SPJ NorCal calls for Sacramento PD to affirm journalists’ rights

The Society of Professional Journalists released this statement on Wednesday:

The Freedom of Information Committee of the Society of Professional Journalists’ Northern California Chapter calls on Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn to end delays in implementing promised changes to the department’s policy regarding journalists’ newsgathering rights during protests.

In March, Sacramento police detained three journalists while they were reporting on a citizens’ protest over the fatal shooting by officers of Stephon Clark, an unarmed 22-year-old black man. The detention served no public purpose and could have been avoided if Sacramento PD had a crowd-control policy that made clear that journalists should not be detained for doing their jobs.

Local media representatives, including members of SPJ NorCal, met with Sacramento Police officials shortly after the incident to gain information about why journalists had been detained. In August, our colleagues at the Committee to Protect Journalists–along with a host of allied media organizations–sent a public letter urging Chief Hahn to implement a solution. Shortly after the letter was sent, members of SPJ NorCal’s FOI Committee met with Chief Hahn, who assured us that Sacramento PD would implement a crowd control policy directing officers to allow journalists to report on protests without interruption.

Many police departments have crowd control policies, which often specifically alert officers to journalists’ right to document protests. Oakland’s policy proves that this can be done; Oakland PD implemented such a policy years ago. Currently, Sacramento PD’s crowd control policy makes no mention of journalists. 

A Sacramento PD spokesman declined to provide an estimated date for when a policy would be enacted. “We have provided our recommendations to our Professional Standards Unit and they continue to develop the new language to update our policy,” spokesman Vance Chandler said in a written statement. “The drafted policy still needs to be reviewed by our City Attorney and Police Union.”

The FOI Committee will continue to update the public until the matter is resolved. We have made Sacramento PD’s crowd control policy, which the department provided to us in response to a California Public Records Act request, available to download here

Contact: Matt Drange and Aaron Field, SPJ NorCal Freedom of Information Committee co-chairs, at spjnorcalfoi@gmail.com.

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Michael Applegate

Pacific Media Workers Executive Officer