police reform.

“It is imperative that we collectively address these issues of race and difference if we are to ever have communities where everyone feels valued. We cannot erase the impact of over 400 years of history overnight or with the stroke of a pen,” said Hahn.

Hahn said police departments and communities can overcome challenges together and improve public safety by making changes to police policy, procedures and training when it comes to use of force, race and bias.

“We need to acknowledge our obligation to take action where we fall short,” Chief Bowers said.

Law enforcement leaders said their goal is to improve transparency, show how departments are being transformed and how officers are being held accountable. They say defunding police departments is not the answer, instead, it will take a reallocation of resources to propel areas like homelessness and mental health.

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“I don’t care where the money comes from to be able to create healthy black communities,” Montgomery-Block said.