Footage of Rancho Cordova police officer attacking teen sparks tensions



Sacramento county police department sheriff patch

Arya Patel, Staff Writer

On Apr. 27 in Rancho Cordova, Calif., a police officer was filmed pinning down and repeatedly punching a 14-year-old for carrying a cigar. The victim was African-American, highlighting a rough history between police and African Americans in the city.

Black Lives Matter condemned the attack. Alongside them, California Senator Kamala Harris as well as the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro criticized the officer’s behavior.

“This is a horrific abuse of power. This officer must be held accountable,” said Senator Harris in a tweet on Apr. 28.

However, this isn’t the first notable case of police brutality in the area. One month prior, on Mar. 17, a man falsely accused of having a felony warrant was jumpkicked and tased after raising both his hands. This happened days after an officer in Elk Grove, Sacramento County was fired for kicking a suspect in the head who was lying prone.

The most infamous case of police controversy in the Sacramento area was the shooting of Stephon Clark, a 23-year-old who was shot in the front and back by two officers in Meadowview in Mar. 2018. The officers claimed that Clark had intended to shoot one of them despite only being found with a phone. The results were several protests in the state’s capital. However, nearly a year after the shooting, the Sacramento County district attorney announced that the two officers had probable cause in shooting Clark and would not face any charges.

“This is completely unacceptable. Nearly three years after three Sacramento sheriff’s deputies shot a disturbed African American man named Mikel McIntyre to death on Highway 50 – and two years after Sacramento Police Department officers killed an African American man named Stephon Clark in his grandparents’ back yard – our community must once again confront a scene of horrific police violence against black people,” stated the Editorial Board of the Sacramento Bee.

The state of California has attempted to pass legislation to limit cases of excessive police force, such as requiring deadly force to be “necessary” rather than “probable.” There is also a proposed ban on private prisons, which according to the American Civil Liberties Union, encourage excessive arrests. 

Still, some believe not enough is being done to curb police brutality. Governor Newsom said that while the bills on excessive force allows the state to lead the country on the issue, they still fall short on some issues. In addition, the Rancho Cordova Police Department issued a statement on Apr. 28 defending the officer.

“It’s important to put video footage into context, especially in relation to a use of force incident. In this case, the deputy saw what he believed to be a hand-to-hand exchange between an adult and juvenile. As the deputy turned around, he lost sight of the adult, who left the area. When the deputy approached the juvenile, the juvenile was uncooperative and refused to give the deputy basic identifying information. He told the deputy he was 18 years old. Having reasonable suspicion that criminal activity was occurring, the deputy attempted to detain the juvenile so he could conduct further investigation,” claimed Sergeant Tess Deterding in an excerpt from the response.

In spite of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter organized a press conference in Sacramento where family members of the child and attorneys spoke on how they believed the cop should face punishment for his behavior. The founder of Black Lives Matter Sacramento, Tanya Faison, demanded that the officer be fired.

“It’s common for [police officers] to terrorize our kids,” said Faison in an interview with ABC. “They intimidate our kids and humiliate our kids. They often detain us for something really small or nothing at all then they sit the kids on the curb for hours for all to see.”