Sacramento police Sgt. Sabrina Briggs celebrates with her fellow officers following the department’s promotions ceremony at the Crest Theatre on Friday, December 1, 2017. Briggs is the first African-American woman to be promoted to sergeant in the Sacramento Police Department. Jose Luis Villegas
Sacramento police Sgt. Sabrina Briggs celebrates with her fellow officers following the department’s promotions ceremony at the Crest Theatre on Friday, December 1, 2017. Briggs is the first African-American woman to be promoted to sergeant in the Sacramento Police Department. Jose Luis Villegas

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Sacramento Police Department promotes first black woman to sergeant rank

By Nashelly Chavez

nchavez@sacbee.com

December 01, 2017 06:23 PM

UPDATED December 02, 2017 02:42 PM

Eighteen years ago, a patrol officer in the Sacramento Police Department gave Sabrina Briggs a front-row seat to the life of a cop. The two rode through the Natomas neighborhood during the ride-along, putting Briggs face-to-face with the different issues and types of calls an officer faces every day.

“It was just something different,” she said. “The officers could come in and just calm down the situation, and treat people fairly and do their job at the same time.”

The experience helped propel Briggs, 36, who grew up in Elk Grove, toward a career in law enforcement. On Friday, she took her passion a step further as she crossed the stage at the Crest Theatre along with 20 other officers in the Sacramento Police Department’s promotional ceremony.

The event marked an important milestone in Briggs’ decade-long career with the Sacramento Police Department, where she has worked in several capacities, including a patrol officer, an officer in the unit that oversees bars and music venues, and most recently, an officer working in the internal affairs division.

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Sabrina Briggs, takes the oath with Don Bevins, left, and Justin Thompson, right, at the Sacramento Police Department promotions ceremony at the Crest Theatre on Friday, December 1, 2017. All three were promoted to sergeant. Briggs is the first African-American woman to be promoted to sergeant in the Sacramento Police Department.
Jose Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com

Briggs’ promotion also signaled a historic step for the Sacramento Police Department itself, as she became the first black woman in its history to obtain the rank of sergeant.

“I'm still taking it in,” Briggs said, standing in the lobby of the theater. “I’m honored, I’m honored to take this stage with so many great leaders of community, leaders of our organization.”

Her promotion comes months after the Sacramento Police Department marked another milestone with the swearing-in of its first black police chief, Daniel Hahn, in August.

Upon his arrival to the department, Hahn made it clear that increasing diversity within the police force would be a priority. Part of that solution means the department needs to make a career in law enforcement attractive, and accessible, to people from different backgrounds, Hahn said.

“The first barrier is just the fact that we’re a male-dominate force,” he said before the ceremony Friday. “I think in certain communities, there’s less trust and belief in law enforcement, so that may be a barrier to say, an African American community.”

A 2016 audit of the city’s gender and ethnic diversity found that 75 percent of the department’s uniformed officers were white, while only 35 percent of the city’s total population was white.

Of the department’s 605 police officers and reserve staff, only 3 percent, or 21 officers, were black. American Indians and Filipinos had the fewest numbers among those ranks, each making up 1 percent of the city’s officers.

Sacramento police Sgt. Sabrina Briggs celebrates with her fellow officers after the department’s promotions ceremony at the Crest Theatre on Friday, December 1, 2017. Briggs is the first African-American woman to be promoted to sergeant in the Sacramento Police Department.
Jose Luis Villegas jvillegas@sacbee.com

The department’s command staff, which includes sergeants, lieutenants and ranks rising to the position of police chief, were also predominantly white, making up 79 percent of that group, the audit found. A total of 27 officers ranging from American Indian, Asian, Black, Filipino and Hispanic, represented the remaining 21 percent of sworn officers in supervisory roles.

As for women, they accounted for about 16 percent of the 736 sworn members in the department, with a little more than half earning between $60,000 to $90,000. Only five women were among the top 39 best-paid sworn members of the department, those making more than $120,000.

Hahn said he hopes stories like Briggs’ show that people from different backgrounds can succeed in law enforcement.

“I think it’s an example to others, young people and adults alike, that just because something hasn’t happened before doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish it and accomplish it very well.”

Friday’s promotion was one of the largest in several years, City Manager Howard Chan noted during the ceremony.

Linda Matthew, a department spokeswoman, said the department has had a high number of retirements in the past year, resulting in additional vacancies. The department also experienced an exodus of officers earlier this year, leaving them one of the nation’s most short-staffed.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets