Social Justice: A Santa Cruz Update

The frequency of protests have slowed, but the thirst for change leaves us parched.  After the George Floyd murder, Mayor Cummings and I asked to meet with several community leaders from the black community to talk about what can be done to quench this thirst. Many people gave terrific suggestions that are actionable. It is clear to me they want much more than the noise of a protest, rather the desire for concrete action through policy and law.

SCPD is forward thinking, and careful to police in a manner consistent with the progressive views of this community.  There is more we can and should do to be an example of just and fair policing. Policing that instills confidence. Some ideas will take funding, others just institutional will.

Here are the suggestions to this point:

  1. Promulgate a Karen/Ken’s law prohibiting one from calling the Police when the basis of the call is a person’s color or other constitutionally protected status or activity. Partly done

It has been previously suggested to Netcom, and SCPD wrote a memorandum directing NetCom (Dispatch center) to ensure staff screens for the constitutionally of protected activities and status. A staff report will be written for City Council and the City Attorney to determine the efficacy and enforceability of an ordinance should one be implemented that demands calls be screened for constitutionality. We will also train our staff to recognize calls that potentially violate the constitution and how to handle them.

2. Ban the Cortaid restraint hold. Done

SCPD banned the Cortaid restraint hold on April 3, 2020. Officers were never allowed to kneel on a subject’s neck as a method of restraint. (Policy 300) The choke hold has never been approved or used by SCPD.

3. Ban No-Knock search warrants. Done

No-knock search warrants were banned in SCPD unless there is direct approval from the Chief of Police. No knock searches can only be used under exigent circumstances such as a hostage situation. They will not be used for narcotics warrants.  

4. Limit Dynamic Entry searches. Done

A Deputy Chief must now approve dynamic entries. Other techniques must have been examined for use before approval. A uniformed SCPD officer shall be present and visible at all search warrants to remove any confusion about who is serving the warrant. (

5. Stiffen the language of when an officer can use lethal force in the policy. Done

As a result of the Arlt lawsuit, SCPD agreed to incorporate language into the policy that to use lethal force, the threat to life or serious bodily injury must be “immediate,” rather than “imminent.” The use of force must also be “reasonable and necessary.” Policy

6. Ban SCPD’s ability to acquire military equipment and property through the Federal 10-33 program without first seeking City Council approval through the Public Safety Committee. In progress.

Create a policy that limits the SCPD’s ability to acquire military equipment. There are many types of equipment available, from emergency medical equipment, firefighting apparatus, and weapons. A list of the 10-33 program equipment can be found here.

7. Equip and demand officers use tactical de-escalation. Done and on-going

SCPD began using tactical de-escalation three years ago. Before that, SCPD trained in Critical Incident Training, a form of de-escalation. We also train in ICAT presented by the Police Executive Research Forum. Our goal is to use time, talk, and tactics to prevent the use of lethal force. On multiple occasions, we have been successful in reducing the level of force or avoiding the use of deadly force. Each officer’s vehicle is equipped with less-than-lethal capabilities, and officers are expected to use them.

8. Require officers to give a verbal warning before shooting a weapon at someone. Done

SCPD policy already demands the use of a verbal warning when possible. It is possible in most circumstances. Policy

9. Prohibit the shooting at or from moving vehicles. Done

SCPD policy was recently changed to ensure officers do not shoot at vehicles because it is rarely effective. The exception to the policy is those circumstances where someone uses the vehicle as a weapon of mass destruction. The threat must be immediate. Officers shall make every effort to get out of the way of a vehicle. Policy

10. Develop a continuum or matrix for officers to use concerning the use of force. Underway.

The development of the matrix work is in progress by SCPD use of force experts. Once completed, the use of force matrix will be vetted through attorneys, external use of force experts, and the community.

11. Demand officers intervene with another officer who uses excessive force. Done

SCPD policy demands an officer intervene in obvious instances of excessive force. We welcome your comments to amend or strengthen the policy. Policy

12. Examine hiring practices and adjust policy to hire more people of color and women. On-going.

Several areas of policy have been adjusted to enable the acceptance of more people of color. For example, we have waived the credit score restriction opting to examine the reasons for poor credit. Another area adjusted is accepting people who have selected scaring or branding type tattoos, as it is often associated with the black community.

13. Put a phone number citizens can call to commend or complain about an officer’s actions on a business card, and have officers give the card on all police contacts.

The cost associated with new cards is about $ 12,000 annually. Underway

14. Institute police oversight for all departments in the County, much like SCPD’s independent auditor system. Understudy

Police oversight is currently being discussed among the county municipal chiefs of Police. The independent auditor seems to be the most effective in controlling police behavior. Expert

15. Work with employees and community members to examine the entire internal affairs and discipline process to give more confidence to the public and greater comfort to employees that complaints investigations are thorough, fair and objective. Consider moving the SCPD internal affairs criteria for sustaining an allegation from a standard of clear and convincing to the preponderance of the evidence. A topic suggested by the Independent Auditor and the NAACP. Under Study.

This subtle, but substantial change may give community members greater confidence about the department’s willingness to police itself and employees greater comfort in objective fairness of discipline when findings are sustained. Policy

16. Publish Internal Affairs findings on the police transparency portal quarterly. Done

A short synopsis of the citizen’s complaint and the corresponding findings will be posted on the department’s transparency portal. Due to the Police Officers Bill of Rights, the names of officers or complainants will not be posted. (Transparency)

17. Publish California Public Records Requests on the transparency portal when lawful to do so. Done

All California Public Records Requests responses will be posted on the Transparency portal as long as they don’t provide confidential information, such as crime victims.

18. Bring better diversity training to all City employees and training for the Police from people of color. Ensure racial bias and procedural justice training is appropriate and the best available. Underway.

As assessment of training provided to the Police on procedural justice and implicit bias will be evaluated for effectiveness in the upcoming training sessions. Procedural justice

19. Require, when possible, all Officer-Involved Shooting (OIS) video to be released as soon as possible, generally within 72 hours. Done

When in the control of SCPD, videos of Officer-Involved Shootings will be released. AB 748

20. Prevent the use of Predictive Policing and Face Recognition technology. Done

This policy was accomplished by Council action with support by SCPD on June 23, 2020. (Predictive Policing and Face Recognition)

21. Publish stop data to the Council and the Community. Underway.

Each department in the County is currently working to collect stop data accurately and publish that information to the state and local policymakers. Software is being vetted by NetCom that may be pushed to local police agencies for implementation. This policy would also comply with state law that demands each department to capture this data by 2022. Stop data

22. Conduct research on stop, arrest, incarceration, and sentencing rates of people of color in Santa Cruz. Under Study.

Collaborate with the Sheriff’s office and other departments to research to determine why people of color are more often incarcerated than white people. A recent study by Stanford about racial disparity in traffic stops and searches is interesting and relevant. Disparity  

You, too, may have great ideas and suggestions. I invite you to leave suggestions here for consideration and possible inclusion. Not all police uses of lethal force can be eliminated, because life is messy and the police are the only ones left when all else has failed.  Cops are confronted with circumstances they must react to when protecting themselves or others. If we implement the criteria mentioned above, I believe we can limit and reduce the frequency of when police use lethal force.  

The goal is not to hamstrung the police, but to reduce the need and frequency police use force.

Thank you to those who collaborated with us on forging ahead in a positive, thoughtful and decisive manner. You know who you are!

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