Former police chief opens up about controversial shooting, race in policing, and his tenure


Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Tuesday, Feb. 15. I’m Justin Ray.

I’m here with the next installment of my series featuring extended conversations with California police chiefs of color.

I previously published a discussion with Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, who discussed being racially profiled despite being the city’s top cop. Now, I’m presenting a conversation with Daniel Hahn, who recently retired after serving four years as Sacramento’s police chief.

The interview starts with Hahn reflecting on his tenure. Although he says he enjoyed his post, he does admit that the department wasn’t perfect.

“We’ve had a lot of communication challenges,” Hahn said. “We made a lot of mistakes, not with the transparency itself, but how we communicated that transparency. So now we really treat families — whether they’re homicide victims in third-party homicides in the community or officer-involved shootings — with dignity and respect, no matter what their background is.”


He also addresses the controversial shooting of Stephon Clark, a Black man who was shot and killed in 2018 by officers who mistook his cellphone for a gun. The shooting caused large protests in the city. The two cops involved in the incident didn’t face charges.

“First and foremost, it’s a tragedy that Stephon Clark lost his life,” Hahn says. Then, he explains reforms the department made since the shooting. “We created a foot-pursuit policy. We have drones now. So if that same exact situation happened today, there’s a good chance those officers wouldn’t ever chase that person, and use a drone instead. Maybe Stephon Clark would still be alive.”

Finally, in a section that surprised me, Hahn talks candidly about race and policing. Here’s one segment in which Hahn discusses an experience of a Black officer:

I remember there was a young, probably around 18- or 19-year-old white male kid from a suburb that yelled at one of our African American officers in the middle of a tense part of a protest. He yelled at them, “You are a race traitor.” And I remember thinking — cause this is on body camera, that’s how I saw it. I didn’t see it live, but I remember thinking, ‘Is there anything more racist than a white person being the gatekeeper on whether a Black person is Black?’ That’s literally what that kid said.... I’m just thinking, ‘Well, we got long ways to go because this is the person we’re holding up, that fight for equity.’

Read the full interview here.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


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The extreme dryness that has ravaged the American West for more than two decades now ranks as the driest 22-year period in at least 1,200 years, and scientists have found that this megadrought is being intensified by humanity’s heating of the planet. The researchers found the current drought wouldn’t be nearly as severe without global warming. “The results are really concerning, because it’s showing that the drought conditions we are facing now are substantially worse because of climate change,” said Park Williams, a climate scientist at UCLA. Los Angeles Times

Tree stumps stick out of the parched earth.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)


Los Angeles will honor the Super Bowl champion Rams with a parade Wednesday through the Exposition Park area. Starting at 11 a.m., the parade will wind from the Shrine Auditorium on West Jefferson Boulevard to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where a rally will be held in the plaza outside the stadium. Los Angeles Times

The NFL says it was “aware” that rapper Eminem would kneel during Sunday’s Super Bowl LVI halftime show and did not try to stop him — despite reports saying otherwise. A league spokesperson has revealed more information about the moment that caused a stir online. Los Angeles Times

A man in black clothes kneeling on stage
Eminem kneels during the halftime performance at the Super Bowl game Sunday in Inglewood.
(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)

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Four brothers from Turlock who were recently arrested are accused of leading an “elaborate, multimillion-dollar marijuana cultivation, transportation and sales operation.” The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Office arrested 36 people in all at 20 locations in Stanislaus and Merced counties. The operation led to the seizure of 75,660 marijuana plants, 19,852.5 pounds of processed marijuana, seven firearms, 18 liters of illegal toxic chemicals, 10 vehicles and $151,057 in cash. Modesto Bee

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Why are so many people heading to California’s newest national park? A strange little realm of pointy peaks, rocky caves and soaring condors is California’s youngest and smallest national park, set in a region tourists rarely see. Yet lately its visitor numbers have been booming. Is this where we all should be going? Los Angeles Times

A compilation of photos from a national park
A new national park is located about five hours’ drive from Los Angeles.
(Illustration by Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Photos by Christopher Reynolds)


UC Berkeley, one of the nation’s most highly sought-after campuses, may be forced to slash its fall 2022 freshman class by one-third, or 3,050 seats, and forgo $57 million in tuition. Los Angeles Times


‘White, Colored’ labeling on Sacramento City Unified water fountains prompts investigation. A picture shared on social media showed two drinking fountains with the labels “Colored” and “White” at McClatchy High School. In a statement posted to the SCUSD website, the district indicated that the graffiti was removed after it was discovered by school site staff. “We take this incident very seriously. Racism and racist language will not be tolerated in our schools,” SCUSD Supt. Jorge Aguilar wrote in the statement. KCRA

“It hurts me to see that it’s closing right now.” Customers of West Oakland’s Community Foods Market are sad that the local grocery store is closing. For the neighborhoods it served, this market filled a void; there had been no full-size grocery store there for 40 years. During the pandemic, “we saw a simultaneous shrink in how much people were spending and how many people were coming in. And then of course supply shortages, labor shortages, unprecedented or 40 year inflation,” says Brahm Ahmadi, chief executive of Community Foods Market. KTVU

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Los Angeles: Rainy, 61 San Diego: Rainy, 60 San Francisco: Sunny, 61 San Jose: Sunny, 63 Fresno: Overcast, 60 Sacramento: Sunny, 63


Today’s California memory is from Paula Hauer:

Growing up in the 1940s/’50s in Claremont/Pomona, our family would take summer road trips to Balboa Island for the day. We would drive past countless firecracker shanties on the way, the long drive through county backroads — you wouldn’t believe today how undeveloped it all was. Balboa always seemed a fairyland — and the penny arcade was the icing on the cake. How could I ever capture the stuffed baby bear with the claw hand? I just didn’t have enough nickels and dimes. But the best memory is bare feet on the warm sandy sidewalks, cotton candy and the smell of Coppertone suntan lotion.

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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