What’s Going on With Davis Police?

It’s gotten to the point, where even at a car wash, you hear stories about the Davis Police. In this case, it was my wife at a car wash in Sacramento, the manager figured out she was from Davis and the first words out of his mouth were, “Man the Davis Police are stupid.” And of course he had the story to back it up.

Everyone thinks criticism of the police means you hate the cops. Many of the same people criticize the US for fighting a war in Iraq, yet they probably do not think that they are anti-American. We need an effective police force to be safe in our houses and our businesses. But in order for that to happen, there has to be a general trust between the community and the police. I think most people in this community have had good experiences with the police here and for the most part the police repay that trust. But there are segments of the community, that have not had those kinds of positive experiences and we need to examine that and we cannot be afraid to scrutinize and to criticize when those criticisms are warranted.

From the start this story was different. I’ve heard numerous stories in the last few months, and almost none of them involve white people. This one does. The guy’s son, went to UC Davis, he rented an apartment, he apparently sub-leased to some other people, so his name was still on the lease but he was not living there. The cops came for one reason or another, found marijuana plants inside. Instead of investigating as to whose plants they were, they got the kid’s name off the lease, and arrested him. Kid denies even living there, doesn’t matter. He’s arrested and charged with possesssion (fortunately wasn’t enough to get him on intent to deal).

The police are the first responders and guardians if you will, to make an analogy, but most of the problems could not happen without the willing accomplisses in the DA’s office and in the courts. The DA’s office prosecutes almost every case that comes before them as a matter of policy. And it doesn’t matter how strong, weak, or unimportant that case is. In this case, they pushed the kid to take diversion, which is a means of settlement and restitution that does not involve jailtime. They tried to get Halema Buzayan to accept diversion, but her family decided to fight the charges. This is a pattern–they arrest people on minor charges and have them take diversion. Is there money in it for them or does it prop up their numbers? I don’t know. It’s a pattern.

I think the shocking thing was that when the kid was before the judge, the judge asked him what lesson he had learned. The kid said, to study hard in school. That was not the correct answer. The correct answer was to not smoke pot. Of course, nevermind that this kid did not smoke pot, that was the essential lesson that he learned. Maybe I need another blog on decriminalizing marijuana, that’s a story for another day.

We can see how this case was handled poorly. First, the police did not fully investigate the case. They made an assumption based on a very thin connection and refused to pursue alternative explanations. Second, the DA’s office, prosecuted this case as though this kid represented a danger to society. Finally, the judge never intervened to stop this from happening. And of course, the parents did not have the sources or the will to fight as the Buzayan family did, so they had to take whatever the system gave them.

As so many of these kids have done, the student has transfered to UC San Diego to get out of this town and not have to deal with this kind of stuff in the future. I cannot tell you how many kids who grew up in this town, who have brown skin, refuse to come back to Davis. We have heard numerous stories in the last year about kids who feel safer in their own communities like Richmond and the Los Angeles area around USC than they do in Davis. But because the majority in this town have had good experiences with the police and have not had to deal with this dark under belly of the system, they do not know what a lot of minorities have to deal with.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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16 thoughts on “What’s Going on With Davis Police?”

  1. Anonymous

    The focus has been on the Davis Police, but shouldn’t the focus be on the DA’s Office? or lack of an effective defense? To get effective representation in Yolo County court, do you have to access out of the area attorneys that question “usual and customary” handling of cases?

  2. Anonymous

    The focus has been on the Davis Police, but shouldn’t the focus be on the DA’s Office? or lack of an effective defense? To get effective representation in Yolo County court, do you have to access out of the area attorneys that question “usual and customary” handling of cases?

  3. Anonymous

    The focus has been on the Davis Police, but shouldn’t the focus be on the DA’s Office? or lack of an effective defense? To get effective representation in Yolo County court, do you have to access out of the area attorneys that question “usual and customary” handling of cases?

  4. Anonymous

    The focus has been on the Davis Police, but shouldn’t the focus be on the DA’s Office? or lack of an effective defense? To get effective representation in Yolo County court, do you have to access out of the area attorneys that question “usual and customary” handling of cases?

  5. Doug Paul Davis

    The focus has to this point been on the police–and there is a reason for that–they are the first responders and the gatekeepers if you will into the system. There have been serious problems with their conduct.

    But you are exactly right–there are two other key problems. First, is the DA’s office. The policy of the DA’s office is the prosecute everything. That’s not necessarily how the DA works in a lot of other jurisdictions. The DA should be a check against an over-zealous police force, they are in essence a separation in the power structure. And yet this DA’s office reinforces that.

    The major lawsuits going forth against the county and the city of Davis are all handled either by the attorneys from San Francisco or a couple of attorneys from Sacramento. There is a problem. Part of it, is in the public defender’s office. Part of it, may be with local attorneys. I know of a couple of people who started out with local attorneys and they proved incapable of handling these cases.

    But there is more than just that. The Buzayans spend over $100,000 defending their daughter on a misdeamer charge. Think about that for a second, let it sink in. This case was dismissed and yet the cost was that great. Adjust that number to a firm that charges $200 rather than $500 per hour and that’s still 40,000. Who can afford that? You have a choice between diversion and paying out 40K, most people are going to take diversion. That’s a problem. Add to that, that a lot of the people who have their rights violated (allegedly) by the police are lower income people to begin with, and you see the problem.

    So that’s a long answer to your question and it was a very good one.

  6. Doug Paul Davis

    The focus has to this point been on the police–and there is a reason for that–they are the first responders and the gatekeepers if you will into the system. There have been serious problems with their conduct.

    But you are exactly right–there are two other key problems. First, is the DA’s office. The policy of the DA’s office is the prosecute everything. That’s not necessarily how the DA works in a lot of other jurisdictions. The DA should be a check against an over-zealous police force, they are in essence a separation in the power structure. And yet this DA’s office reinforces that.

    The major lawsuits going forth against the county and the city of Davis are all handled either by the attorneys from San Francisco or a couple of attorneys from Sacramento. There is a problem. Part of it, is in the public defender’s office. Part of it, may be with local attorneys. I know of a couple of people who started out with local attorneys and they proved incapable of handling these cases.

    But there is more than just that. The Buzayans spend over $100,000 defending their daughter on a misdeamer charge. Think about that for a second, let it sink in. This case was dismissed and yet the cost was that great. Adjust that number to a firm that charges $200 rather than $500 per hour and that’s still 40,000. Who can afford that? You have a choice between diversion and paying out 40K, most people are going to take diversion. That’s a problem. Add to that, that a lot of the people who have their rights violated (allegedly) by the police are lower income people to begin with, and you see the problem.

    So that’s a long answer to your question and it was a very good one.

  7. Doug Paul Davis

    The focus has to this point been on the police–and there is a reason for that–they are the first responders and the gatekeepers if you will into the system. There have been serious problems with their conduct.

    But you are exactly right–there are two other key problems. First, is the DA’s office. The policy of the DA’s office is the prosecute everything. That’s not necessarily how the DA works in a lot of other jurisdictions. The DA should be a check against an over-zealous police force, they are in essence a separation in the power structure. And yet this DA’s office reinforces that.

    The major lawsuits going forth against the county and the city of Davis are all handled either by the attorneys from San Francisco or a couple of attorneys from Sacramento. There is a problem. Part of it, is in the public defender’s office. Part of it, may be with local attorneys. I know of a couple of people who started out with local attorneys and they proved incapable of handling these cases.

    But there is more than just that. The Buzayans spend over $100,000 defending their daughter on a misdeamer charge. Think about that for a second, let it sink in. This case was dismissed and yet the cost was that great. Adjust that number to a firm that charges $200 rather than $500 per hour and that’s still 40,000. Who can afford that? You have a choice between diversion and paying out 40K, most people are going to take diversion. That’s a problem. Add to that, that a lot of the people who have their rights violated (allegedly) by the police are lower income people to begin with, and you see the problem.

    So that’s a long answer to your question and it was a very good one.

  8. Doug Paul Davis

    The focus has to this point been on the police–and there is a reason for that–they are the first responders and the gatekeepers if you will into the system. There have been serious problems with their conduct.

    But you are exactly right–there are two other key problems. First, is the DA’s office. The policy of the DA’s office is the prosecute everything. That’s not necessarily how the DA works in a lot of other jurisdictions. The DA should be a check against an over-zealous police force, they are in essence a separation in the power structure. And yet this DA’s office reinforces that.

    The major lawsuits going forth against the county and the city of Davis are all handled either by the attorneys from San Francisco or a couple of attorneys from Sacramento. There is a problem. Part of it, is in the public defender’s office. Part of it, may be with local attorneys. I know of a couple of people who started out with local attorneys and they proved incapable of handling these cases.

    But there is more than just that. The Buzayans spend over $100,000 defending their daughter on a misdeamer charge. Think about that for a second, let it sink in. This case was dismissed and yet the cost was that great. Adjust that number to a firm that charges $200 rather than $500 per hour and that’s still 40,000. Who can afford that? You have a choice between diversion and paying out 40K, most people are going to take diversion. That’s a problem. Add to that, that a lot of the people who have their rights violated (allegedly) by the police are lower income people to begin with, and you see the problem.

    So that’s a long answer to your question and it was a very good one.

  9. sah

    Much of the discussion about the Davis Police can be distilled to a conflict between actual Police “services” versus the services the typical resident expects. Based on the 06/07 budget, the Davis police services cost each resident $200 per year and I doubt that covers the depreciation on building and equipment (cars). A fully loaded cost is probably $250 per person or to put it another way about $1000 per average household (family of four). So what does the average household want to get for the $1000 annual tax and what are the services actually being provided?

    I assume most people are like me – my overriding concern is peace and quiet. I expect police officers to be honest and arrest/detain people who cause trouble. For example, if my wife walks down the street and is assaulted in front of a police officer I would expect the police officer to take action against the person who assaulted her. If no police were at the scene, I would expect the police to find out who assaulted my wife and detain that person. It wouldn’t be good enough to arrest anybody and build the case based on assumptions. I would expect a thorough investigation so that the right person paid for the trouble he/she caused. I am no very demanding and I have only called the police once in my entire life and until five years ago the only police officers I spoke with were the ones involved with DARE (drug awareness).

    I had one major interaction with the Davis Police and that completely changed my view of the police profession – from good to bad. Davis Police officers (a number of officers including the Chief) lied to me, they entered false/distorted information in police reports, they communicated false information as news releases and generally did not act the way police officers should act. There is something seriously wrong with the culture within the Davis Police Officer’s Association and the department needs substantial outside oversight..

    A fundamental problem with the Davis Police is an obvious objective to pad arrest statistics – they are more interested in presenting statistics defending the need for a bigger police organization than they are in getting their facts straight and arresting the right people. Davis Police cases are built on assumptions supported by little or no facts. They are willing to compromise truth and honesty for an arrest because arrest records are used to justify their right to exist. I certainly understand that quality of police work will vary depending on experience and the quality of people involved. However, work should always be reviewed to make sure the work is reasonably well done and is consistent. As far as I can tell there is no meaningful review process in Davis and accordingly many mistakes pass right through to the DA

    Davis is getting very little for the tax dollars used for police services.

  10. sah

    Much of the discussion about the Davis Police can be distilled to a conflict between actual Police “services” versus the services the typical resident expects. Based on the 06/07 budget, the Davis police services cost each resident $200 per year and I doubt that covers the depreciation on building and equipment (cars). A fully loaded cost is probably $250 per person or to put it another way about $1000 per average household (family of four). So what does the average household want to get for the $1000 annual tax and what are the services actually being provided?

    I assume most people are like me – my overriding concern is peace and quiet. I expect police officers to be honest and arrest/detain people who cause trouble. For example, if my wife walks down the street and is assaulted in front of a police officer I would expect the police officer to take action against the person who assaulted her. If no police were at the scene, I would expect the police to find out who assaulted my wife and detain that person. It wouldn’t be good enough to arrest anybody and build the case based on assumptions. I would expect a thorough investigation so that the right person paid for the trouble he/she caused. I am no very demanding and I have only called the police once in my entire life and until five years ago the only police officers I spoke with were the ones involved with DARE (drug awareness).

    I had one major interaction with the Davis Police and that completely changed my view of the police profession – from good to bad. Davis Police officers (a number of officers including the Chief) lied to me, they entered false/distorted information in police reports, they communicated false information as news releases and generally did not act the way police officers should act. There is something seriously wrong with the culture within the Davis Police Officer’s Association and the department needs substantial outside oversight..

    A fundamental problem with the Davis Police is an obvious objective to pad arrest statistics – they are more interested in presenting statistics defending the need for a bigger police organization than they are in getting their facts straight and arresting the right people. Davis Police cases are built on assumptions supported by little or no facts. They are willing to compromise truth and honesty for an arrest because arrest records are used to justify their right to exist. I certainly understand that quality of police work will vary depending on experience and the quality of people involved. However, work should always be reviewed to make sure the work is reasonably well done and is consistent. As far as I can tell there is no meaningful review process in Davis and accordingly many mistakes pass right through to the DA

    Davis is getting very little for the tax dollars used for police services.

  11. sah

    Much of the discussion about the Davis Police can be distilled to a conflict between actual Police “services” versus the services the typical resident expects. Based on the 06/07 budget, the Davis police services cost each resident $200 per year and I doubt that covers the depreciation on building and equipment (cars). A fully loaded cost is probably $250 per person or to put it another way about $1000 per average household (family of four). So what does the average household want to get for the $1000 annual tax and what are the services actually being provided?

    I assume most people are like me – my overriding concern is peace and quiet. I expect police officers to be honest and arrest/detain people who cause trouble. For example, if my wife walks down the street and is assaulted in front of a police officer I would expect the police officer to take action against the person who assaulted her. If no police were at the scene, I would expect the police to find out who assaulted my wife and detain that person. It wouldn’t be good enough to arrest anybody and build the case based on assumptions. I would expect a thorough investigation so that the right person paid for the trouble he/she caused. I am no very demanding and I have only called the police once in my entire life and until five years ago the only police officers I spoke with were the ones involved with DARE (drug awareness).

    I had one major interaction with the Davis Police and that completely changed my view of the police profession – from good to bad. Davis Police officers (a number of officers including the Chief) lied to me, they entered false/distorted information in police reports, they communicated false information as news releases and generally did not act the way police officers should act. There is something seriously wrong with the culture within the Davis Police Officer’s Association and the department needs substantial outside oversight..

    A fundamental problem with the Davis Police is an obvious objective to pad arrest statistics – they are more interested in presenting statistics defending the need for a bigger police organization than they are in getting their facts straight and arresting the right people. Davis Police cases are built on assumptions supported by little or no facts. They are willing to compromise truth and honesty for an arrest because arrest records are used to justify their right to exist. I certainly understand that quality of police work will vary depending on experience and the quality of people involved. However, work should always be reviewed to make sure the work is reasonably well done and is consistent. As far as I can tell there is no meaningful review process in Davis and accordingly many mistakes pass right through to the DA

    Davis is getting very little for the tax dollars used for police services.

  12. sah

    Much of the discussion about the Davis Police can be distilled to a conflict between actual Police “services” versus the services the typical resident expects. Based on the 06/07 budget, the Davis police services cost each resident $200 per year and I doubt that covers the depreciation on building and equipment (cars). A fully loaded cost is probably $250 per person or to put it another way about $1000 per average household (family of four). So what does the average household want to get for the $1000 annual tax and what are the services actually being provided?

    I assume most people are like me – my overriding concern is peace and quiet. I expect police officers to be honest and arrest/detain people who cause trouble. For example, if my wife walks down the street and is assaulted in front of a police officer I would expect the police officer to take action against the person who assaulted her. If no police were at the scene, I would expect the police to find out who assaulted my wife and detain that person. It wouldn’t be good enough to arrest anybody and build the case based on assumptions. I would expect a thorough investigation so that the right person paid for the trouble he/she caused. I am no very demanding and I have only called the police once in my entire life and until five years ago the only police officers I spoke with were the ones involved with DARE (drug awareness).

    I had one major interaction with the Davis Police and that completely changed my view of the police profession – from good to bad. Davis Police officers (a number of officers including the Chief) lied to me, they entered false/distorted information in police reports, they communicated false information as news releases and generally did not act the way police officers should act. There is something seriously wrong with the culture within the Davis Police Officer’s Association and the department needs substantial outside oversight..

    A fundamental problem with the Davis Police is an obvious objective to pad arrest statistics – they are more interested in presenting statistics defending the need for a bigger police organization than they are in getting their facts straight and arresting the right people. Davis Police cases are built on assumptions supported by little or no facts. They are willing to compromise truth and honesty for an arrest because arrest records are used to justify their right to exist. I certainly understand that quality of police work will vary depending on experience and the quality of people involved. However, work should always be reviewed to make sure the work is reasonably well done and is consistent. As far as I can tell there is no meaningful review process in Davis and accordingly many mistakes pass right through to the DA

    Davis is getting very little for the tax dollars used for police services.

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