by Gabby Trejo, Executive Director, Sacramento ACT
In March 2018, Sacramento police officers shot and killed Stephon Clark, the latest in a string of law enforcement killings of unarmed black men.
This fractured the community and galvanized mass protests, vigils and attendance at City Council meetings all invoking two basic demands: more accountability and transparency at the Sacramento Police Department, Sacramento Sheriff’s Department and the District Attorney’s office.
As the community awaits the findings on the officer involvement in Clark’s death, it is imperative that these demands are met in order to rebuild community trust. Even in the midst of so much pain, grief and anger, the community has worked together at different levels to bring about healing, hope, change and justice.
Organizations began to put their best thinking together to strategize and reimagine a future where black families thrive, where children don’t have to be taught at a young age not to wear hoodies and where mothers don’t fear calling law enforcement when a loved one is going through a mental health crisis.
This tragedy gave birth to coalitions such as Build Black that are committed to proactively invest in restorative transformation for black communities. They focus on uplifting black youth voices, health equity and access, justice and policing in black communities and investment in black neighborhoods and businesses. Build Black brings hope to a community that has suffered multi-generational trauma.
One notable response from Sacramento ACT was the development of Safe Black Space healing circles in collaboration with several partners. This has resulted in 10 healing circles, the training of more than 20 facilitators and a video for county mental health workers on culturally competent, trauma-informed care. Healing circles are expanding to other communities (Latino, Asian Pacific Islander and youth). The circles help participants move from individual pain to a collective pain that calls all of us to talk about healthy communities and community-law enforcement relations.
In addition, H.E.A.T (Hiring, Equipment, Accountability, and Training) was designed to facilitate trust-building conversations among faith leaders, impacted communities and the Sacramento Police Department. One goal of this group has been to identify and implement reforms to improve relationships. The trust building also helped strengthen the momentum in the community to hold Sheriff Scott Jones accountable regarding independent oversight of his department by the Office of the Inspector General. It demonstrated that Sacramentans expect everyone to abide by a simple concept that “no one should be above the law”—not even law enforcement.
Sacramento, as the rest of the nation, is at a moment of truth in relations between law enforcement and impacted communities. Will we choose the status quo? Or will we choose accountability and transparency?
Sacramento ACT is committed to working to ensure that there is accountability and transparency from law enforcement. Only then will we be able to rebuild its trust with the community.