I remain skeptical of the mechanism put in place by the Davis City Council for reviewing the police. I do not think the ombudsman position has enough teeth to it. I also do not believe that the support boards—the PAC and the CAB—have sufficient public scrutiny. Adding to that is the recent move to remove the issue of police complaints from the purview of the soon-to-be newly formed HRC.
That said, from the research that I’ve done, Aaronson looks to be a fine choice for police ombudsman. In one highly publicized, the Santa Cruz police department was accused on spying on war protesters. The police investigation exonerated the police.
Aaronson issued a scathing report on the investigation. He said the investigation “is incomplete and flawed for a very predictable reason. It violates one of the most basic investigative precepts by having been compiled and written by the very individual whose decisions are and should be under investigative scrutiny.” He went on to say, “I am surprised and disappointed that he was assigned to that task.”
He then did the review itself and found serious wrongdoings by the police department. “Details of the 600-page report , released to the public Friday, reveal a pattern of abuses, including spying on parade organizers, spying on other unrelated groups and first amendment activities, and profiling organizers and other unrelated people. Officers posing as parade planners gathered information about the planned peaceful protest against virgin forest destruction by Victoria’s Secret and relayed this information to Capitola Police.” (For the full report please click here).
According to people who have worked with Aaronson, they consider him to be a fair and straight shooter concerning investigations on the police department. He does tend to go public with critical remarks, although clearly the letter was very strongly worded to the Santa Cruz City Council.
—Doug Paul Davis reporting