Transparency, Accountability and Healing

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.

School board says McClatchy High students’ racist video is unacceptable. Others say ‘here we are again’

Allegra Taylor of Sacramento ACT, an advocacy group, said at the meeting that there’s a double-standard – she thinks if black McClatchy students had posted an offensive video online, they would have already been suspended or expelled.

“The same way you quickly penalize, suspend, expel black children is the same way we want to see you quickly deal with these two children of privilege, who felt that they had a right to do what they did,” Taylor told the board. “It was cruel, it was hatred, it was racist, and we want you to do something about it.”

‘ICE out of California’ What happens to ICE detainees currently in the jail remains an open question

Starting July 1, the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department will no longer be in the business of incarcerating undocumented immigrants.

The Board of Supervisors on June 5 voted 3-2 against indefinitely extending a relationship between the federal government and the Sheriff’s Department, a deal that pays $100 per day for each detainee held in a county jail. In its proposal to continue the arrangement, the Sheriff’s Department budgeted for $6.6 million in revenue for 2018-19. With opposing votes from District 1 Supervisor Phil Serna, District 2 Supervisor Patrick Kennedy and District 5 Supervisor Don Nottoli, advocates celebrated the board’s close decision.

“This is something that really speaks to Sacramento values,” said Carlos Montes-Ponce, community organizer with Sacramento Area Congregations Together. Sacramento ACT is one of several organizations pushing back against the presence of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

“They made the right decision,” Montes-Ponce said. “They made the moral decision.”

‘No Estas Solo’: Clergy-Led Protesters Trade Cries with Otay Mesa Detainees

‘No Estas Solo’: Clergy-Led Protesters Trade Cries with Otay Mesa Detainees

San Diego religious leaders Saturday marched to the Otay Mesa detention center and called out to immigrants inside “No estas solo” (“You are not alone”) and heard male and female voices cheer from behind the walls.

Hours after thousands in downtown San Diego protested Trump administration “zero-tolerance” polices on immigration, hundreds followed priests, rabbis, Buddhist nuns and other clergy to the Otay Mesa Detention center.

Sacramento faith leaders traveling to border to demand change

As the current issue at the border continues, a group of faith leaders from Sacramento are heading there to demand change.

"This is a pivotal moment in history," said Mary Westfall, a Reverend Doctor.

Westfall will be traveling with a couple dozen other people with SAC ACT (Sacramento Area Congregations Together) to the border Friday.

"Children and families from wherever they come deserve basic human rights and we are going to be very clear that this has to stop," Westfall said.

SAC ACT is multi-racial, multi-faith organization that works to create justice and equality.

"We will ground our experience in worship. We will have vigil and prayer service. People will be trained so that our message will meaningful and nonviolent, but a very clear message that our current policy towards immigration is inadequate and erroneous," Westfall said, when asked what they plan to do at the border.

Westfall said the plan is to connect with people and fight for change and justice at the border.

"To really bring moral courage to this moment and to really speak up for those with no voice, which is in most of our traditions the invitation and command to care for the vulnerable as God does," Westfall emphasized.

The group will leave Friday morning and they plan to spend the night in people's homes and churches on the border between Mexico and San Diego.

Activists begin 8 days of protest, seek accountability for Stephon Clark, Brandon Smith

Nearly three months after Stephon Clark was shot and killed by two Sacramento police officers, the African American community is making a new push to keep the discussion of police use-of-force at the forefront. 

Local activists and community members began eight days of protests and civil disobedience Tuesday to demand police accountability in the deaths of Clark and Brandon Smith, who died in police custody June 6, according to a news release.

The eight days are meant to symbolize the eight times Clark was shot, said Ryan McClinton, community organizer for Sacramento Area Congregations Together, an advocacy group.

'This is a big win for us.' Cancellation of Sacramento ICE contract part of a national push

'This is a big win for us.' Cancellation of Sacramento ICE contract part of a national push

A vote by Sacramento County supervisors this week to end a contract allowing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to rent local jail beds is being celebrated by immigration activists as a major win and a model for national action.

"There is no dignity in either exploiting or being exploited," said Carlos Montes-Ponce, who led the local effort on the contract for Sacramento ACT. "This is a big win for us."

Dogged by Stephon Clark Shooting, Sacramento DA Faces a Tough Run

Republican Anne Schubert has been plagued by police accountability questions.


The race for district attorney in Sacramento, California, where city police fatally shot an unarmed, 22-year-old black man named Stephon Clark last month, is shaping up as a referendum on police accountability and mass incarceration.

Incumbent DA Anne Schubert, a Republican in a city and county dominated by Democrats, has come under harsh scrutiny from local and national groups, media organizations, and her Democratic rival for her tough-on-crime positions and financial ties to police organizations.

The Intercept last Wednesday ran a report detailing more than $400,000 Schubert has received from local and state police groups over the years—an amount that constitutes nearly a third of her overall campaign donations, according to the article.

Schubert was already taking heat, at least in liberal circles, for having declined to file charges against a single officer, despite more than 20 officer-involved shootings and 13 deaths in law enforcement custody in her jurisdiction in 2015 (when Schubert took office) and 2016, according to the Sacramento News & Review. She “has prosecuted more activists for civil disobedience than she has officers involved in misconduct,” the weekly paper wrote.

The more recent donations, say local reform groups and Schubert’s challenger, Assistant DA Noah Phillips, could influence Schubert’s decisions related to the Clark shooting, which is still under police investigation. Now those groups are publicly speculating that Schubert’s reluctance to prosecute in dozens of earlier police-related deaths may have been swayed by the law enforcement cash her various campaigns—one for superior court judge, one for DA, and then her current reelection effort—have collected going back to 2009.

Schubert took money from local police unions as recently as earlier this month, according to the Intercept report. She also accepted donations from police unions in the week after Clark’s death, according to campaign finance records. She has yet to announce her prosecutorial intentions related to more than a dozen other police shootings and in-custody deaths in 2017 and 2018.

Incumbent district attorneys are facing unusual scrutiny this election season as progressive groups push to replace old-school DAs across the country with reform-minded candidates. Few incumbents are under more pressure than Schubert. The police donations just after Clark’s death drew headlines from local and national media outlets, and the Phillips campaign has capitalized on the controversy, unveiling a new TV ad suggesting that Schubert cannot be an impartial arbiter in the Clark case. Groups including the local Black Lives Matter chapter, the Anti-Police Terror Project, and Real Justice PAC—a national group that is backing Phillips and working to educate voters on the issues—are also claiming Schubert is beholden to the police.

It is not uncommon, actually, for district attorneys to accept campaign donations from police groups. But those who do run the risk of bad optics, experts say. Police reform groups, not surprisingly, consider such donations a conflict of interest.

Local groups are stepping up their organizing as the June 5 election nears. Sacramento Area Congregations Together, a coalition of some 50 faith groups, schools, and others organizing around the race, is canvassing neighborhoods every weekend until Election Day. The nonpartisan coalition advocates criminal justice reform—volunteers aim to educate voters about the powers and critical role of the district attorney.

Other groups are taking a partisan approach: Black Lives Matter Sacramento is circulating contact information for Democratic politicians who have endorsed Schubert, and the group is encouraging people to call and pressure the pols to rescind their endorsements. Real Justice PAC has done likewise, and is calling on local Dems to endorse Phillips instead—RJP also has donated at least $13,000 to the Phillips campaign and is helping it recruit volunteers.

Reformers are also targeting Schubert over her positions on state ballot initiatives that affect California’s jail and prison populations. She was an ardent opponent of a 2014 initiative that aimed to alleviate unconstitutionalovercrowding by reclassifying some felonies as misdemeanors and allowing people convicted of those crimes to apply for reduced sentences. She suedGov. Jerry Brown in 2016, hoping to block an initiative that increased early-release opportunities for nonviolent offenders and ended prosecutors’ unilateral discretion in deciding when juvenile defendants should be charged as adults. She also adamantly opposed a failed 2016 measure that would have ended the death penalty in California, instead penning an op-ed in support of a successful measure to speed up the execution process. Schubert also fought against  Prop. 64, the ballot initiative that legalized the recreational use and sale of marijuana. 

Now Schubert is supporting a campaign for a measure that would roll back some of the reforms put in place by earlier initiatives: The so-called Reducing Crime and Keeping California Safe Act of 2018 would elevate certain misdemeanor offenses to felonies and make it harder for some offenders to seek parole or early release.

Schubert, whose campaign declined an interview request for this story, has maintained that she has always “follow[ed] the facts” in her decisions and that the donations from police groups have not influenced her choices. Her positions on past ballot measures, she has said, were in keeping with the best interest of crime victims and the public, and she has added that despite ongoing protests outside her office demanding charges against officers in the Clark case, she cannot make any decisions until the police department has completed its investigation. The demonstrators have been so persistent that Schubert recently erected a metal fence around her building to thwart them.

Phillips, Schubert’s rival, is running on a platform that includes bail reform and greater transparency around the office’s handling of police shootings—he argues that Schubert could have dealt with the case differently, in part by immediately laying out for the public her process for such a case. (She only did so in a press conference a full month after Clark’s death.) 

Phillips showed up at several rallies for Clark in the weeks after the shooting as well as city council meetings and other forums where the incident was being discussed “to hear what concerns are being raised” and to campaign. “People have to understand that their leaders are willing to lead them, find solutions, and move forward,” he explains. “If you are absent, no one will trust you, no one will have faith in the system, and no one will believe you when you give them information.”

If she loses, Schubert wouldn’t be the first district attorney to go down over a police shooting.

The vast majority of the establishment Democrats have already endorsed Schubert—and so far, none has succumbed to the reformers’ pressure tactics. (The Phillips campaign chalks up its endorsement deficit in part to the fact that Phillips didn’t start campaigning until January, more than two months after Schubert announced her bid.) There is no independent polling in the race. In an internal poll commissioned by the Phillips campaign, voters overwhelmingly chose Schubert, but after they were read “brief and balanced” statements describing the candidates and their positions, Phillips pulled to an 11 point lead. The Schubert campaign would not share any internal polling results.

If she loses, Schubert wouldn’t be the first district attorney to go down over a police shooting. Cleveland’s former top prosecutor Tim McGinty, who declined to press charges in the 2014 death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and Anita Alvarez, who faced calls for her resignation over her botched handling of the Laquan McDonald case in the Chicago area, were both defeated in 2016, as was Angela Corey, the former Florida prosecutor who failed to convict Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman. Reform DA candidates beat incumbents in several more races in 2016 and last year.

Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones faces a similar type of electoral challenge. In January, the editorial board of the Sacramento Bee published an op-ed calling for someone to run against Jones, a Republican and a staunch Trump supporter who was unopposed in his previous reelection bid. The paper cited lawsuits over alleged abuse by Jones’ deputies that have cost the county millions, and personal attacks the sheriff made last year against the founder of BLM Sacramento. Jones has also taken heat for his office’s contract with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to house detainees in a county jail.

Jones, who donated to Schubert’s first campaign for district attorney, will now be facing Milo Fitch, a former deputy chief at the Sheriff’s Department who is running on a platform that includes support for bail reform and increased educational and jobs programmings for county jail inmates. Many of the groups organizing around the DA race say they plan to get involved in the sheriff’s race as well. They are hoping public outrage over the Clark shooting will prove pivotal in getting people to the polls. “Stephon Clark creates a sense of urgency for folks in Sacramento to say enough is enough,” says Gabby Trejo, an organizer with Sacramento ACT. “Folks are ready for change.”