In March, Sacramento Police Officers responded to a report of a man breaking into cars in a neighborhood. When they arrived, Stephon Clark, a man with multiple run ins with law enforcement, including a robbery conviction just a few years earlier took off running from responding officers.
Officers Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet were two of the officers that attempted to catch Clark. As they rounded a corner, they found Clark and after defying commands, he crouched into a shooting stance and pointed what later would be a cell phone at officers.
In the aftermath of the shooting, very little has been said about the convicted felon but all of the focus has been on law enforcement, as if it is their fault someone called 911 and Clark fled when confronted by police.
Protests, demands and just about everything else you can imagine has happened in Sacramento since the shooting but one thing that won’t happen is the officers being found out of policy because the video is clear that Clark’s actions gave the officers very little choice.
While tragic, it was Clark that made the fateful decisions that night and now in a predicted move, the Sacramento Police Department has implemented a “foot pursuit” policy that will discourage officers to engage suspects.
Officers will be asked to weigh their own safety, the safety of the public and the importance of apprehending the person before and during a pursuit.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg, who called for an examination of the department’s foot pursuit training after the Clark shooting, said he supported the new policy.
Travis Yates is the Founder of the Courageous Leadership Institute and the author of the upcoming book, “The Courageous Police Leader” and he details the ramifications of actions such as SPD.
Saying this is placing blame on law enforcement when law enforcement followed the law and policy, Yates told us that the policy is designed to not only placate to activists that know nothing about law enforcement but it will “create a ‘chill effect’ among members of the Sacramento Police Department to tell them to stop engaging suspects that are committing crimes and definitely not chase them if they run.”
Ultimately Yates tells us that the citizens of Sacramento lose when leaders act like cowards. “Citizens will continue to call 911 because they want safe neighborhoods and instead of leaders encouraging those officers to do their job and catch criminals, these cowards are telling every cop that they will not support you.”
Robert Johnson is a 20 year veteran law enforcement officer currently working at a large metropolitan agency. His assignments have included narcotics, gangs and training. He joined Law Officer in 2017 as an Associate Editor.