An Open Letter to the Davis Chamber of Commerce: Pytel Inappropriate Choice To Honor

Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel

We, the undersigned community members, are writing to you because we are deeply concerned by your decision to honor Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel as “Partner of the Year” at your upcoming 113th Annual Installation Gala on January 20, 2018, and we urge you to revoke this award immediately.

Regardless of your motives, bestowing a special honor on the chief of police at this particular moment demonstrates at best an ignorance of recent events and at worst contempt for those who are currently working to bring about positive change in our community.

While systemic problems in local policing are neither new nor unique to Davis, they are epitomized by the incident that occurred on April 22, 2017, and its aftermath. In numerous ways the Davis Police Department under Chief Pytel’s leadership has failed to promote public safety, communicate truthfully with the community, and hold themselves accountable for misconduct; and Chief Pytel has yet to take responsibility for or even acknowledge the clear institutional failures that occurred under his supervision. While we are sure you are generally familiar with these events we feel it is necessary to summarize them here.

  • This past Picnic Day (April 22, 2017) three undercover Davis police officers drove an unmarked vehicle into a group of young people, failed to properly identify themselves as police officers, and initiated a violent encounter that resulted in the arrest of the five individuals who came to be known as the “Picnic Day 5.” The officers’ actions clearly violated existing policy which stipulated that plainclothes officers can only take enforcement actions “to protect themselves or another person from imminent injury or harm.” Publicly available video evidence shows that no such danger existed when the officers initiated contact. The lack of any plausible explanation for the encounter and the staggering speed with which the officers made the decision to use force against several black and brown young people has led many community members to conclude that this is an instance of racial profiling. To our knowledge these officers have not been disciplined and at least one of them was previously caught on video using excessive force in July 2016.
  • Two days after the incident the DPD released a statement that contained several false and misleading claims which portrayed the officers as victims of an attack by a “hostile group.” The statement was subsequently contradicted on several counts by video evidence as well as multiple witness statements given immediately following the incident. Having apparently lost confidence in their initial account, the DPD has removed the statement from their social media accounts but has not offered an official apology or retraction.
  • Despite the lack of any clear justification for the encounter, DPD personnel and resources were used to aid District Attorney Jeff Reisig’s office in attempting to send each of the Picnic Day 5 to prison for a minimum of three years. Fortunately they were unsuccessful and all charges will be dropped (some immediately, some subject to one year of informal probation); however, Chief Pytel has yet to explain why he felt this was a productive use of public resources.
  • When it came time to begin investigating the incident, Chief Pytel is reported to have personally proposed that former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness lead the investigation. John McGinness was hired and it quickly became public knowledge that he has a pattern of making racist remarks on his radio show, including his statement that “African Americans in this country did much, much, much, much better before the Civil Rights Act” made just a few days after he was hired to lead the investigation. McGinness stepped down shortly after Councilmember Will Arnold characterized these remarks as “beyond the pale” as well as “ignorant and insensitive.”
  • At the September 19, 2017, City Council meeting, Chief Pytel had an opportunity to act as a partner in the process of implementing civilian oversight of the DPD when he was asked to report on a proposed ordinance that would allow the City Council to oversee the DPD’s use of surveillance technology. Instead of engaging in a clear discussion of the merits of the proposal, he proposed several convoluted revisions that would have made the ordinance completely unenforceable.

In the wake of these events, we as a community are demanding that the city implement robust civilian oversight of our police department to prevent future incidents like these, a demand that was tragically ignored in 2006 during a similar moment of self-reckoning. An initial step in this process has consisted of creating spaces for marginalized communities to come forward and speak up about experiences involving DPD officers and leadership. This process is still unfolding, but one thing that is clear to anyone who cares to listen is that the events of April 22, 2017, were not an isolated incident, but rather part of a pattern of discriminatory policing in Davis.

To present Chief Pytel an award for partnership at this moment demonstrates to us that the Davis Chamber of Commerce does not view these voices as credible and feels that the business communities’ own interests are wholly disconnected from the needs of the communities that are speaking up.

As your friends, neighbors, employees, and customers we hope you will show us that this is not the case.

Readers who wish to share their thoughts with the Davis Chamber of Commerce can call 530-756-5160.

Signed by:

  1. Rebecca Ambrose
  2. Juliette Beck
  3. Rachel Beck
  4. Eddie Bell
  5. Katelynn Bishop
  6. Linda Bresnick
  7. Bryn Buchanan
  8. Joaquin Chavez
  9. Jacqueline Clemens
  10. Edward Clemens
  11. Barbara Clutter
  12. Linda Deos
  13. Skylar Downes
  14. Kristal Edwards-Jones
  15. Ashley Eisenmenger
  16. Nancy Erickson
  17. Marilee Eusebio
  18. Caitlin French
  19. Teresa Geimer
  20. Connor Gorman
  21. Jen Higley-Chapman
  22. Emily Hill
  23. Dillan Horton
  24. Melissa Johnson-Camacho
  25. William Kelly
  26. Harry Kendall
  27. Suzanne Kimmel
  28. Aparna Komarla
  29. Airy Krich-Brinton
  30. Gregory Lang
  31. Chris Lodgson
  32. Justine Massey
  33. Kate Mellon-Anibaba
  34. Jann Murray-Garcia
  35. Nora Oldwin
  36. Stephanie Parreira
  37. Gloria Partida
  38. Frank Pinto
  39. Sarita Pinto
  40. Sean Raycraft
  41. Michael Rawls
  42. Al Rojas
  43. Desiree Rojas
  44. Neil Ruud
  45. Carole Standing Elk
  46. Ernest Walker
  47. Isabel Warner
  48. Natalie Wormeli
  49. Francesca Wright

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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59 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Davis Chamber of Commerce: Pytel Inappropriate Choice To Honor”

  1. Keith O

    Police Chief Darren Pytel is as about the most PC police chief a community could ever have and it’s still not good enough for our local activists.  Nothing will ever make them happy, they always like to stir things up.

    1. David Greenwald

      The problem is he made a number of glaring mistakes during the highest profile event of his tenure as chief. He put out a press release that was quite frankly utter nonsense, he hired the former sheriff to investigate the matter which is quite frankly a failure of due diligence at best, and so my question would be – what has he done in the past year to warrant the award?

        1. Tia Will

          I agree with Howard’s statement that the Chamber, as a private entity has the right to honor anyone they see as in alliance with their goals and values.

          To Keith, I would point out that a number of people who signed this objection could hardly be dismissed as “local activists” even if one did not see that as a dismissive term.

          It is normal and natural for people to have different perspectives. This seems to me to be a less than optimal time to be honoring Chief Pytel for whom I have had a great deal of respect ever since I became aware of him at the time of the Pepper Spray incident, but who clearly made significant errors in the handling of this incident. However, I believe that the Chamber has no obligation to rescind a reward because there is not universal agreement.

  2. Keith O

    To: Chief Pytel

    Since I know you’ll most likely read this I want to to know there’s a whole community out there who back you.  Don’t let a few loud local activists discourage you, the majority of the communtiy think you’re doing a great job.  We aren’t very vocal, but we’re behind you.

    1. David Greenwald

      How do you know the majority of the community thinks he’s doing a great job?  In fact, I wonder if the majority of the community could name one thing he has done.

      What five things would you cite as evidence he is doing a great job?

      1. Howard P

        In the narrow context of his dealing with the Chamber and their issues?  I wouldn’t know, as I’m not a Chamber member… maybe Keith is, but don’t know…

      2. Keith O

        I think the fact that his detractors can only point to one thing that he may have done wrong, even though the report isn’t even released yet, says a lot.  It’s the type of job where if you don’t notice him or have multiple complaints about him than that would lead one to believe he’s doing a good job.

        I think the better question is what five things would lead you to believe he’s not doing a good job?

      3. Ron

        David:  “In fact, I wonder if the majority of the community could name one thing he has done.”

        Not a comment regarding this issue, but I wonder if a “majority of the community” even knows who he is.  🙂

    1. Howard P

      Good question… perhaps they’ll answer… if there are a significant number who are, they have “standing”… if not, I’d discount their comments.

  3. Roberta Millstein

    Those who argue that business/economic interests act to the benefit of all — or those who are currently siding with those interests, supposedly to the benefit of all — should pay careful attention to this very revealing choice by the Chamber of Commerce.

      1. Howard P

        Keith… I tend to agree, that a Chamber recognition for ‘partnering’ on their issues is nowhere near akin to sainthood, a Nobel prize, or even Covell/Brinley recognitions.  It’s more like an atta-person in a limited context.

        As much as I tend to despise ‘coining’ of new words, I’ll propose one… “tabblog”… derived from ‘tabloid’ and ‘blog’… characteristics include partial truths, overblown conclusions, and appealing to those who love to look for/find dirt for anyone who doesn’t act in the way that precisely matches their world view.  I hereby copyright the term…

    1. Tia Will

      Those who argue that business/economic interests act to the benefit of all”

      I think Roberta makes an excellent point that has implications far beyond the scope of this thread.  Some members of our business/economic community portray all actions by this segment of our community as being in the best interests of all. I would posit that there are very few actions that do not have positive effects for some while having negative effects for others, who are often labelled in some derogatory manner. All actions need to be weighed with both pros and cons taken into account,  be with neither side being belittled, mocked or disregarded. This will become increasingly important as we get closer to our next city council election.

        1. Tia Will

          Howard

          I agree. And that is why I believe that developers, investors,  the city staff , council members and candidates, should stop trying to sell either their projects and/or their perspective as though they were.

      1. Michael Bisch

        Roberta’s comment is not helpful at all. It is extremely prejudicial and inflammatory going way beyond the scope of this Chamber action. Since she apparently receives no benefit from business or economic interests, she must be procuring all of her goods and services from government and charities. It’s not clear to me what kind of housing she occupies either given it apparently wasn’t built by a business or economic interest. Apparently, she doesn’t frequent any restaurants, coffee shops or private sector entertainment venues either. Her transportation choices must be extremely constrained as well. I can’t help but wonder which sidewalks and streets she utilizes given the ones in Davis were all built by private-sector contractors…not to mention her current or former places of work.

        1. Tia Will

          Roberta did not expand her comment to other aspects of the business community but limited it to the current action. It was me that did that and you chose to expand it well beyond even the point that I made which was only that benefits do not necessarily extend to “all” even if they are portrayed that way.

        2. Roberta Millstein

          Michael, I merely asserted that the following is false:

          “business/economic interests act to the benefit of all.”

          That is fully consistent with the following being true:

          “business/economic interests act to the benefit of some.”

          Of course, some business decisions benefit some.  Typically, they primarily benefit the wealthy, or at least benefit the wealthy to a greater degree than the benefit the less wealthy.  Sometimes, they act with concern out for the most vulnerable among us.  But that is, in my experience, rare.  And that is the point here.  The Chamber shows its disdain for the vulnerable among us by honoring Chief Pytel, especially knowing (as surely it must) the concerns raised by citizens over the Picnic Day incident.

  4. PhilColeman

    A prominent city official receives an award from a private entity. A group of persons immediately counter by publicly calling for a withdrawal of the award, based on an “incident” having nothing to do with the award criteria.

    We don’t know why Chief Pytel is to be so honored. We do hear (again) biased and unsubstantiated opinions why Pytel should be disgraced rather than honored. The wording construct, tone, and sequence of the accusations sound very familiar.

    Normally, a public official receiving an honor is a cause for celebration and congratulations. No more. A facet of the Davis Community has just set a new and shameful public precedent–a deliberate effort to create public embarrassment to the Davis Chamber of Commerce and the Chief of Police.

    And then we wonder why Davis may be ungovernable, and who is doing the governing.

     

     

     

    1. David Greenwald

      “based on an “incident” having nothing to do with the award criteria.”

      ”We don’t know why Chief Pytel is to be so honored.”

       

      1. Howard P

        Actually, we have at least a good hint… the members of the Chamber are recognizing him as “Partner of the Year”.  Probably recognizing him, as the most visual member of PD, for efforts PD did dealing with theft prevention education, downtown presence of police, parking enforcement, etc., etc.

        Chamber issues.  Perhaps credibly listening to their concerns and working with them via his direction of staff?

    2. Howard P

      who is doing the governing…

      Will take issue with you here Phil… now if you had said “who seeks to do the governing, with complete control over others’ thoughts and actions…”

      Although I’ve never seen it, remember an older movie title… “The Man Who Would Be King”…

      Happy and healthy 2018, Phil… to you and yours…

    3. Tia Will

      Phil

      And then we wonder why Davis may be ungovernable, and who is doing the governing.”

      I do not understand how an award put forth by one group of private citizens but disapproved of by another, both of whom have every right to stated their perspective has anything at all to do with whether or not Davis is governable. Can you explain ?

       

  5. Don Shor

    I recall that Chief Pytel has worked with the Chamber on their recent homeless initiatives. I don’t in any way speak for the Chamber, but my guess is his cooperation on that issue was a factor, and that the awards committee or board didn’t consider the Picnic Day issue to be as compelling as others in the community might find it.

    1. Howard P

      Yeah… you might do 20 things right, do a couple of unrelated ‘stupids’ (or errors), and you become the devil incarnate… but the Chamber’s context seems to be limited to their concerns/interests…

      1. David Greenwald

        Pytel poorly handled the outset of a situation that blew up and a group of people in this community is frustrated by his handling of the situation and calling attention to it.

        What I find interesting is the Chamber and Pytel probably do not see eye to eye on the homeless issue.  I happen to agree with his approach, but I know the Chamber would like to see a more aggressive approach.

      2. Tia Will

        Howard

        I hardly see being “the devil incarnate” as synonymous with not receiving an award. Perhaps you are seeking an award for hyperbole. If so, I will make the nomination.

  6. Tia Will

    I would like to make a very simple proposal. Perhaps it would be prudent to hear what the award is actually for before deciding ( and publicly expressing) whether or not it is warranted.

    1. Howard P

      Perhaps it would be prudent to hear what the award is actually for before deciding ( and publicly expressing) whether or not it is warranted.

      Agree on the first point… David and the signatories are some who appear to disagree with that.

      As to the second point, the ONLY folk, in my opinion, who should decide whether or not it is warranted, is the majority of the Chamber.  None of their (letter signatories) damn business [pun unintended] (unless they are Chamber members)… and the signatories went beyond expressing concern, or displeasure, but,

      and we urge you to revoke this award immediately.

      Sounds like a veiled ‘demand’ to me…

      Interestingly, it may backfire… just like the prez’s attorney seeking a ‘cease and desist’ order for the book released Friday is likely to drive sales of the book through the proverbial roof.

      Pretty sure had folk let the award fly under the radar, very few if any, would even have picked up on it. It is a trivial matter. Who was the last recipient? See?

  7. Jeff M

    It is nice that these people recorded their names as they are likely crime suspects that hate an effective police force.

    And since when did non-members of any private organization have any say in who that organization chooses to honor?

    Lastly, the demands of the social justice anti-law enforcement cohort in this city are bad for business. It makes sense that the social justice anti-law enforcement cohort would be at odds with the leaders of the business cohort.

      1. Howard P

        For clarity… my comment was looking at,

        And since when did non-members of any private organization have any say in who that organization chooses to honor?

    1. Moderator

      It is nice that these people recorded their names as they are likely crime suspects that hate an effective police force.

      Your statement is highly offensive and very far out of line. Please review and adhere to the Vanguard Comment policy.

      1. Jeff M

        I find their attacks on the chief and the Chamber as highly offensive and out of line.  However, I accept your point and will tone down my response in kind.  It does not make for productive dialog to have both sides filled with intolerance and vitriol.

        1. Howard P

          I see more their hubris as to trying to dictate to a private organization how they should ‘operate’/think… and then trying to get the VG and community support to back their views… and perhaps ‘extort’/influence the Chamber?

      2. John Hobbs

        “social justice anti-law enforcement cohort”

        Pejorative! Should be excised from the body of the post.

        [moderator] I replied instead, but thanks for the feedback.

  8. Mike Hart04

    We are very fortunate as a community to have Chief Pytel- well done Davis Chamber for your selection of Partner of the Year.  Congratulations Chief Pytel!

    1. Howard P

      His mother was awesome… she worked for PD and on the multi-department development review team, and advised many businesses as to how to do/not do landscaping, lighting, etc.  Madelon is dearly missed by those who had the privilege and opportunity to have worked with her.

      Next year, she should be considered for a posthumous recognition by the Chamber.  She served the community, and particularly the business community very well… behind the scenes.

  9. Rob White54

    Since I have not been sanctioned to do so, I am not officially responding on behalf of the Davis Chamber. I leave any actual response from the Chamber and its requisite Board to them as a group.

    A few personal thoughts:

    Those that have been watching the media know that Chief Pytel has done a significant amount of work with the Chamber on addressing the negative affects from homelessness (on both people and businesses), theft prevention education, downtown presence of police, and parking enforcement, to name a few. 

    The Chamber is a member-driven organization. Any time that City staff and policymakers work hand-in-hand with the community (business or otherwise) to address issues is a good thing.

    The very few Chamber members who are listed as signatories on the letter have not previously expressed their dissatisfaction on this award, and I would think the Chamber would encourage them to reach out directly to the Chamber so they can discuss their concerns. It is strange that these members would seek discussion through an open letter first before talking with the Chamber Board, so the ultimate motive of the letter seems unclear.

    Lastly, David Greenwald has stated to me that he was asked to sign on to this letter, and declined. I find it curious that he then uses the platform of (t)his community blog to also attack an organization for which he did not reach out to for any comment, nor do any sort of followup. In fact, this letter was brought to my attention by others in the community, not by David. As an outcome, he has actually de-facto signed up for this letter of critique and has abdicated his duty as any sort of actual journalist trying to represent the multitude of views that the Davis community might express.

    Other than these curiosities, I leave it to the Chamber Board to address the matter officially.

  10. Sean Raycraft

    Sadly, the folks in the comments are largely missing the point. That being the DPD made some serious errors in judgement, broke policy, lied to the public, and as far as we the public can tell, no one has been held accountable, and no one has taken responsibility for the institutional failures. All of this has happened on Pytels watch.

     

    This is isnt to say he hasn’t done good things in the community or is a nice person etc.. it’s to say he hasn’t taken responsibility for what happened, and ought to.

    1. Howard P

      You say absolutely nothing about why random citizens should “urge” the Chamber to do anything about their choices… should I rally others to publically urge you how to be a shop steward for your union?

      Think.  Reflect.

      I actually have suggestions about unions… and their tactics… particularly those who are aligned with State/National union groups that get their money from the ‘rank and file’… how much of a union worker’s salary goes to your local? The “mothership”?

      1. Sean Raycraft

        In the letter, its pretty clear as to why we think its ultimately bad for everyone to honor Pytel. Hes a public servant, and is ultimately responsible for the conduct of his department. The conduct of the DPD has not meet my standards, given the clear institutional failures and lack of discipline shown. Its not unreasonable for citizens to criticize the chief for his failures, and that is whats going on here.

  11. Jeff M

    The continued agitation of displeasure over the performance of Davis Police Department over the Picnic Day incident, I think, is from a small vocal minority of people that routinely agitate against law enforcement.

    They are small, loud… and often wrong.

    And their views are not shared by the majority of Davis residents that want the police to protect the public, including all visitors, from Picnic Day trouble-makers.  And even if we can agree that the police made mistakes in this incident, the violent reaction from those that the police attempted to question and detain clearly indicates their propensity for making trouble.

    The job of a police chief is not to calm those so easily reactionary about law enforcement.   However, the job of a police chief is certainly to listen to all concerns expressed about the performance of law enforcement and to make adjustments as needed so that the police demonstrate top performance.

    From my perspective, Chief Pytel has been exemplary in listening and responding.  I know for a fact that there have been protocol changes for how the police will respond to suspected Picnic Day trouble-makers.

    I think the anti-law enforcement activists are out of control here.  They are wrong once again.

  12. Keith O

    The continued agitation of displeasure over the performance of Davis Police Department over the Picnic Day incident, I think, is from a small vocal minority of people that routinely agitate against law enforcement.
    They are small, loud… and often wrong.

    Bingo!!!!!

    From my perspective, Chief Pytel has been exemplary in listening and responding.  I know for a fact that there have been protocol changes for how the police will respond to suspected Picnic Day trouble-makers.
    I think the anti-law enforcement activists are out of control here.  They are wrong once again.

    Yahtzee!!!

    1. Sean Raycraft

      Well, Keith and Jeff, what about the false statement put out by the Police department media department? What about the Chief advocating for hiring the racist guy to conduct the investigation? Pytel has not taken responsibility for these clear mis steps. Thats my beef, and I think its a legitimate one.

       

      1. Keith O

        One possible mistake, we don’t really know yet do we as the report still isn’t public, doesn’t make Pytel a bad chief.   One maybe uninformed or under thought out statement from John McGuinness doesn’t make him a racist.  You activists throw that term around way too easily.  That’s my beef and I think its a legitimate one.

    1. David Greenwald

      I listened to two shows of McGinnis.  The civil rights comment got a lot of play and ultimately led to Will Arnold requesting him to resign but there were a number of other comments including his whole argument against the Bee article that showed the disproportionate police stops and his weird comments about people playing loud music with a lot of base being linked to criminal activity.

  13. Deb Westergaard

    Pytel continues to perpetuate a lack of transparency and to issue allowances to officers who are overly sensitive to any questioning of their performance. This “award” is a politically charged pat on the back for someone who said to my husband that an uninsured driver who admitted to speeding and being inattentive, mowing me down in the middle of a crosswalk and throwing me 25ft “legally didn’t have to stop under those conditions” for me. That’s disgusting. He backed up his officers and they dug in their heels when it was clear that what they reported was wrong. Instead of apologizing and admitting fault, they disrespected me and my family with their careless and sloppy work. I have nothing to do with the Picnic Day5, did not follow that incident and have never had a problem with any police force before my collision. While I don’t know even half of what it’s like to be targeted by the police due to my race, I do know what it feels like to stick up for myself and the facts, only to be condescended to by people who are more interested in interpreting the law to suit them and their agenda than in doing their jobs correctly and fairly. You will truly never know what it feels like until this happens to you and in some form, it will. Where’s the letter? I’d love to sign it.

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