Major media figures, as well as some public officials in this town, appear to have a clear agenda about Picnic Day, which would be fine if we actually had the final data. But the Vanguard, in making a records request from the Davis Police Department was told that with the police chief and their records analyst taking the week off, a more comprehensive report is not even due out until next week.
What that suggests to me is perhaps we have to hold off making major pronouncements until we get all the data. That of course has not and will not stop certain columnists from proclaiming “Picnic Day arrest numbers are clearly unacceptable.”
They write, “Things really weren’t any better this year than last, with 53 arrests for public stupidity (drunkenness, fighting, pulling knives, resisting, underage possession) compared to 54 a year ago.”
Of course, it misses a more interesting point, that things are markedly better than they were two years ago – last year was not the baseline year, it was the improvement year after the disastrous 2010.
Until we actually get the final data, it is difficult to drill into the numbers.
Davis Enterprise columnist Bob Dunning wrote on Wednesday, “While there will always be a few arrests anytime people get together and alcohol is involved, the Picnic Day numbers are clearly unacceptable … despite a massive and highly visible police presence, plus intense preparation and weeks of ‘public education’ and warnings, many folks were simply unwilling or unable to behave.”
He adds, “When knives get involved in fights, I don’t know how many times you can roll those dice before something truly tragic happens.”
There are specific questions I would like to know before rendering any kind of verdict. But for all of the talk about knives and Tasering, it is important to recognize that of the 53 arrests, only three of them were for felonies.
Stop and think about that for a second. For all of the complaining, only three of the 53 arrests were for serious crimes.
We have a number of 53 arrests and over 100 citations this year. The number of arrests were about the same as last year, but the citations are about half of what they were last year. What we don’t have is an actual baseline. What are the number of arrests on a typical Saturday?
If the typical number of arrests are 10, then we have a five-fold increase. If however, they are closer to 20 or 30, we are looking at a doubling. A doubling, given how many more police were in town, should not be all that surprising and perhaps, given the zero tolerance policies, not all that alarming.
But the Davis Police Department right now does not have that information and therefore we have no comparison point, and without that we have little perspective for analysis.
Moreover, there is this notion that these arrests occurred “despite” the massive and visible police presence. I would argue that a lot of these arrests occurred because of the massive police presence.
I could not be out there this year, but from everything that was told to me both by those who were out there and the statistics, this year was similar to last year. Last year, a lot of people who were not really causing problems were arrested. Why is that? Because there were so many police, that they did not know what to do.
Last year I personally witnessed large numbers of police hanging out on the corner of downtown streets waiting for something to happen. They were bored. A couple was having a fight and ten of them approached a very stunned male. I saw numerous people taken to the ground, most of them by out of town police officers who were looking for something – anything to do.
So, while some will argue the number of 53 is too low, I would suggest that it may actually be too high and that, on a normal day, a lot of those would never have been arrested even if they had encountered police. Remember, they were calling this zero tolerance.
Speaking of problems, we have the Tasering case. This should actually be a concern to all of us because it was effected by the Department of Fish and Game.
Wrote Bob Dunning, “Glad to see Fish and Game was called in to help keep the peace … I mean, here you have folks who are used to dealing with small-mouth bass and large-mouth bass and now were forced to deal with loud-mouth drunks … fortunately, they were up to the task …”
Whether they were actually up to the task is actually a matter that should be very much in question at this time.
Davis Enterprise reporter Lauren Keene reported, “A particularly ugly scene played out shortly after 8 p.m. on Third Street between F and G streets, where witnesses said a man was Tasered during an alcohol-fueled confrontation with authorities over his open container of beer on a public sidewalk.”
Police experts are likely raising their eyebrows on this one. They would argue that the Department of Fish and game has very little experience with the type of urban environment and confrontation they experienced.
At the very least we should be looking into this incident more closely as there is a good possibility that the Tasering was either unnecessary or the arrest could have been effected more cleanly by a more experienced officer.
That leads us to a larger point, which is that the massive police presence is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, the last two years it appears to have prevented the problems from 2010. On the other hand, it brings with it its own problems.
Some are suggesting that all of this means we should ban alcohol sales. Other have suggested that reaction is over the top. Let us see what the final data tell us before we leap to conclusions.
—David M. Greenwald reporting