Outraged Neighbors Speak Out Against Treatment of Eli Davis by Police

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racial-profiling.pngLast week, longtime Davis resident Eli Davis wrote a letter to the local paper, claiming, at his home near Lake Blvd, he was mowing his front lawn a few weeks ago in the middle of the afternoon when he was approached by a police officer who asked if he lived in the residence.

The Vanguard has learned that Mr. Davis, 68, has lived at his home for nearly 30 years.

Following the letter to the editor, Mr. Davis’ neighbors have written a letter to the paper stating, “we’re saddened and angry.”

“We are the neighbors of Eli Davis,” they write. “We also mow our lawns and keep up our yards, but will not be approached by a Davis police officer to show identification and prove we live in our homes. We are appalled that our good African-American neighbor had to endure such treatment recently.”

Jim Rodgers and Berta Boegel, Suzanne and Jerry Lilliedoll, Sue and Annie Darst, Steve and Margaret Jackson, Jay and Yaya Feldman, and Bob Brodberg of Davis write the letter.

“We could not ask for a gentler neighbor than Eli. He is a quiet, private person who, as the original owner, has lived in his home and raised his children for 30 years. We exchange friendly greetings at our shared mailboxes or as we see him pedaling daily on his bicycle to and from work,” the neighbors continue.

They add, “We are very aware of the rash of brazen burglaries recently in the greater West Davis area. Eli’s letter tells us that the officer demanded identification because he ‘fit the description’ and refused further explanation. Nor did Eli’s call to the Police Department result in an explanation of this indignity.”

“News media in the neighborhood this week tell us that the Police Department said there was an incident nearby that day,” they write. “Why didn’t Eli receive that explanation? And what if he had? No suspicious person description from recent police bulletins comes anywhere near this tall, fit, graying, bespectacled, dignified 68-year-old man – except that he is an African-American male.”

“He is a grandfather! He was mowing his lawn, for goodness’ sake!,” the write.  “We are saddened that Eli experienced this kind of treatment at this stage of his life and angry that it happens at all to our neighbors or anyone else. Eli Davis deserves a direct apology from the Davis Police Department. The community deserves a plan of correction.”

Following the original letter, the Vanguard inquired with officials at the Davis Police Department.  The officials responded that this was the first that they had heard of the incident, and informed that there was, in fact, a “citizen’s in-progress crime complaint being handled/ investigated.”

The police official added that the community “can count on a full and complete inquiry.”

According to Eli Davis’ account, he was mowing his lawn when he saw a police car drive past his home, make a u-turn, drive back and drop in front of Mr. Davis’ home and driveway.

A policeman approached and asked, “Sir, do you live here?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“I need to see some ID,” the officer stated.

Once the officer determined that the man lived there, he left and Mr. Davis called the police, and gave his name and location.  He asked dispatch, “Were they looking for a tall, slim black male?

“Not in general,” was the response.

“Are you looking for one right now?” he asked.

“No,” was the response.

Mr. Davis wrote, “I fear that the only description that fit is that of being a black American male, and therefore is an image of his ignorance. His action was more gut reaction of ‘see a black male’ and think ‘suspect of something.’ Perhaps he thought I was stealing a lawn mower and was mowing the lawn to make sure it worked.”

He added, “My father appears to be right: ‘They have a select non-ability to believe you, and you are always a suspect.’ “

—David M. Greenwald 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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11 thoughts on “Outraged Neighbors Speak Out Against Treatment of Eli Davis by Police”

  1. Siegel

    Wow. What’s going on there in Davis? The police better come up with an elderly African-American burglary suspect, that’s all I’ll say.

  2. SouthofDavis

    I bet the Davis police ask someone “do you live here?” multiple times EVERY day, probably more than 1,000 (One Thousand) times a year. Why is it only newsworthy when they ask a black guy (that lives in a white neighborhood)?

    P.S. I bet the Davis police have had at least 100 calls for loud white college kids or white college kids yelling at their girlfriends since the “big story” a while back in west Davis when cops were “obviously racist” for even responding to a call about a “person of color” yelling at his girlfriend…

  3. David M. Greenwald

    SOD: “I bet the Davis police have had at least 100 calls for loud white college kids or white college kids yelling at their girlfriends”

    You mean direct complaints for which they have probable cause? That’s not a parallel situation.

  4. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > You mean direct complaints for which they have probable cause?

    I’m not a constitutional lawyer and I generally support the ACLU, but as far as I know you don’t need “probable cause” to ask someone a question.

    Race relations have come a long way in the last 40 years (and come even farther here in Davis) and it bums me out when people cry “racism” every time someone says or does ANYTHING a person of color finds offensive…

  5. David M. Greenwald

    Let me back up again. The examples you cited were examples where there was a clear nexus between the person encountering the police and a complaint – call it reasonable suspicion or probable cause.

    In the case cited here, there was a criminal complaint – apparently – the police officer saw a man in his front yard, he was mowing his lawn and approached him and asked him questions.

    Is there anything illegal about that? No.

    But it is intrusive. Was there any reason that this man was asked to produce ID other than the color of his skin? I don’t believe so. No one of the examples you cited are parallel to that.

  6. AdRemmer

    [quote]But it is intrusive. Was there any reason that this man was asked to produce ID other than the color of his skin? I don’t believe so. No one of the examples you cited are parallel to that.[/quote]

    Who told you what the reason was?

    Are you serious?

  7. David M. Greenwald

    I rarely understand your questions and when I ask for clarification, you rarely come back and give it. So I don’t find it fruitful in responding to your posts and questions.

    As a general comment: As I understand the situation, there were reports in the area of two suspicious individuals, the police say they matched Mr. Davis’ description, but I’m not sure any of the Davis PD has actually seen Mr. Davis to verify that. Regardless, Mr. Davis is a man who is 68, wears glasses, has graying hair, had he been a white individual doing the same thing, he never would have been contacted in this or really any situation.

  8. jimt

    This story does sound like mainly a series of miscommunications & misunderstandings. To his credit, Mr. Davis did call up the police department to enquire about the situtation; as I understand it he wrote his letter to the Davis Enterprise before he found out that the police spokesman (dispatcher?)had made a mistake in their initial conversation, and indeed there was a report of a black suspect who might be burglarizing (I think the real irony here is that, according to the Davis Enterprise, the suspected robber turned out to be a solicitor). I would be interested to hear what Mr. Davis thinks now that the full story is known.

    Re: DMG “..had he been a white individual doing the same thing, he never would have been contacted in this or really any situation.” I disagree with this contention. I think if police were looking for a white suspect in a neighborhood where whites constituted less than 2% of the population; then a white person whose appearance was similar to the general description of the suspect might indeed get stopped and questioned in a yard. And as a white person myself; I wouldn’t generally have a problem with that action by the police. Though I concede that it does seem peculiar that Mr. Davis was stopped while mowing the lawn–seems doubtful that many burglars would have the gall to do this–on the other hand if police are barred from questioning people doing yard work, then a good strategy for someone on the run from police, would be to pretend to be involved with yard work when the police get close (still I concede it does seem like a stretch to suspect someone out mowing the lawn as being a neighborhood burglar!)

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