Monday Morning Thoughts: Demanding Accountability Is Not Hating

Davis Police Car

It seems like every time criticism is leveled at the police over an officer-involved shooting, the police, on the defensive, resort to dismissing their detractors as haters.

Don’t get me wrong – there is clearly an element of that in this debate.  As I have pointed out in previous columns, there are clearly those who believe that police are an extension of the government’s attempt to enforce white supremacy.

But I don’t think that the majority of critics fall into that more radical camp.  Instead, I believe that we remain a nation of laws, and there is a legitimate place for police to enforce the laws and protect the weak and defenseless in our society from those who would do us harm.

At the same time, there are times when the police abuse their authority in a variety of ways and we need a system of oversight that holds them accountable, just as the police are there to hold us accountable.

That accountability or perceived lack thereof is at the root of the loss of trust between some communities, particularly communities of color and the police.

This discourse has often focused on the fatal encounters with police – Michael Brown in Ferguson, Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Eric Garner in Staten Island, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Philando Castile in Minneapolis, Mario Woods in San Francisco, and Joseph Mann in Sacramento.

I was reading an essay from Cornell Law Professor Joseph Margulies in Verdict, and he made the point that “the use of lethal force by police is vanishingly rare.”  However, “that is not the whole story.”

The communities of color, he argues, “view police conduct as a whole.”

He writes, “The lethal violence, though infrequent, comes atop a long-term pattern of over-policing and under-protecting.”  He adds, “To the community, lethal violence is simply the most extreme expression of a far more routine practice of unnecessary and humiliating stops, needless citations, gratuitous disrespect, and episodic (albeit non-lethal) brutality. Justifiably, and understandably, the community experiences this litany in toto, and not as isolated, unconnected practices.”

In this light, we have to view what is going on in Davis as a microcosm for what is going on across the nation.  Critics and people of color view what happened on Picnic Day as a continuation of what has happened across the nation.

That is the backdrop of the local reform efforts.

A good starting place to evaluate local progress is to look at the most comprehensive set of reform tools we have – the 21st Century policing recommendations.

In the city of Davis Police proposed Strategic Plan, they recommend: “Appoint a committee consisting of Department and community members tasked with reporting to the Police Chief on implementing recommendations from President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing.”

Some of the recommendations include procedural justice training, unconscious bias training, training for crisis intervention teams to assist them in dealing with mentally ill individuals, de-escalation training, the implementation of body worn cameras, use-of-force training, and other innovations.

As Chief Darren Pytel pointed out this week, the city of Davis has already implemented a lot of these things.

Later this week we will get a full list of these to evaluate them.

Meanwhile, I came up with a summary of what we expect from our police: We expect police to operate in a constitutional manner that is open and transparent and we expect police to implement best practices and revise policies and practices as needed.

Chief Pytel points out that when the police worked on their strategic plan, they came up with a new vision statement: The Davis Police Department will model and pursue excellence by partnering with our community; investing in our employees to maintain the highest level of professionalism; being a leader in procedural justice, enacting restorative practices, and embracing our role as guardians of the community.

I think it is remarkable how similar the two are, and, in fact, their statement is more specific as it explains how the police intend to accomplish these goals.

This is not to suggest that there isn’t work to do.  At some point, principles must become practice.  And the fact that I continue to hear, even in Davis, that criticism of the conduct of some police officers is tantamount to hatred of the police, means there is a lot of work to do.

For certain, there are people in the room who do in fact hate – and probably the better word is mistrust – the police.  But there are more people, in my view, of the mindset like me, who believe that police are necessary but who are simply not willing to look the other way and excuse the conduct that we have seen far too often.

There is no logical contradiction with viewing policing through a prism in which we can be concerned about policing, particularly when it results in unjustified use of force through which there is a lack of accountability, and be supportive of the police overall.

—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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15 thoughts on “Monday Morning Thoughts: Demanding Accountability Is Not Hating”

  1. Jim Hoch

    While most people would support an objective look at police policy and practices the outside idiots, sorry activists, have the effect of pushing people to support the local police.

    “we have to view what is going on in Davis as a microcosm for what is going on across the nation.” No, most people in Davis don’t as far as I can tell.

    1. David Greenwald

      That’s because there another disconnect – the treatment of white people in Davis seems to be fundamentally different than the treatment of those of color.

      1. Jim Hoch

        Evidence for that? I am hooked into several Asian social circles and never heard anyone mention disparate treatment. In general the “people of color” in my life are looking for a more aggressive police posture as they are more concerned about becoming victims of crime than they are of becoming victims of police abuse.

        1. David Greenwald

          The evidence for that will come out when I’m ready to publish the accounts.  In general, when speaking of people of color and police interactions, the reference is to black and Hispanic populations, not Asian.

        2. Jim Hoch

          ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

  2. John Hobbs

    The disingenuous continue to practice rhetorical Onanism instead of engaging in earnest debate. It is what I have come to expect from white Davisites. Until these issues of racial disparity can be discussed without deflection and denial as the default response, any discussion is futile.

    1. Alan Miller

      It is what I have come to expect from white Davisites.

      What do you expect from Asian Davisites?

      Hard to tell from your photo.  Are you speaking as a “car of color”?

       

  3. Todd Edelman

    Continuing with the reform method: What about comparing us with international best practice, where police kill FAR fewer people? Look at the various courses and events at UC Davis – does work on cancer treatments, cycling infrastructure or how to increase milk production focus only on USA examples? Fortunately DPD are not involved in state extra-legal executions, but also I am curious how much training which Chief Pytel discussed extensively the other evening was taken by the police in the Picnic Day Incident. Wait… no… isn’t the real question how effective the training is? Did the Chief mention how this was evaluated after each class. Did he mention tests? Did the police take tests so we can see how well the training worked?

    Then there’s the other big issue which is not merely about an oversight model, but a policing or deeper than that a community security model. Clearly the discussion the other night started with the viewpoint that police in more or less their current form in the USA are necessary. The ACLU’s job is only keeping the police legal per the Constitution and their own rules. But there was a good question – immediately quashed by Chief Pytel – dealing with a fight in which one party was ASAP arrested and so on and the other is still working full-time several months later with only an evaluation of their conduct a bit of a worry. The Chief said the police are under a different standard… but why is that? I believe he said that the Constitution supported it but is that actually true? Does the Constitution guarantee specific types of community security or does it only support whatever a community decides? Whether or not we support alternatives to police, per se, I hope we agree that a look at the fundamentals here and questioning about how the modern form of police were created will give us a deeper understanding of our current opinions, i.e. to take a discussion on

    “accountability or perceived lack thereof is at the root of the loss of trust between some communities, particularly communities of color and the police.”

     
    further and really – after being shown some alternative models for community security – not merely different kinds of cops – if there is anything close to consensus that there is a

    “legitimate place for police to enforce the laws and protect the weak and defenseless in our society from those who would do us harm”.

    1. Jim Hoch

      “Does the Constitution guarantee specific types of community security” -No

       

      “or does it only support whatever a community decides?” -Not that either though the theme is protect individuals against whatever the community decides.

    2. Howard P

      Todd… keep this in mind when we talk about DJUSD, GATE, and general performance standards, particularly for low income/minority students…

      isn’t the real question how effective the training is? Did the (pick your target) mention how this was evaluated after each class. Did (they) mention tests? Did the (pick your target audience) take tests so we can see how well the training worked?

      Your point is well taken… just applies across professions… here, in Davis…or, doesn’t apply at all…

  4. Ron

    From article:  “Instead, I believe that we remain a nation of laws, and there is a legitimate place for police to enforce the laws and protect the weak and defenseless in our society from those who would do us harm.”

    We’re all “weak and defenseless”, in some situations.

    I have often wondered if there are residents in high-crime areas who wish that there was MORE police presence and enforcement, but are essentially discouraged from expressing those views or cooperating with police investigations (one way, or another). 

    Or, maybe they just ultimately move out of those communities, if they can.  Regardless of the color of their skin.

    1. David Greenwald

      To answer your question a little portion of Bretons column on the new Sac Chief:

      In fact, it was Hahn, the Roseville chief, who came to Del Paso Heights – after hours and off the clock – as a kind of helper to civic leaders trying to convince potential witnesses to step forward after a Grant High School football player was shot dead in broad daylight on Nov. 13, 2015.

      J.J. Clavo was killed at the busy intersection of Silver Eagle Road and Mabel Street. Sacramento police initially were frustrated with a lack of cooperation with potential witnesses. Communities reached out to Hahn and he responded. A teenager named Keymontae Lindsey later was arrested and charged with murder.

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