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While the grieving family of Stephon Clark is still looking for answers as to why the young father could be gunned down in his family’s own backyard last March, the Sacramento Police Department is exploring how they can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The police pursuit on foot that ended in two Sacramento officers gunning down Stephon Clark who was unarmed, has prompted the police force to enact a new policy that requires cops to examine the circumstances more closely when chasing suspects, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The new policy, announced on Monday, calls for officers to scrutinize the safety of a foot pursuit and if it also infringes on the safety of the public. Clark was killed in the backyard of his grandmother’s home while holding a cell phone.
The two officer’s who pursued Clark, Terrence Mercadal and Jared Robinet, claim that they mistook the cellphone for a gun.
“(I)t’s really a policy to give direction and guidance … around what our officers are supposed to do, what they’re supposed to think about, what they’re supposed to weigh anytime they get into a situation when they’re chasing after a suspect,” said Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.
The policy change went into effect on July 26, and was enacted specifically because of the Clark shooting. It is the first time the department has rolled out new policing guidelines, following Clark’s tragic killing. They contend though it’s not a knock to the two officers, , who chased Clark.
Under the new policy, police must constantly examine their surroundings to access its safety, and if back-up is available before pursing a suspect.
If officer engage a suspect in a chase, they are required to activate their body cam and tell their supervisor the reason for the foot pursuit and give a description of the suspect.
Officers are ordered to identify themselves as officers and must command the suspect to stop. This new measure is important since community members argued that Sacramento police failed to identify themselves to Clark before shooting him down.
The policy also states that officers have to assess whether to continuing pursing a suspect who runs into a building or confined space or difficult terrain.
A supervisor can order the foot chase to cease if the circumstances becomes dangerous. Or an officer can decide to stop a foot chase without repercussions for his decision, according to the policy.
“I don’t believe this policy will hamper an officer’s ability to do what we absolutely need them to do in our community, and I do think it will keep both officers and our community safer,” Hahn said.
Police killed 22-year-old Stephon Clark with eight bullets, six of them striking him in his back, according to a private autopsy.
The results, released by his family’s legal team, indicate that Clark received no entry wounds from the front of his body, according to the Sacramento Bee. Instead, the autopsy found, he was facing his grandmother’s house with his left side pointed toward the officers who shot him, first hitting him under the left arm. But the blast of that shot spun him around so that his back was toward the officers leaving it exposed to six more shots. Another shot struck him in his left thigh as he fell to the ground.
Family attorney Benjamin Crump said the autopsy result “affirms that Stephon was not a threat to police and was slain in another senseless police killing under increasingly questionable circumstances.”
Lawyers for the family told CBS News they plan to file a federal lawsuit.