Frustrations Mount as the City Announces Process for Non-Release of Scott Report

The city of Davis on Tuesday sent out a release indicating that it had hired Michael Gennaco as interim Police Auditor.  He currently serves as the as the contract Police Auditor for the cities of Palo Alto and Anaheim, and comes highly recommended by the city police oversight consultant Kathryn Olson.

In a high profile case in Anaheim, he released a scathing report in the controversial death of homeless individual Kelly Thomas.

But this announcement was overshadowed by an announcement that that Mr. Gennaco will review the report from McGregor Scott on the Picnic Day incident.

“The City has received inquiries concerning the status of the internal affairs/personnel complaint investigation that Mr. McGregor Scott conducted into the incident at Picnic Day 2017.  While serving as the City’s Interim Auditor, Mr. Gennaco will provide an independent review of the Scott investigation and report, focusing on the methods and means used to investigate and prepare the report,” City Manager Mike Webb read.

He added, “It is anticipated that the interim Police Auditor’s review of the Scott report will take approximately thirty days to complete.”

However, it was the following comment that raised the ire of a dozen or so activists and protesters: “The internal affairs investigation and report is a confidential personnel complaint report that
cannot be released to the public under California law, including Penal Code sections 832.5, 832.7 and 832.8, as it is part of police officers’ personnel files.  After the interim police auditor has completed his review, and depending on any comments received from the interim police auditor, the city will provide additional information and take additional steps, including publication of any police department policy adjustments that may be deemed appropriate.”

“This was shocking,” William Kelly said during public comment.  “Apparently the answer to when this report is coming out is never.  I don’t know if this was something that could have been foreseen in December when the city manager’s office said it was forthcoming or over the six-month period, when many of us interpreted your silence as waiting on this report to get the facts.”

He added, “This is a blindside.  We have the right to see this report.”

Francesca Wright with ACLU People Power noted that this was a contracted report, “that was contracted in order to respond to an outcry from the public.

“It’s baffling to me,” she said.  “Why isn’t the personnel issue put in a separate report that can be redacted?  Why can’t there be public recommendations in the report relating to policies and procedures – that was one of the purposes of that report and as far as I’m concerned they must have failed if there’s a fear of releasing it.

“That concerns me,” she said.

Tensions nearly boiled over when Carole Standingelk spoke, her time elapsed, and she refused to yield.

“If we don’t have agreement on the rules of how we’re going to operate here, then we can’t have a meeting,” Mayor Robb Davis said.  “I never had to turn off the microphone before,” he said as he killed the microphone and took a recess.

“Why don’t you have that fat guy come over and hit me with his baton or something,” she quipped.

“That’s not going to happen,” the mayor responded.

Following the recess, the mayor implored the public to follow the protocol of the room.  “We have an understanding of one another that we don’t interrupt each other, I know there is disagreement on any number of issues here, but we can’t have people speaking over other people when they’re permitted their three minutes to speak and say what’s on their hearts and on their minds.  You just can’t do that.”

Ron Glick said he was watching at home and came down when they took the recess.  He said, “I support the police in Davis.  I think they are trying to do a good job.

“There was a big screw up on Picnic Day,” he said.  “Just release the thing, let the chips fall.  Let’s try to learn from our mistakes and move forward.  What’s the big secret?  What are you all trying to hide?”

City Attorney Harriet Steiner explained to council that the city has the report, the interim auditor will review the report and report back to the city “as to whether the report was properly done with the proper procedures.”  She said, “We don’t know what the auditor will say, but whatever the auditor says we’ll take under advisement.

“We then intend to issue a document that would outline the manner in which that report was done, what was done, how it was conducted, the roles of different parties, recap in many ways the activities that have been done since Picnic Day and the policies that we put in place,” she said.

She indicated that they would discuss additional policy and changes that might take place as a result of this report.

However, “as it concerns individual officers, California law prohibits us from releasing that information,” she said citing the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights.  Information about sustained complaints “are considered part of officer’s personnel records and are governed by California law which we are subject to.”

Councilmember Lucas Frerichs clarified, “Members of the city council have not received this report at all.”

Responding to a question about releasing redacted portions of the report, Ms. Steiner responded, “At this time, under the Police Officer Bill of Rights, we don’t believe we could release verbatim portions of this report.”

The council does not get access to the report either.  “Since the council does not have a direct role in police discipline… it doesn’t have a direct role so therefore it has for decades been the advice of my office and every other city attorney, that the council cannot see internal affairs investigations or any investigations where they are not directly involved in discipline.”

Harriet Steiner said there were criminal consequences for the improper intentional release of these types of report.  It would be a misdemeanor.

Will Arnold asked her what if they as a body directed her to release the report.

“I would resign,” she said.  “Under my obligations as an attorney, I cannot engage in criminal conduct.”

What is unclear from this discussion is what will be released, and what the public will learn when it is.  As the city announced, “It is anticipated that the interim Police Auditor’s review of the Scott report will take approximately thirty days to complete.”

—David M. Greenwald reporting



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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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54 thoughts on “Frustrations Mount as the City Announces Process for Non-Release of Scott Report”

      1. Alan Miller

        Is this the same woman who had an encounter with Mike Harrington at a council meeting a few months ago that incited him to make some “colorful” comments when he reached the podium?

  1. Tia Will

    Keith

    Totally out of line.”

    Is this your greatest concern about discussion of a policy that allows individual police officers and departments to essentially hide illegal or egregiously inappropriate behaviors behind a screen called “personnel matters” if they are so inclined ?  Might this not be part of the problem of police officers who use excessive force being moved from department to department without the public having any idea it is happening ?

    Please note I am not saying that this is happening in the Davis Police Department, only that the potential is clearly present.

    1. Keith O

      If we can’t have proper decorum than it will lead to mob rule at our council meetings.

      As far as the rules for the release of the report did you read ““The internal affairs investigation and report is a confidential personnel complaint report that cannot be released to the public under California law, including Penal Code sections 832.5, 832.7 and 832.8, as it is part of police officers’ personnel files.”

      It’s against the law.

    2. Sharla C.

      I agree with Keith.  Name calling and public humiliation have no place in any discussion  It ends the discussion.  If directed at me, I would have “walked away” from any engagement at that point, but the officer could not.  He was at work and could not leave or respond.  It was out of line and the officer deserves an apology.

       

  2. Tia Will

    Keith

    I read it. I understand that. What I do not understand is, are you defending that law as in the best interests of either the police or the citizens that they are sworn to protect ?  I see much bigger issues involved with this law than an offhand comment by a frustrated speaker at one city council meeting. And yet, that was the only thing you chose to comment on.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        I agree with Keith here – probably for different reasons than he does. I see the theatrics as a distraction from the legitimate complaint about the city dropping the ball on the roll out of this report.

  3. PhilColeman

    “But this announcement was overshadowed by an announcement . . .”

    Redundancy reign supreme. Stay with this, as we now have have an independent review of an independent review. Another investigator has been purchased to do this second, presumably, more independent review. The first investigation was deemed not sufficiently independent by a person or group who are, of course, persons of independent judgment.

    This second investigator commissioned to do this comes highly recommended by another hired independent investigator based on one identified virtue–he issued a scathing review of a previous police incident.

    The second investigator will reasonably ask his employers, “What’s wrong with the first investigation?” And when he’s told the particular portions under suspicion, this injects immediate subliminal bias into any subsequent report. I openly dare anybody to refute this point.

    I’ll openly assert that the first independent report cannot be released to the public for legal reasons is false. The claim that this first independent report is part of the personnel file of the officers’ under scrutiny is false.

    The content of a police officer’s personnel files are indeed privileged, with a Pitchess Motion exception. The key counter-point here is this: The commissioned taxpayer-paid investigation is not privileged. The report has not yet been placed in a particular police officer personnel file. It’s still being reviewed and amended and not yet ready for file posterity.

    I’d very much like to see the case law citation(s) that extend personnel file secrecy to an independent investigation conducted outside the purview and responsibility of the parent police department. Somebody please ask that question of the person who makes this claim. Be sure to ask how many months it will take to receive a reply.

    1. Keith O

      Very interesting take Phil Coleman.  Just thinking out loud but is it possible that the report exonhorates the police officers and the city fears releasing it knowing they’ll get backlash from the activists in the community?

       

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        “Just thinking out loud but is it possible that the report exonhorates the police officers and the city fears releasing it knowing they’ll get backlash from the activists in the community?”

        No.

    2. Mark West

      “I’ll openly assert that the first independent report cannot be released to the public for legal reasons is false. The claim that this first independent report is part of the personnel file of the officers’ under scrutiny is false.”

      The City Attorney has apparently been wrong in the past in her interpretations of the law (in other instances). Perhaps it is time for the City Council to get a second opinion, especially on an issue that is so important to a significant sector of our community.

  4. Howard P

    “Carole Standingelk”….

    Should have that been parsed as “Carole Standing Elk”?

    Context is everything… the speaker who refused to yield was obviously taking ‘aim’,

    “Why don’t you have that fat guy come over and hit me with his baton or something,” she quipped.

    OK… making a marginally sexist, and body morph critical/disparaging “quip” in an apparent attempt to provoke a confrontation… perhaps a microcosm of statements made by others to date and to come?

    Does “Carole Standingelk” even live in Davis or immediate environs?

    Just curious…

    1. David Greenwald

      Howard: she spells it as one word and yes, she does live in Davis and has for some time, although might have left town for an interlude.  Why do you ask?

    2. PhilColeman

      “perhaps a microcosm of statements made by others to date and to come?”

      The remark was deliberately offensive, and any suggestion that it’s humorous is even more offensive.

      At the same time, (and also noting the qualifier, “perhaps”) one preposterous and provocative comment from one person does not permit the rationale: Others who share some of her views are equally defective in their thought process.

      No mention was made of any supplemental comments afterwards that publicly condemned this deplorable remark. What would have been nice to see would have been a public rebuke from someone sitting behind that large podium.

       

      1. Howard P

        Well, Phil, don’t interpret my comment as finding Ms Standingelk’s comment as humorous… I found it highly offensive, on several levels.

        Particularly in trying to provoke a “situation”, when she was “forced” to yield the floor with a cutting of the mike and a recess…

        1. PhilColeman

          Not at all, you noted no humorous aspect to the regrettable public characterization.

          Let’s not speak to this minor diversion any more. A far more substantive issue deserves our collective attention.

  5. Sharla C.

    (Deep breath)  OK.  I wonder how this is different from the pepper spray incident on campus.  A extensive report with only the names of the officers redacted was released to the public.  It worked to put an end to the turmoil and helped start a new chapter for the UCD Police Department.   The young men involved in the Picnic Day fight have had to live through public examination of their part, a public trial, and findings. Because of the reasons given for withholding the report, I’m going to assume that most of it involved the actions of the officers and the officers involved did not fair well in the investigation of their actions on that day.   The delay in releasing the findings is not improving confidence for some, but I was initially satisfied by the quick implementation of new and firm policies regarding the requirement of wearing of uniforms , not using unmarked cars, etc. on Picnic Day and other times where crowd control is needed.  If the report has other recommendations, then I would like to hear what they are and how they are being implemented.  Isn’t that what is really important?

    1. Howard P

      Damn good points

      But I perceive there is a certain”blood lust” where a portion the ‘coliseum’ wants to see positive retribution against the officers, because ‘police need to be held to the highest standard’… irrespective of the factual narrative (whatever that may be)… am unclear if I’m correct or not…

  6. Dave Hart

    Regardless of what the report says, or what may or may not ever be released, there is a pervasive problem with policing “industry wide” if I may employ the term here.  It’s very deep and well researched with entire books written on the subject by former large city police chiefs, etc., who have to be presumed knowledgeable.  All we really want is recognition of the fact and some kind of tangible and observable action by our current police chief to improve the situation.

    I’d start by having police cadets do a lot of role playing with annual refresher courses where all police officers, regardless of rank, practice apologizing over and over until they are no longer “apologaphobic”:

    “I’m very sorry, madam, to have taken your time and detained you erroneously”; “I’m sorry, sir that we mistakenly assumed you may be the person of interest.”; “I’m sorry we treated you roughly especially in light of the fact you are a completely innocent bystander”, or in the actual case of a friend, “I’m sorry we erroneously suspected you of murdering your family member, totally disrupting your life, confiscating personal items, and casting a cloud over your social existence when we had no evidence and, worse, made no attempt whatsoever to clear your name publicly once we were satisfied you were not involved but, instead, just let it drop like a bag of dog poop.”

    I mean, have you ever heard a cop say they were sorry? I think we just want them to act like humans, not unwaveringly perfect and subject to correction.

    1. John Hobbs

      “I mean, have you ever heard a cop say they were sorry?”

      I have, but not for a very long time, in this country. UK police are usually polite, though they are becoming more like their American cousins.

      I have commented here before about the lack of basic civility that has become the norm for police in the USA. A calm demeanor and civil tone should not be too much to ask from such overpaid  and under-tasked (imo) civil servants.

    2. Howard P

      have you ever heard a cop say they were sorry? 

      Yes… on at least three occasions… I showed them the error, and I got an apology… but that was just in Davis… can’t answer for other jurisdictions…

      Caveat… have not behaved in such a way where I have had a whole lot of interaction with police where there was even a ‘slight’ issue…

      1. Dave Hart

        One doesn’t have to be snotty or have an attitude to be treated rudely by the “authorities”.  My comment above is real life and without going into too many details, the person is your archetypal little old lady:

        or in the actual case of a friend, “I’m sorry we erroneously suspected you of murdering your family member, totally disrupting your life, confiscating personal items, and casting a cloud over your social existence when we had no evidence and, worse, made no attempt whatsoever to clear your name publicly once we were satisfied you were not involved but, instead, just let it drop like a bag of dog poop.”

        We all understand that a suicide has the potential to be a homicide;  but why would the police treat the bereaved family member as if they are some kind of criminal with a rap sheet?  Civil, polite to begin with, then if the evidence supports it, a little tougher.  Of course, there was no evidence to support the suspicion because our friend didn’t murder anyone.  She went through hell.  Not necessary and all too typical of police who bash first, ask questions later and are almost 100% exonerated even when they are guilty.  All police departments have work to do, mainly in reminding their officers that they are citizens first and with extra authority should go extra responsibility and accountability.  That’s all the community wants.

  7. Jeff M

    Bottom line is that you can’t have weak law enforcement when there are so many violent, law-breaking thugs.

    The amount of ink wasted on this incident is indicative of a cohort of people with an irrational dislike of cops, but  because they have chosen to live in our exclusive and progressive utopia where local law enforcement is sufficiently muzzled and harassed to the weakest bare minimum, they have so little of material substance to complain about, that they have to spin themselves into a frenzy over what is basically twaddle.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “Bottom line is that you can’t have weak law enforcement when there are so many violent, law-breaking thugs.”

      There is a growing body of research that suggests otherwise. If anything is the cops are themselves violent and law-breaking, they undermine the rule of law.

      1. Jeff M

        “Body of evidence” as provided by the social sciences field that is plagued with the very political bias that would tend to value their conclusions.

        There is a much bigger body of evidence that proves stronger law enforcement results in a reduction in crime.  Much bigger.  Yuge body of evidence I would say.

        You and I can come to agreement on a need to stop our arresting and prosecuting people for drug use and drug possession.   I am 100% against criminalizing any harm to self.  But I am 100% against weakening any laws or law enforcement for crimes that harm others.  And I am supportive of some preventative measures that risk stepping on some civil liberties as long as they are de minimis like being inconvenienced as a suspect.

        1. David Greenwald

          You’re already conflating “laws” with “law enforcement tactics” and we are talking about the latter here but your post here has bled into the former.

  8. John Hobbs

    “Bottom line is that you can’t have weak law enforcement when there are so many violent, law-breaking thugs.”

    Trouble is too many cops are “violent, law-breaking thugs.”

    “an irrational dislike of cops…our exclusive and progressive utopia where local law enforcement is sufficiently muzzled and harassed to the weakest bare minimum,.. to complain about,…frenzy over what is basically twaddle. ”

    Sycophant lives matter and I heartily endorse your right to your obviously biased opinion.

    1. Jeff M

      You don’t know me very well to claim sycophancy.  You could move away to someplace where your chronic agitation against law enforcement would be justified and I would be supportive of it.   But it isn’t in Davis at this point, and so I am not.

      What are our choices in Davis?

      We could demand a social justice political activist police chief like the one in Charllotesville?  See how well that worked out.

      Or we can muzzle our police even more for Picnic Day so that lawlessness expand to the point of being like Chico’s Pioneer Days.

      Davis is already a theft target from outside thugs… because they know our police are muzzled and inadequately staffed.

      But maybe you have some affection and affinity for those lawless thugs and believe they should be more free to do their business.

        1. David Greenwald

          A transparent account has not happened.  We have had a chance to see the report and the findings.  What transparent account are you talking about?

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            If that’s your approach, why hire an outside investigator? Since we did, I want to know what he found.

        2. Howard P

          It is apparent that the “trial of public opinion”, however limited in scope, is still on-going… and may be increasing… best remedy is to, after second opinion auditing, disclose as much as possible, given any valid legal constraints.

          Fully realize that will provoke “both sides”… the two ends of the bell curve… those who wish that the matter goes away, and the ‘lynch mob’, who will not be satisfied until there is public “bloodshed”… we need the basic findings, but personnel matters are personnel matters… do we really need the details of firings/demotions/discipline?  Public or private employment, let they who are ‘guiltless’ cast the first stone…

           

      1. John Hobbs

        I’m afraid it is difficult for me to take someone, for whom “social justice” is pejorative, seriously.

        “But maybe you have some affection and affinity for those lawless thugs and believe they should be more free to do their business.”

        Quite to the contrary, but I recognize the glaring inability and/or disinclination of the police to effect any positive resolution and the high incidence of abuse of authority by less than acceptable candidates for such a job. If you think commenting is agitation, you need a dictionary and possibly a Valium.

        1. Jeff M

          It seems you are too fond of that word “pejorative”.

          In my book of all things right and relevant, people work for a living, agitate for a cause and then go back to work.

          A social justice activist is someone defined more by their activism than their work.   Or their work is directly connected to such activism.

          They are identified by their inability to let go of a social justice-related topic that excites them, and also by their inability to admit to sufficiency and progress in their activism space because criticism of all things in that space has become their stock and trade in life purpose.

          If they don’t have enough social justice crises to agitate for, they will manufacture them.

          Living in Davis requires a lot of manufacturing.

  9. Jim Frame

    In what way are the personnel ramifications of the McGregor Scott report different from those in the fire department review?  David had to go to court to get that one released, but the court didn’t find any personnel-related matters that would prevent its release, despite the abundance of personnel-related information — much of it quite embarrassing to the department — that it contained.

    1. Howard P

      As I recall, however imperfectly, the document released (FD) at least had names and/or identifying info as to individuals, redacted.

      That said, I see no reason why it could not be the same, unless the circumstances (differences under State law) are different for PD vs. FD…

      I’m agreeing with Jim, but with nuance…

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