It has been nearly a year since the city of Davis has had a permanent police auditor, but with their actions on Tuesday night, by a 4-0 vote with Brett Lee abstaining, the council approved in concept a dual oversight process that will pave the way for the recruitment of a new Independent Police Auditor (IPA) along with the Davis Police Accountability Commission (DPAC).
A push from the public helped the council further refine the proposal.
Carole Standing Elk, reading a statement from the Justice For Picnic Day 5 Group, argued that the police oversight points from Black Lives Matter Sacramento “have received widespread support in (community) forums.” She said, “Despite that support not a single one of these demands is met in the proposed oversight plan. This plan must be revised before the final vote.”
Among other things, the group pushed for prohibitions against retired police officers working serving on the DPAC, more explicit representation from people from marginalized groups on the DPAC, more hours for IPA, a greater budget with a possible stipend for members of the board, and elected membership.
Francesca Wright, speaking on behalf of Davis Police People Power, also pointed out key recommendations that they felt were missing from the council proposal put forward by the subcommittee of Mayor Robb Davis and Councilmember Lucas Frerichs.
She identified three additional areas that need attention. “The Davis Police Accountability Commission scope of work needs to be expanded,” she said. “As currently written, the scope is heavily weighted for community outreach and review and recommendations of policies and procedures.
“The fundamental charge of the DPAC is accountability and that requires explicit goals and monitoring of performance,” Ms. Wright said.
“Second, the DPAC composition,” she explained. “This first DPAC is being formed during a period of broken trust and fear of the police.” She asked for more explicit recruitment of people from diverse backgrounds, including those who have had negative experiences with the police.
“We’d also like the statement, former police officers are encouraged to apply, deleted,” she said. She argued that “that expertise is available through the IPA.”
She also pushed on the budget. “To allocate $60,000 solely for the IPA role at 24 hours (per month) is insufficient.”
During council discussion, Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal and asked his colleagues to go back to the drawing board, suggesting a group of two councilmembers, the IPA, Assistant City Manager, and City Attorney meet to figure this out.
“I really believe that we need to have the Independent Police Auditor position filled, we’ve had a gap for a little while,” he said.
But he had questions about the DPAC. He felt that the Picnic Day incident illustrated some gaps. “I feel that what’s being proposed tonight, doesn’t address the gap,” he said.
His concern is that when the Picnic Day incident occurred, people asked what the council was doing and they didn’t have anything to say “because we weren’t involved in the process.” He said, “As I see this proposal tonight, I wonder if the Picnic Day incident or something like it were to happen again, my reading of this is that… I do not see a clear path that led through the council.”
He later stated, “I kind of want to be in the loop.”
The mayor pro tem later argued, “The council is insulating itself from being responsible for the good and bad.”
But it turns out Brett Lee was largely alone on this. Councilmember Rochelle Swanson, while cognizant of the mayor pro tem’s concerns, noted, “I’m concerned about the delay on police oversight. That would be my concern, what would be the time lag.”
Councilmember Will Arnold told his colleagues, “I suppose I wasn’t mentally prepared to discuss whether to undertake this or not.” He noted that there was not any pushback on this from the police. He said, “We just need to be mindful of doing this right when we do it.”
Among his suggestions were that there be someone serving on the DPAC who has been a “victim of police over-reach.”
He added, “I believe it is important that we have a subject matter expert also have an assigned seat.”
Councilmember Arnold was also favorable to some of the budgetary requests, stating, “I think they’re modest and reasonable.”
He agreed with the idea of stipends, suggesting, “It would probably be modest.” He added, “We may have to do (the stipend) based on income qualification.”
Not only was there support for stipends, mindful that time commitments for affected groups might be costly, there seemed to be broader support for stipends for other commissions as well.
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs pointed out that this output was the result of months of work that included the hiring of police oversight consultants and public outreach.
In response to the suggestion from Councilmember Arnold, he said, “I see the IPA, the police auditor, as the subject matter expert.”
He agreed with other suggestions including more robust language on the diversity of membership and saw value in having members of the DPAC who have experienced issues with DPD. He was agreeable to the consideration of more funding, including the stipend, and suggested that the $60,000 could be more robust.
He also supported another recommendation that they increase the number of members from seven to nine.
Mayor Robb Davis pointed out that they have kind of a “Catch-22” here, in that “there are people who have engaged in negative contact with the police afraid to come forward.”
The mayor stated, “What in fact is going on here – I don’t think that I know… One reason is that they may not be comfortable going forward.
“Whether it’s perfect or not, I honestly view this as increasing the number of doors that people walk through,” he said. “I fear that if we don’t out of the gate have a citizens group that is representative, we will continue not knowing.”
Robb Davis explained that he leaned heavily on the advice of a former police officer in creating this board. He said, “That was a reason (for the language in the proposal). He had valuable input.” He said, “If there’s a feeling that there is a chilling effect, that’s fine.”
Lucas Frerichs put forward a motion seconded by Rochelle Swanson. It put forward the recommendation plus added provisions to increase the members, added language on diverse composition, additional funding and hours for the auditor, an examination of a stipend and supplemental training budget.
Brett Lee continued to hold out that Picnic Day highlighted the need for a different process and this proposal does not address this. He said, “I’m not comfortable with the council not being in the loop on this process.”
Robb Davis pointed out that state law precludes them from putting a system in place where the council could investigate.
He said, “What we’re doing with this is that we are providing additional responsibilities for the IPA that they hadn’t had in the past here and giving an opportunity for community members being actively engaged in being the ears of the community.”
Rochelle Swanson suggested they look and see if the council subcommittee could be members of the DPAC. Based on that suggestion, Brett Lee abstained instead of voting no.
The motion passed 4-0 with Mayor Pro Tem Brett Lee abstaining.
—David M. Greenwald reporting