SACRAMENTO, CA - Since the shooting of a Twin Rivers police officer Oct. 22, there have been several inquiries into why that officer was making a traffic stop that preceeded the shooting.
In that case, the officer pulled over the driver, later identified as shooting suspect Tyrone Smith, because of a registration violation. Sgt. Andrew Pettit with the Sacramento Police Department said the violation could be a number of things, including expired license plate tags.
But still, many of you have called or emailed News10 asking what the Twin Rivers Police Department does and what police powers its officers have.
According to Twin Rivers spokesman Officer William Cho, Twin Rivers police have the exact same powers a city officer does, like those who work for the Sacramento Police Department.
But there are clearly concerns on the part of some in law enforcement that the agency sometimes overreaches it's mandate.
Former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness said the Twin Rivers Department has often engaged in so-called "call-jumping" - monitoring Sacramento police and sheriff radios and then responding to calls before they do.
"To say that they're operating outside the bounds of the law may be an overstatement, but to say that they're violating the spirit of the law is absolutely accurate when you read that very precise language in the statute," said McGinness.
McGinnes said that last year the Sacramento Sheriff's Department even sent a memo to Twin Rivers Police Department, asking them to stop "call-jumping."
Cho said the matter was an isolated incident that has been resolved.
Cho asserts that sometimes the education code gets confused or misinterpreted regarding the scope and power of Twin Rivers officers, but that code simply allows the department to exist.
Its peace officer authority comes from the California State Penal Code.
Cho offered the analogy of a doctor going to medical school.
"All doctors have the same training, but some have different specialties," he said. "That's the same idea with law enforcement."
Some in the community claim the department spends far too much time trying to do police work outside away from it's primary mission at district schools.
"Every little thing - they're nitpicking. They think they're the Sacramento Police Department or the Sac Sheriff, you know, and you're like, you just work for the school," Del Paso resident Kelli Cooper said.
Cho acknowledged the department has had it's share of complaints over the years, but said times have changed.
"Some of these complaints are from old reputations," Cho said. "The department from what people know about it before and from what it is now is completely different. It's night and day."
The Twin Rivers jurisdiction covers the schools they protect, as well as contracted districts.
According to the department's website, the Twin Rivers Unified School District includes:
• Del Paso
• North Sacramento
• Rio Linda
The contracted districts are:
• Center and Elverta School Districts
• Robla School District
• Arcade Creek Park District
• North Highlands Park District
• Rio Linda Elverta Park District
Cho said it's not uncommon for an officer to uphold public safety outside of the districts. For instance, if someone is blatantly breaking the law, a Twin Rivers officer has an obligation to conduct a traffic stop, regardless of location.
Again, Cho with a doctor analogy: "It's just like a doctor performing CPR on someone outside his or her hospital."
Finally, as a matter of clarification, the Sacramento Police Department is investigating the shooting of the police officer. That is why suspect Smith was in the back of a Sacramento city police squad car.
The Sacramento County District Attorney's Office is investigating the in-custody death.
The Twin Rivers police officer is recovering at the UC Davis Medical Center.
By Nick Monacelli, firstname.lastname@example.org and Dave Marquis, email@example.com