RE: Sacramento Police Department’s Handling of Recent Protests

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ACLU of Northern CA

Dear Chief Hahn, Mayor Steinberg, and City Manager Chan:

The ACLU Foundation of Northern California and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area represent activists and individuals who were tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, cited with charges of failure to disperse, and beaten by police in Sacramento since May 2020. It has come to our attention that the City and County plan to continue to use imprudent force during protests as the country reckons with more murders of Black people and shootings across the country. This is evidenced by shocking displays of unnecessary and excessive force in response to rallies, demonstrations, and protests since May. Recently, on August 28, 2020 a city police officer violently pushed a young woman against a wall and then to the ground, and shortly after broke her phone while refusing to provide his badge number. 

We have also learned that Sacramento’s Crowd and Riot Manual (“Manual”), which directs Sacramento Police Department (“the Department”) officers during protests, is riddled with constitutional violations and preemptively seeks to terminate protests before anything remotely approaching violence or a clear and present danger of imminent violence has occurred. To make matters worse, the Department regularly asks other law enforcement agencies such as the California Highway Patrol (“CHP”), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Davis Police Department, and others, to help carry out these directives to quell protests. The Manual presents an incorrect view of free speech rights and is unconstitutional, giving officers unfettered discretion to suppress free speech with unnecessary force and mass arrests during constitutionally protected protests. As one officer put it to a protester in late May 2020 – cleanly capturing how the Department aims to chill individuals exercising their free speech rights – “I’m not doing you any favors, you’re out here protesting against us.”...

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