Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn told CNN’s Van Jones on Tuesday, May 4, that it’s difficult to be called names by other members of the Black community and by white people amid burgeoning tensions between law enforcement and the public.
Hahn, a 30-year veteran of law enforcement, told Jones, “I think probably the hardest thing for me and other African-American officers, to be quite frank, is, especially during these last couple years, my own community, the African-American community that I grew up in, will call me things like coon and Uncle Tom and sellout, and I think that is probably the hardest thing.”
Hahn went on to say that it’s not just Black people who make those comments, but also young white people.
“Now it’s not even coming from the African-American community. We’ll have officers on a line during a protest and a young 18-, 19-, 20-year-old young white kid will walk up and call them a race traitor and a sellout.”
Hahn’s comments come on the heels of last year’s nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, and in the aftermath of the outrage-sparking deaths of Daunte Wright, Ma’Khia Bryant, Anthony Thompson Jr. and Andrew Brown Jr., all killed by police this year.
Cases of police brutality have also spurred Democratic and Republican lawmakers to introduce police reform bills. Both the Democrats’ George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and Republicans’ JUSTICE Act outline plans to recruit more diverse police forces that are reflective of the populations they serve.
Hahn said he’s well aware of calls to make police departments more diverse but stressed the importance of choosing the best candidate regardless of race.
“I constantly hear ‘diversify the police department, diversify law enforcement,’ and I agree with that,” Hahn said. “But I don’t agree with it for diversity’s sake. Just ’cause you’re Black doesn’t mean you’ll be a good police officer. … I want to make it to where the system entices all people to apply and quality people to apply so we’re picking good African-Americans, Hispanics, white, women, men, because they want to be police officers, and we don’t have that right now.”
Hahn expressed concern about certain groups’ willingness to pursue police work. “There are segments of our community that do not want to be police officers.”
After former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was convicted for murdering George Floyd in April, Hahn echoed calls for more change moving forward.
“It’s a good thing that there was accountability in this case. I do not think that we should believe that this means more than it really does. And we have a lot of work to do,” Hahn said.
“What he did was criminal,” Hahn said of Chauvin’s actions that led to Floyd’s death on May 25.
Hahn told TMZ on Monday that the Sacramento Police Department is using virtual reality technology to improve training in the wake of police trainings. Officers can be placed in different areas in the city and face realistic hypothetical situations.
“It allows us to change the scenarios and put somebody there as realistically as we possibly can, even more so than our simulation machine that we’ve used for years,” Hahn said.