Davis Police Compare Favorably in their Actions on Tuesday Compared with the Problems in Los Angeles

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As I watched the protest on Tuesday as it moved from campus, through the middle of Russell Boulevard and eventually to the intersection of Russell and Anderson, I remarked to several people the professionalism by which the Davis Police Department handled the march. They not only blocked off the streets in advance of the march, but they allowed for the impromptu, never engaging or escalating even when things may have gone slightly off-track.
As the march ended up with several hundred protesters marching in the middle of one of the most heavily trafficked intersections in the city, the police seemingly effortlessly diverted traffic. I understand that this diversion inconvenienced travelers and students who were attempting to get to class, but in terms of their prime duty–safety and peace, the police did their job on that afternoon and they did it well.

For all the times that we have criticized the Davis Police Department on these pages, this was an incident in which they deserve praise and appreciation. As I made my way through the event, I spoke first to Lt. Dorothy Pearson and then to the new Chief himself, Landy Black. In both cases, they downplayed the significance of their actions. Telling me that this was their job. Chief Black spoke about the importance of the right to protest as being a centerpiece of a Democratic society and I could not agree more. However, as we have seen throughout history, the actions of the Davis Police Department on this day should not be dismissed as lightly as the leadership did.

The irony of these discussions is that they took place before we learned about what happened with similar protests in Los Angeles, that led to the Los Angeles Police Department under heavy scrutiny and criticism for firing non-lethal munitions into a crowd of protesters.

The protests during the Civil Rights movement turned people’s viewpoints when images of police dogs attacking protesters along with firehoses were embedded into the consciousness of the nation. The nation who was somewhat indifferent to the plight gained sympathy for the protesters as they watched the heavy-handed tactics of the police. While brutal, these types of actions were exactly what the protesters wanted and needed in order to gain support for their cause.

What authorities soon would learn is that the better they handle protests, the more professionally, the less likely the protests are to get out of hand and have the impact that they had during the civil rights movement. And yet, as we have seen time and time again with the Democratic National Convention in Chicago 1968, Kent State, and more recently in Seattle with the WTO, is that events can quickly get out of hand and become much larger than life when police fail to follow simple rules.

The latest incident in Los Angeles illustrates this perfectly. At some point, the police decided that the best idea was to disperse a large crowd of people. This move itself is probably ill-advised.

Contrast that to what the Davis Police decided to do on Tuesday. When the large group gathered in the middle of the street chanting, beating their drums, and dancing, they allowed the group to stay there until they moved to the adjacent sidewalks on their own and a small group of protesters stayed behind, sat down in the street. This was the group of people who had intended to be arrested.

Had the Davis Police decided instead to go after the larger contingency, chaos would have quickly ensued. The police even with a number of UC Davis officers and traffic enforcement officers would have been heavily outnumbered by the protesters. Keeping things orderly and calm is a good approach.

The lesson here is patience is sometimes a good police tactic. Simply allow the crowd to disperse on its own. But the Los Angeles Police did not do that. Instead they quickly moved to escalate rather than de-escalate the situation. When you start firing rounds, even non-lethal rounds, and hitting protesters with batons, many of whom are trying to disperse, then you are causing the problem rather than solving the problem.

Often it is the small decision that proves pivotal in cases like these. I was not on the ground in Los Angeles and do not know whether the decision to disperse the crowd that had a legal permit to be there was warranted. Some have suggested that there were some troublemakers in the ground–there is no doubt that is the case. However, you do not always have to disperse the whole crowd to get troublemakers out. After all, there are troublemakers in concerts and Mardi Gras celebrations as well, as usually they can contain those people without dispersing the full crowd or using escalation techniques.

One of the things that attorney John Burris discusses in his book is that in police work, you want to use force only as a last resort and you want to takes steps to de-escalate any situation of tension. The Los Angeles Police Department clearly violated those tenants of law enforcement when they chose to escalate the situation there.

Everyone on the ground on Tuesday in Davis complimented the protesters as well as being well-organized and disciplined. And that is probably true. But we also need to compliment the Davis Police for doing an excellent job of keeping the peace here.

In the coming weeks and months, there will undoubtedly be criticism and scrutiny revisited on the police department. However, in this event, on this day, praise is indeed in order.

—Doug Paul Davis 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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28 thoughts on “Davis Police Compare Favorably in their Actions on Tuesday Compared with the Problems in Los Angeles”

  1. Doug Paul Davis

    Wow, surprised no comments on this, granted this is a Saturday which is a bit slower than during the week.

    Found this in the LA Times:

    “The LAPD and other police departments have been struggling for decades over how to handle demonstrations and other crowd-control situations.”

    And:

    “”There were protocols that were supposed to happen in these kinds of situations,” Villaraigosa said. “Clearly, those protocols weren’t followed. We’ve got to ask why, who was responsible and what consequences there are for not following those protocols.”

    The restrictions ban officers from using “less-than-lethal” weapons on individuals and crowds unless they are combative, require police to give protesters time to clear out of an area before force is used and establish “safe areas” where the media can operate without LAPD interference.

    The department’s failure to adhere to the rules will be a major issue in what potentially could be dozens of lawsuits against the city, the first of which were filed Friday.”

    This is in the wake of similar problems seven years ago at the 2000 DNC Convention.

    Full story can be read with a free subscription:

    LA Times Story

  2. Doug Paul Davis

    Wow, surprised no comments on this, granted this is a Saturday which is a bit slower than during the week.

    Found this in the LA Times:

    “The LAPD and other police departments have been struggling for decades over how to handle demonstrations and other crowd-control situations.”

    And:

    “”There were protocols that were supposed to happen in these kinds of situations,” Villaraigosa said. “Clearly, those protocols weren’t followed. We’ve got to ask why, who was responsible and what consequences there are for not following those protocols.”

    The restrictions ban officers from using “less-than-lethal” weapons on individuals and crowds unless they are combative, require police to give protesters time to clear out of an area before force is used and establish “safe areas” where the media can operate without LAPD interference.

    The department’s failure to adhere to the rules will be a major issue in what potentially could be dozens of lawsuits against the city, the first of which were filed Friday.”

    This is in the wake of similar problems seven years ago at the 2000 DNC Convention.

    Full story can be read with a free subscription:

    LA Times Story

  3. Doug Paul Davis

    Wow, surprised no comments on this, granted this is a Saturday which is a bit slower than during the week.

    Found this in the LA Times:

    “The LAPD and other police departments have been struggling for decades over how to handle demonstrations and other crowd-control situations.”

    And:

    “”There were protocols that were supposed to happen in these kinds of situations,” Villaraigosa said. “Clearly, those protocols weren’t followed. We’ve got to ask why, who was responsible and what consequences there are for not following those protocols.”

    The restrictions ban officers from using “less-than-lethal” weapons on individuals and crowds unless they are combative, require police to give protesters time to clear out of an area before force is used and establish “safe areas” where the media can operate without LAPD interference.

    The department’s failure to adhere to the rules will be a major issue in what potentially could be dozens of lawsuits against the city, the first of which were filed Friday.”

    This is in the wake of similar problems seven years ago at the 2000 DNC Convention.

    Full story can be read with a free subscription:

    LA Times Story

  4. Doug Paul Davis

    Wow, surprised no comments on this, granted this is a Saturday which is a bit slower than during the week.

    Found this in the LA Times:

    “The LAPD and other police departments have been struggling for decades over how to handle demonstrations and other crowd-control situations.”

    And:

    “”There were protocols that were supposed to happen in these kinds of situations,” Villaraigosa said. “Clearly, those protocols weren’t followed. We’ve got to ask why, who was responsible and what consequences there are for not following those protocols.”

    The restrictions ban officers from using “less-than-lethal” weapons on individuals and crowds unless they are combative, require police to give protesters time to clear out of an area before force is used and establish “safe areas” where the media can operate without LAPD interference.

    The department’s failure to adhere to the rules will be a major issue in what potentially could be dozens of lawsuits against the city, the first of which were filed Friday.”

    This is in the wake of similar problems seven years ago at the 2000 DNC Convention.

    Full story can be read with a free subscription:

    LA Times Story

  5. Richard

    Davis and Sacramento, as well, have, in my experience, followed a conciliatory approach, whenever possible, when dealing with large crowd and protest situations, which is in marked contrast to how older urban centres have done it, like the SFPD to some extent, and especially the LAPD.

    Perhaps, it can be attributed to anxiety in older, larger cities, that they can easily lose control of the street, while neither the Sacramento nor the Davis police possess this attitude.

    The LAPD specifically has a deeply ingrained cultural belief that it stands between peace and anarchy in LA.

    –Richard Estes

  6. Richard

    Davis and Sacramento, as well, have, in my experience, followed a conciliatory approach, whenever possible, when dealing with large crowd and protest situations, which is in marked contrast to how older urban centres have done it, like the SFPD to some extent, and especially the LAPD.

    Perhaps, it can be attributed to anxiety in older, larger cities, that they can easily lose control of the street, while neither the Sacramento nor the Davis police possess this attitude.

    The LAPD specifically has a deeply ingrained cultural belief that it stands between peace and anarchy in LA.

    –Richard Estes

  7. Richard

    Davis and Sacramento, as well, have, in my experience, followed a conciliatory approach, whenever possible, when dealing with large crowd and protest situations, which is in marked contrast to how older urban centres have done it, like the SFPD to some extent, and especially the LAPD.

    Perhaps, it can be attributed to anxiety in older, larger cities, that they can easily lose control of the street, while neither the Sacramento nor the Davis police possess this attitude.

    The LAPD specifically has a deeply ingrained cultural belief that it stands between peace and anarchy in LA.

    –Richard Estes

  8. Richard

    Davis and Sacramento, as well, have, in my experience, followed a conciliatory approach, whenever possible, when dealing with large crowd and protest situations, which is in marked contrast to how older urban centres have done it, like the SFPD to some extent, and especially the LAPD.

    Perhaps, it can be attributed to anxiety in older, larger cities, that they can easily lose control of the street, while neither the Sacramento nor the Davis police possess this attitude.

    The LAPD specifically has a deeply ingrained cultural belief that it stands between peace and anarchy in LA.

    –Richard Estes

  9. Doug Paul Davis

    I don’t know if that accounts for it all, because I remember the San Luis Obispo Police losing control of the streets in 1989 during the Poly Royal Riots. There were also a few other poorly handled incidents, one was at a Dead Kennedys concert at the Vets Hall in 1980 and I think there has been one that happened since I left as well.

  10. Doug Paul Davis

    I don’t know if that accounts for it all, because I remember the San Luis Obispo Police losing control of the streets in 1989 during the Poly Royal Riots. There were also a few other poorly handled incidents, one was at a Dead Kennedys concert at the Vets Hall in 1980 and I think there has been one that happened since I left as well.

  11. Doug Paul Davis

    I don’t know if that accounts for it all, because I remember the San Luis Obispo Police losing control of the streets in 1989 during the Poly Royal Riots. There were also a few other poorly handled incidents, one was at a Dead Kennedys concert at the Vets Hall in 1980 and I think there has been one that happened since I left as well.

  12. Doug Paul Davis

    I don’t know if that accounts for it all, because I remember the San Luis Obispo Police losing control of the streets in 1989 during the Poly Royal Riots. There were also a few other poorly handled incidents, one was at a Dead Kennedys concert at the Vets Hall in 1980 and I think there has been one that happened since I left as well.

  13. Don Shor

    “The LAPD specifically has a deeply ingrained cultural belief that it stands between peace and anarchy in LA.”
    Some of the riots in LA over the years have been scary enough to support that belief. Of course, their actions didn’t help. A big difference this time is that the local public officials are promptly condemning the police actions. That contrasts with the type of response you’d get during the Sam Yorty/Ed Davis years.

  14. Don Shor

    “The LAPD specifically has a deeply ingrained cultural belief that it stands between peace and anarchy in LA.”
    Some of the riots in LA over the years have been scary enough to support that belief. Of course, their actions didn’t help. A big difference this time is that the local public officials are promptly condemning the police actions. That contrasts with the type of response you’d get during the Sam Yorty/Ed Davis years.

  15. Don Shor

    “The LAPD specifically has a deeply ingrained cultural belief that it stands between peace and anarchy in LA.”
    Some of the riots in LA over the years have been scary enough to support that belief. Of course, their actions didn’t help. A big difference this time is that the local public officials are promptly condemning the police actions. That contrasts with the type of response you’d get during the Sam Yorty/Ed Davis years.

  16. Don Shor

    “The LAPD specifically has a deeply ingrained cultural belief that it stands between peace and anarchy in LA.”
    Some of the riots in LA over the years have been scary enough to support that belief. Of course, their actions didn’t help. A big difference this time is that the local public officials are promptly condemning the police actions. That contrasts with the type of response you’d get during the Sam Yorty/Ed Davis years.

  17. Anonymous

    I agree the police response was well planned and carried out in a controlled manner – that is the desired behavior.

    Now compare this event to the response at the Sterling Apartments 4-5 years ago. That was the mini riot where bottles where thrown at a large pre-Picnic Day party. In that case the DPD contributed to the problem by trying to disband the party by means of disorganized bullying tactics – the approach failed and the mini riot ensued. No doubt, the students involved contributed to the Sterling problem. My point is that when they establish plans and follow the plans in a supervised/organized manner the result is usually going to be better.SAH

  18. Anonymous

    I agree the police response was well planned and carried out in a controlled manner – that is the desired behavior.

    Now compare this event to the response at the Sterling Apartments 4-5 years ago. That was the mini riot where bottles where thrown at a large pre-Picnic Day party. In that case the DPD contributed to the problem by trying to disband the party by means of disorganized bullying tactics – the approach failed and the mini riot ensued. No doubt, the students involved contributed to the Sterling problem. My point is that when they establish plans and follow the plans in a supervised/organized manner the result is usually going to be better.SAH

  19. Anonymous

    I agree the police response was well planned and carried out in a controlled manner – that is the desired behavior.

    Now compare this event to the response at the Sterling Apartments 4-5 years ago. That was the mini riot where bottles where thrown at a large pre-Picnic Day party. In that case the DPD contributed to the problem by trying to disband the party by means of disorganized bullying tactics – the approach failed and the mini riot ensued. No doubt, the students involved contributed to the Sterling problem. My point is that when they establish plans and follow the plans in a supervised/organized manner the result is usually going to be better.SAH

  20. Anonymous

    I agree the police response was well planned and carried out in a controlled manner – that is the desired behavior.

    Now compare this event to the response at the Sterling Apartments 4-5 years ago. That was the mini riot where bottles where thrown at a large pre-Picnic Day party. In that case the DPD contributed to the problem by trying to disband the party by means of disorganized bullying tactics – the approach failed and the mini riot ensued. No doubt, the students involved contributed to the Sterling problem. My point is that when they establish plans and follow the plans in a supervised/organized manner the result is usually going to be better.SAH

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