Commentary: Just Who is Running This City?

Davis-city_hallThe Vanguard will have more specific thoughts on the police acquisition of a military vehicle and whether that is a sign of the militarization of the police force this weekend, but there is a troubling thread of commonality that runs through two of the major stories from Wednesday and that is: who exactly is running this city right now?

This is a city manager model of governance and the city has been run by interim city manager Gene Rogers, so it is understandable that things may not run nearly as smoothly as they might have under a permanent city manager. This clearly underscores both the priority and urgency of the council hiring a new city manager as soon as reasonably possible.

Still, we should be troubled when a city councilmember states, as Lucas Frerichs did, “I was extremely surprised to learn of, (after it’s delivery), this recent acquisition of an armored vehicle, by the Davis Police Department.”

Mayor Wolk was more blunt, stating, “I can’t imagine why Davis needs a tank. It’s in a city garage and I hope it stays there.”

Police Chief Landy Black had a thoughtful and thorough briefing on the issue. He explained that in 2009, the Davis City Council issued Resolution 09-033 which renewed the authorization for the Davis Police Department “to acquire surplus federal/military equipment suitable for use in conventional law enforcement activities through the 1033 Program of the Defense Logistics Agency, Law Enforcement Support Office (DLA/LESO).”

“The 1033 Program was established to convert/re-purpose surplus federal/military equipment to local law enforcement use. The program is administered here in California by the Office of Emergency Services (OES).”

In his explanation, he noted, “We will hopefully never benefit from its mine resistance capabilities, but its ambush (ballistic) protection makes it the perfect platform to perform rescues of victims and potential victims during such active-shooter incidents, and to more safely deliver officers into any active-shooter incidents, barricaded hostage crises, and/or other or environments involving armed offenders.”

We get that the police believe that there are specific uses that would justify this acquisition. We also get that there are many in the community that question those justifications. That is a policy question that we must hash out.

However, we get a bit more concerned that a police spokesperson told a local news station that the vehicle could be used to serve high risk warrants “where we know people are armed and dangerous.”

It does not take a lot to conjure up recent images where tanks were deployed by law enforcement at peaceful protests where their presence was intimidating and was rationalized by the police on both occasions as being because they had “information that dangerous people might be present in the crowd.”

Our biggest concern is the apparent lack of procedural guidance here – this is Davis, the community is sensitive to the issue of military weaponry. This was a nuclear free zone in a bygone era. While legally authorized, perhaps, through the 2009 resolution, there is a political tin ear to the concerns that have cropped up across the country to the militarization of the police – long before anyone knew where Ferguson, Missouri, was.

At the same time, more information came out regarding the leak in the pool. It was rather surprising to see city officials on CBS 13 making the city look rather lackadaisical about what appears to be a rather startling amount of water leaking out of a community pool – at a time when there is a community discussion over funding options.

City officials acknowledge the leak, acknowledge that they have known about it for some time, and acknowledge that it is not just a simple fix.

City staffer Melissa Chaney told the news station, “It was a little bit more than normal evaporation, so that’s what brought it to our attention.”

The station reports, “City engineers agree with swim instructor Stu Hahn’s assessment that cracks in the pool’s skimmers are the reason for the lost water.”

“It’s not a single leak that they’ve identified,” he said. “It’s throughout the whole system.”

“Every time waves splash through, a little bit of water comes out but over the course of the day we use this pool 12 hours a day for swimming so there is a lot of waves and unfortunately there is a lot of loss,” he said.

They asked Melissa Chaney if the water soaking into the ground would damage the soil. She responded, “The water itself will not damage the soil underneath, it’s safe. We make our own chlorine from salt, so we don’t put out a high level of chlorine into the water.”

They note that the leak issue has been out of sight for some time, but with the drought, the issue is pushing to the forefront.

CBS 13 reported, “If the city just drains the pool, the structure could become compromised and leave the city with the decision to either close it permanently” or build a new pool.

My first thought is why is Melissa Chaney, who is primarily the city’s HR Director, making statements to the press about pools. You would expect either the city manager or someone with more technical expertise.

The fact that the pool was leaking was itself leaked to the Vanguard a few weeks ago. The distinct impression was given at that time that it was a guarded secret and we could get no official word or confirmation.

This is not a small issue – the city has to figure out funding options for a parcel tax and the assessment here could determine how much of a parcel tax the city asks for.

We have critical issues facing the city, but now, twice in the span of two days, the city has less than flattering news that was broadcast regionally. The timing could not have been worse on either issue.

The only real answer is to find a good city manager who can get the city back on track.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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.

Related posts

66 Comments

  1. John

    Brian, the Chief of Police is one of the best city employees that Davis has. The quality of his work is consistently of the highest quality, and the Davis Police Department has gone from a department with significant problems to a department that fulfills its mission very effectively.

    As I read the information about the acquisition, the 2009 Council authorized the acquisition program that the Chief of Police acted under. Perhaps he could have provided the current Council with an informational update to avoid any surprises, but his failure to take that informational step is certainly not grounds for his being fired.

  2. BrianRiley429

    I strongly disagree with your assertions, John. The purchase of the vehicle was “over the top,” and shows that the chief has developed too much of a police-centric view of law enforcement. We need someone with a broader vision.

    1. John

      Are you basing that assertion of yours on this one vehicle acquisition event? Or are there other examples of “over the top” “police-centric views” that Chief Black has exhibited in recent history?

      1. David Greenwald

        My view of Chief Black is more nuanced. Last spring, I nominated him for a Thong Hy Hunh award which he received. Why? Because he took a department that was suffering from huge controversies, frequent complaints and lawsuits, employee morale problems and he turned it around. As a result, we have a much better police force than we did, he and his leadership team work with community members to address longstanding issues. So I have tremendous respect for Chief Black.

        That said, I’m skeptical of the need, question the message sent to the community, at the same time, I think the police chief’s job is not to necessarily think through the political ramifications of the acquisition of a police vehicle. That is the city manager and city council’s job.

        1. Tia Will

          I also have a more nuanced view of Chief Black. However, I would like to offer another instance in which I thought that he was too eager “to add another tool” to his armamentarium without providing evidence of benefit. That was in the proposed “internal possession law” which was basically presented as “sounding like a good idea under certain circumstances” without corroborating evidence. This sounds all too familiar to me and I hope that as in that case, the city council will take another look at the need for this
          “tool”.

    2. Frankly

      The only thing “over the top” is this type of comment. I am so sick a tired of criticisms against law enforcement from those that are either on the wrong side of a law, or those that lack the understanding or capacity for what the job requires.

      “developed too much of a police-centric view of law enforcement”

      Do you even read what you write?

      And this is a clear indication of the messed up anti-cop, anti-law enforcement thinking that some people are plagued with. I have no doubt those same people would be the first to complain that the cops were not doing enough as their property was looted and destroyed, and their lives of their family threatened.

      1. David Greenwald

        “those that are either on the wrong side of a law, or those that lack the understanding or capacity for what the job requires.”

        Isn’t that kind of presumptuous?

          1. BrianRiley429

            hpierce, where did I “demand” the firing of a department head?

            I wrote: “I think it *might* be time to fire the chief of police.” (emphasis added)

          2. hpierce

            To respond to Brian… my sincere apologies for attributing the concept of ‘demand’ to you. After all, in THREE posts, you ONLY said, it might be an idea, we need someone else, and said his firing would send a message to the nation. I re-word my comment to note that you made 3 statements, ‘suggesting’ the chief be replaced, all without the benefit of more information.

            The last one, suggesting that someone be fired to send messages to others, without further information, was certainly the most telling about your position.

            It is interesting that David suggested Frankly was being presumptuous, yet did not take your comments to task directly.

          3. Frankly

            I was assuming that David might be responding more personally to me since he and I go way back on the cop issue.

            But I could be wrong.

      2. BrianRiley429

        I meant exactly what I wrote. Police officers are *not* supposed to take a police-centric view of their work. I’m speaking philosophically. They are supposed to be citizen-centric. Their purpose is to serve the community. Saying that a particular cop is “police-centric” is saying that he or she does not know how to (or doesn’t want to) see the larger context of what they are doing.

        1. Frankly

          Is this your opinion, or is it taken from some best-practices in police work? Because I have never heard of it.

          It seems more than absurd to say that police should not hold a police-centric view of their work. A police-centric view is the super-set view that should contain the important subset concern for citizenry. In fact, that is ALL police work is about… to protect the public. Depending which side of the law you are on, that principle can impact you in different ways.

          But you are advocating police to take a view that is a subset of their role. How would you differentiate any other government role from policing if all they were supposed to do is serve the community?

          Again, it appears that you do not respect or do not like, or otherwise do no understand, the role of policing.

        2. John

          Brian, we hire and pay the members of our police department “to police” our community … which the dictionary defines as “to regulate, control, or keep in order with (or as if with) a law enforcement agency.”

          Your expression “police-centric” would seem to mean they are focused on performing the job that they were hired by the community to do. When you say, “We need someone with a broader vision” what broader vision than regulating, controlling or keeping order do you have in mind?

        3. BrianRiley429

          John, you’re committing the fallacy of equivocation. As I explained very clearly elsewhere on this thread, when I say “police-centric” I am referring to “the police” (as a noun).

          Who are you, by the way? Funny how you jumped on me, immediately, after I made my first comment. Are you the chief? Perhaps a lieutenant?

          1. John

            Brian, if anyone is practicing revisionist equivocation it is you. If you meant “the Police” you wouldn’t have omitted including the word “the” and you would have recognized that your usage was that of a Proper Noun, which means you capitalize the “P.”

            I am about as far from being a Police Chief, or a Lieutenant, or a Sergeant or a Patrolman as you can possibly get.

            I didn’t jump on you. That would have been an ad hominem fallacy. My comment dealt with the content of your argument, and presented another viewpoint, and then supported that viewpoint with reasons I thought/believed the viewpoint was true.

            “Brian, the Chief of Police is one of the best city employees that Davis has. The quality of his work is consistently of the highest quality, and the Davis Police Department has gone from a department with significant problems to a department that fulfills its mission very effectively.”

          2. BrianRiley429

            Good grief, John. As I said, the supposed capitalization rule for generic nouns to which you attempt to refer does not exist in standard English. Nice try, but no cigar, John.

    3. WesC

      While we are at it why don’t we also fire Dr. Caldwell who the Director of the Yolo County Health Dept. I think she might just be a little to “healthcare centric” for the county health dept. Or maybe the school board members should be fired for being too “education-centric.”

      1. BrianRiley429

        Your analogy doesn’t hold, because the term “healthcare” refers to the health of the patient. It’s true that the word “police” does have it’s origin in the word “policy,” and so your analogy would hold up if the *current* usage of the term carried the same meaning, but that’s not how the word “police” is used currently in the English language.

        If I said that a particular doctor was being too “physician-centric,” then you would have understood the intent. I would be saying that that particular doctor is looking out for himself rather than the patient.

        1. John

          Brian, I think Wes’ analogy holds perfectly. A healthcare-centric health officer is focused on the delivery of healthcare to the community. A police-centric police chief is focused on maintaining the peace, safety, and order of the community. That is what policing is all about. Further it is precisely how “police” is used in the English language.

          Further, if you said a particular doctor was being too physician-centric, I would not have thought that meant the doctor was looking out for himself rather than the patient. Rather I would have felt that you were saying that that particular doctor did not appreciate the value of non-physicians in a healthcare delivery team (the nurses and technicians and other non-MD specialists). I would think you were referring to a top-down management style, rather than a more collaborative, collegial management style.

          In any and all of those cases, the patient is not part of the healthcare delivery team.

      2. Frankly

        Or athletes for being too sports-centric?

        Or doctors for being too healthcare-centric?

        Or artists for being so art-centric?

        If you think about it… if it was not for all the criminals we would not need any police…. or would we? And if we did, and there was no crime, then what would those police do?

        I think BrianRiley429 needs to go see the movie The Giver.

        1. BrianRiley429

          See my comment above yours. The terms “sports,” “healthcare,” and “art” refer to the activity, not the person doing them. So your analogies do not hold.

          If we had a sport where the athletes cared more about themselves than the fans, then it would make sense to accuse an athlete of being too “athlete-centric.”

          If there was an artist who put the focus of his work on making a profit, then it would make sense to say that the artist is too “artist-centric”.

          1. hpierce

            Darn fine line between “police” the noun/person, and “police” the verb/activity. Into issues or ‘word-play’?

          2. John

            Not a fine line at all hpierce. If Brian was referring to the force of people doing the policing then he should have capitalized the “P” in “Police-centric.” By not capitalizing the “p” in “police-centric” he was referring to the action or activity of policing.

          3. BrianRiley429

            John, that is true for the German language (capitalizing nouns), but not the English language. Anyway, it’s not your prerogative to say what the intended context of my own statement was. I’ve made myself clear what the it is.

          4. John

            Brian, das is nicht richtig .

            “A proper noun is a noun that in its primary application refers to a unique entity, such as London, Jupiter, Sarah, or Microsoft, as distinguished from a common noun, which usually refers to a class of entities (city, planet, person, corporation), or non-unique instances of a certain class (a city, another planet, these persons, our corporation).”

          5. BrianRiley429

            I’m talking about the generic noun, John, not a proper noun. The proper noun “the Police,” would refer to the historical group of people who happen to be police officers. That’s not my intent. I’m referring to the generic concept of “police officer”.

          6. John

            That is very clear now after your multi-step revisions.

            So what you were saying was, “I strongly disagree with your assertions, John. The purchase of the vehicle was “over the top,” and shows that the chief has developed too much of a police officer-centric view of law enforcement. We need someone with a broader vision.”

            You then went on to say, “I meant exactly what I wrote. Police officers are *not* supposed to take a police officer-centric view of their work. I’m speaking philosophically. They are supposed to be citizen-centric. Their purpose is to serve the community. Saying that a particular cop is “police officer-centric” is saying that he or she does not know how to (or doesn’t want to) see the larger context of what they are doing.”

            That appear to be saying that each individual police officer is putting their own personal self interests ahead of the well being of the citizens. Is that correct?

            Of course, all of that begs the question, what does that have to do with the Police Chief’s decision to acquire the vehicle under the provisions of the 2009 Council directive?

          7. BrianRiley429

            Who said anything about “each individual police officer”? John is English your first language?

          8. John

            “Saying that a particular cop is “police officer-centric” is saying that he or she …”

            a particular cop = an individual policeman

            RIF

          9. BrianRiley429

            Good grief, John. You are confusing my explanation with my statement itself. The two are not identical. Please, let’s stop this. I’m beginning to think your purpose is just to distract the reader from the topic at hand. If you have nothing more to say that is substantive or on point, then I am not going to respond. Thanks for your interest.

          10. John

            Excellent Brian. Now that you are returned to the topic at hand, you may want to try answering the question posed to you 8 hours ago which you haven’t as yet answered.

            “Are you basing that assertion of yours on this one vehicle acquisition event? Or are there other examples of “over the top” “police-centric views” that Chief Black has exhibited in recent history?”

            Looking forward to your answer.

      1. John

        Thank you for that definition and usage Brian. Armed with that definition, what is your answer to the question previously posed to you?.

        “Are you basing the assertion of yours (the chief has developed too much of a police-centric view of law enforcement) on this one vehicle acquisition event? Or are there other examples of “over the top” “police-centric views” that Chief Black has exhibited in recent history?”

        Looking forward to your answer.

  3. BrianRiley429

    I’m willing to follow David’s lead and entertain the possibility that I might be wrong. On the other hand, I might be right. Firing the chief, I think, would send a signal to the rest of the country that we’ve got to put a stop to this trend of the militarization of the police. I think the community of Davis is well positioned to send such a signal.

    1. hpierce

      Brian is absolutely right! I can see it now… the Chief being publicly fired [and publicly humiliated] on national TV (CNN, Fox, Comedy Central would be MUST networks for coverage) will completely reverse this disturbing trend across the country (and probably lead to peace in Gaza and Iraq as well!). We need less “police-centric” and more “Davis-centric” paradigms, and we can retain our deserved status as “the mouth that roared”.

  4. keithvb

    It’s obvious that the police department has other things in mind than to “serve and protect.”
    Also obvious is that maintenance and repair of the “tank” will be a significant budget item.
    I thought we were short of cash…

  5. South of Davis

    David wrote:

    > Just Who is Running This City?

    The same people that are running (almost) every city the people (in BOTH the public and private sector) that work every day to try and get more and more city money (and work with the city to get even more and more money from the people that live, work and visit the city)…

  6. PhilColeman

    On a more temperate note–and one that is even relevant to the column topic–the absence of a permanent city manager ALWAYS reduces the effectiveness, efficiency, and responsiveness of the City Council and every segment of city government. That person is the lynch-pin between creation of city policy and its subsequent implementation.

    An interim head of anything has the most thankless and unfulfilling job in all of government. Temporary city manager appointments come at the high cost of reduced leadership. An interim city manager is a caretaker, not a visionary leader.

    With an interim city manager, long-term planning is suspended and inter-/intra-communication channels are compromised. I suspect it was the erosion in communication that lead to the current “tank” issue.

    The city manager selection by the council is so critical that it should receive emergency priority. A dead-line of 6-week max for appointment should be a state legislated mandate, in my view. Typically, however, the process takes at least a year to 18 months, and sometimes longer. Anticipate that will be the case (again) for Davis as well.

  7. Alan Miller

    My guess is that the Police Chief had the go-ahead with the CC resolution, to buy military surplus, and got the opportunity to get this tank and wanted this tank. Knowing it wouldn’t fly politically in Davis, he knew he *could* do it, and figured the only way to get the tank was to get it and ask forgiveness later, rather than go through all this in advance and probably not get the tank even on City proper.

    Being a large user of the “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” philosophy of life, I can admire this. Usually. But he got a tank. A TANK. Not some cans of military grade pepper spray or somethin’. A TANK! Without the City Council knowing — until it was already in Davis.

    The problem I have with this is a tendency to ask forgiveness rather than permission will logically creep into the philosophy of the first deployment that doesn’t fit exactly into the pre-determined deployment plan. And then the justifications begin. Nope, this will not end well.

    1. wdf1

      Alan M.: Being a large user of the “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission” philosophy of life, I can admire this. Usually. But he got a tank. A TANK. Not some cans of military grade pepper spray or somethin’. A TANK! Without the City Council knowing — until it was already in Davis.

      I don’t think this strategy would normally work with my wife in this kind of situation — i.e., I acquire a tank without her knowledge and ask for forgiveness later once it’s parked in the drive way — so I’m interested to see how the DPD might get out of this. It might be personally instructive. 😉

  8. BrianRiley429

    @PhilColeman, this isn’t over, Phil. The people of the City of Davis are fairly progressive. I think making an example out of the chief for overreaching in purchasing the vehicle is something that is eminently feasible and could be accomplished.

    1. Frankly

      Apparently, for the hard left in this town, any Chief of Police is going to wear out his welcome simply by doing his/her job.

      Maybe a job in Incline Village will open up for Chief Black and then we can lament losing another good city leader.

  9. Themis

    Why would any police force need a tank to serve a warrant to a potentially dangerous suspect? A tank would only help them if they drove it through the house, but they would still need to get out of the tank to serve the warrant. I guess that’s where the military style weapons come in to use.

    I don’t think the people of Davis want to go down this slippery slope.

  10. Alan Miller

    I wish to make my stance clear: We need to run this Tank our of town. No arguments, no studying of costs. Just because it is here doesn’t mean it should be here. If this had gone up for debate before its acquisition was completed, neither the Citizens nor the Council would have approve/allowed it. So let’s not F— around here waiting on maintenance costs or other hooey. I am calling on this tank to be returned to sending, like, as soon after before-it-got-here as humanly doable.

    City Council: Tank the tank.

  11. Pingback: Council Emerges From Break with a Lot of Work to Do | .:Davis Vanguard:.

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for