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Sacramento Mayor Says Police Shootings Are A National Issue, Not Just Local


Hundreds in Sacramento lined up for Stephon Clark's funeral today. He's the black 22-year-old who was shot 20 times by police when they thought he had a gun. It turned out to be a cellphone. The Reverend Al Sharpton gave Clark's eulogy.


AL SHARPTON: The president's press secretary said this is a local matter. No, this is not a local matter. They've been killing young black men all over the country.

CORNISH: The mayor of Sacramento, Darrell Steinberg, was also at Stephon Clark's funeral. He joins us now. Welcome, Mr. Mayor.

DARRELL STEINBERG: Good to be with you, Audie.

CORNISH: I'd like to get your reaction to what we just heard from Al Sharpton and essentially what we heard from the White House calling this a local matter.

STEINBERG: Well, I don't believe it's a local matter for Sacramento, but it's certainly an issue of national import. And I agree with the Reverend Sharpton. It's a national issue. Too many young men of color are being killed in this way. And I don't believe our police force in Sacramento is racist, but that's a very different question from whether implicit racism pervades every aspect of our community life, including law enforcement and communities of color. And that's what we have to all look in the mirror, grapple with and change, among many other things.

CORNISH: I want to ask you a question about law enforcement. As the reports are coming out about this issue, reports saying that the two officers who fatally shot Clark did not provide medical attention for more than five minutes and that they muted their body cameras after the shooting, what do you say to people who are looking at these as a breach of protocol?

STEINBERG: Well, obviously it's very troubling. It's our job - it's my job to not prejudge the outcome of the investigation, but it is my job as mayor of this city to ask the questions that the public are asking as a result of the video. Is there ever any reason to mute a body cam audio or video and, if so, under what circumstances? Is there ever any reason not to render immediate aid to somebody who's been shot and is down?

We are not going to wait until the outcome of the investigation to ask those kinds of questions, including whether or not the training and culture, frankly, around the use of non-lethal force and de-escalation is really what is emphasized. These are the kinds of things that we have to ask and answer long before the formal investigation is complete.

CORNISH: At the same time, this is at least the sixth person fatally shot by the Sacramento police since the beginning of 2015. Five of those were black men. Do you see a systemic problem?

STEINBERG: I see a systemic national problem, absolutely. And I do think that...

CORNISH: Well, I'm asking about Sacramento 'cause you're talking about holding this department accountable.

STEINBERG: I think it's a fair question. I don't believe that our police are racist in any way, but I do think that there are serious questions about how the law is enforced in different neighborhoods.

CORNISH: Darrell Steinberg is the mayor of Sacramento. Mr. Mayor, thank you for speaking with us.

STEINBERG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.