UC Davis Unveils Police Oversight Plan

Pepper-sprayIn the wake of the pepper-spray incident in November 2011 and the subsequent settlement of the lawsuit with pepper-spray victims, UC Davis in the last week has released a report and a plan to implement a two-part program modeled on other successful police oversight programs across the country.  This would be “comprised of an oversight board with members selected from the UC Davis community, and an independent civilian investigative division that will investigate complaints of misconduct filed against UC Davis police officers.”

This differs somewhat from the program that the city of Davis implemented in late 2007 with the hiring of Police Auditor (originally designated as Police Ombudsman) Robert Aaronson.

“Most oversight agencies have multiple components to provide a complete accountability program and ensure that the needs of the community are met,” the report notes.  “At UC Davis there has been a serious breach of trust between the UCDPD and the campus community.”

“The establishment of oversight is an important step in working to build a bridge to restore trust between the police and the campus community. To have credibility, oversight must be visible and must be a strong, effective model,” the report continues.

“Evaluation of the current climate at UC Davis indicates that a representative oversight board would help to establish confidence in the oversight body as well as help to rebuild trust in the UCDPD,” the report continues. “An independent investigative agency charged with conducting unbiased investigations would promote the credibility of the complaint process, as well as remove barriers that may inhibit aggrieved parties from filing complaints directly with the police department.”

The report was conducted by Barbara Attard, an oversight and police practices consultant whose career spans 25 years in oversight of law enforcement.  She served for four years as the San Jose Independent Police Auditor and seven years as the director of the Berkeley Police Review Commission (PRC), one of the oldest oversight agencies in the United States.

Her report notes, “Over the past 40 years civilian oversight of law enforcement has become an integral system of checks and balances in governmental structures in the United States, mostly at the city or county levels. Most large cities in the U.S. have oversight of their police departments. In contrast, there is very little oversight of policing on college campuses.”

There have been three traditional models of oversight, however, most agencies are hybrids that are comprised of combinations of investigative, auditor/monitor, and representative boards or commissions.

Ms. Attard writes, “Regardless of the model, oversight agencies can enhance policing by providing transparency of the complaint process and other aspects of policing, making recommendations for policy improvements, and working to ensure constitutional policing in their jurisdiction.”

“The campus (including the Sacramento Campus) convened twelve informational meetings over four days during a six month period where community members were briefed about oversight in the U.S. and dialogue was initiated with stakeholders to ask questions and provide comments,” the report continues. “The feedback of many of the stakeholders was that if oversight were to be developed it needed to be representative, needed to be fair and unbiased, and needed to have the authority to have an impact on the UC Davis Police Department.”

In March of 2013, the university conducted a number of outreach meetings with the goal of “establishing civilian oversight of the UC Davis Police Department and putting ‘some teeth’ into the process.”

“From a police perspective, (civilian oversight) is a good idea,” Chief Matt Carmichael said at the first of two forums held March 11 at the Student Community Center, as reported by UC Davis’ Dateline. In his department, he added, “There is no fear of civilian oversight.”

The oversight program that is recommended is the establishment of the UC Davis Police Accountability Office (UCDPAO), a two-part program:

1. The UC Davis Police Accountability Board (UCDPAB), will consist of seven members, selected through an application process, to include students, faculty, and representatives from both campuses. The board members will receive training and will have the authority to review and approve findings of misconduct investigations and policy recommendations. The board will convene public meetings at least once per quarter.

2. The Independent Investigative Division (UCDIID) will be staffed by: a full time Executive Director/Investigator who has significant experience in law, oversight or a related field; and an administrative staff person. The UCDIID will have a two-fold function, to conduct investigations of police misconduct complaints and to serve as staff to the Police Accountability Board. In addition, the UCDPAO will have authority to conduct outreach, provide transparency through annual reports, provide an alternative to the UCDPD as a place for complaints to be filed, provide policy analysis, and will respond to the scene of and review reports of investigations of critical incidents.

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Upon completion, reports and findings of misconduct complaints will be referred to the Chief of Police, who maintains authority to discipline officers in the UCDPD.

“We want the information,” Chief Carmichael said. “We won’t retaliate. We’ll investigate.”

The report notes, “Because there is little existing oversight on university campuses, the recommended UC Davis model is unique. The proposed evaluation should carefully examine the efficiency and efficacy of the program. A robust evaluation will provide valuable feedback for the UCDPAO, as well as the University, to determine any changes that could improve the accountability program as it moves forward.”

It adds, “To be successful, the UCDPAO will require ongoing funding and support from all stakeholders. By instituting a strong and inclusive oversight program, UC Davis and the UCDPD are poised to become a national model for transparency and accountability.”

—David M. Greenwald 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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23 thoughts on “UC Davis Unveils Police Oversight Plan”

  1. JimmysDaughter

    How far back can one complain? I seem to remember the CA statute of limitations for police misconduct is only 2 years. Can a citizen complain if the incident occurred more than 2 years ago?
    Thanks for this article.

  2. Phil Coleman

    Statute of limitations for complaints of police misconduct. Conceivably there could be no statute of limitations on accepting complaints of police misconduct if the investigation was handled administratively. If there are criminal or civil law complaints under consideration, the statutory limits apply.

    Another variable is an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Some contracts specify time limitations for complaints to be received and investigated.

  3. JimmysDaughter

    Hypothetcal situationS:
    1. My niece gets a full scholarship to UCD. I visit her one day on campus. The campus police behave inappropriately towards me. Do I have a right to this complaint process?
    2. I take my pals to picnic days. None of them have any kids or relationship to UCD. We’re all there just to enjoy the cockroach races. A campus police officer acts inappropriately. Do my pals have any right to this complaint process?
    3. Campus police join county, city, sheriff, chp, for a law enforcement home invasion (probation check) & act inappropriately in someone’s home. Does that homeowner have any right to this complaint process?
    Again, thanks for this info.

  4. Mr Obvious

    The problem with starting a review board after a high profile incident is you end up with agenda base individuals like jimmydaughter trying get be involved. The boards findings will be very predictable.

  5. David M. Greenwald

    People always worry about that sort of thing, but things tend to work out alright as long as you select from a good mix of people. The key is the professional investigator.

  6. Mr Obvious

    [quote]People always worry about that sort of thing, but things tend to work out alright as long as you select from a good mix of people. The key is the professional investigator.[/quote]

    Like the unbiased Reynoso / Guiterrez inquest?

  7. David M. Greenwald

    That was a private group, not the university naming a panel. Big difference.

    Look at the Reynoso Task Force for the pepper spray and the university officials named to that panel. Do you think that group was a problem? That’s more what a review board is going to look like.

  8. David M. Greenwald

    This is what the university is producing: “The UC Davis Police Accountability Board (UCDPAB), will consist of seven members, selected through an application process, to include students, faculty, and representatives from both campuses. The board members will receive training and will have the authority to review and approve findings of misconduct investigations and policy recommendations. The board will convene public meetings at least once per quarter.”

    1. The board will be selected through an application
    2. It will included students, faculty, and university officials
    3. They will be trained

    So this board has nothing in common with the Reynoso/Gutierrez group which was created privately. So please, stick to the topic on hand.

  9. David M. Greenwald

    “Just the fact that David liked the makeup of the Reynoso/Guiterrez board should tell you all you need to know. “

    Actually it tells you nothing other than my own personal preferences since the composition of that body has nothing to do with the composition that the UNIVERSITY POLICE DEPARTMENT is proposing.

  10. JimmysDaughter

    At what point does other law enforcement get a copy of the citzen’s unedited complaint, and at what point, if any, does the complaining citizen get a copy of all of law enforcements’ investigation of the complaint? In other words, if a citizen gives confidential information to the university complaint process, does the city, county,state and federal law enforcement agencies have access of that citizens complaint?

  11. SouthofDavis

    Mr Obvious wrote:

    > The problem with starting a review board after a
    > high profile incident is you end up with agenda
    > base individuals like jimmydaughter trying get
    > be involved.

    Not to pick on jummysdaughter (who as far as I know has not asked to be on the board), but it is hard for me to imagine anyone wanting to serve on a board like that unless they 1. Hate cops or 2. Are related to cops and want to defend them from a board that will most likely be full of people that hate cops…

  12. medwoman

    How about because your primary focus is on prevention of violence during situations involving conflict regardless of the perpetrator ?
    How about bacause you simply care about your community ?

  13. Pingback: Report from UC Davis | Dr. Amy Champ

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