There is a thin line between due diligence and overreaction. For the most part I think public officials are being cautious in their approach since the tragic murder a week ago this past Saturday.
While an urgency ordinance seemed a bit extreme, it is basically pushing the pause button while authorities can get a better sense of what happened and what, if anything, we can do about it.
Council is holding a 7:30 am meeting tomorrow, which on the surface seems a bit much. However, the context is that the council was actually originally holding the meeting to address another issue, the need to approve the subcontractor substitution for the Water Quality Improvement Pipeline Project.
The council was on call for this meeting, but was unable to coordinate their schedules for a normal meeting time. Moreover, with Lucas Frerichs on vacation (he will be participating via Skype from Europe) and the need for four votes, they needed to find a time when all could meet.
There is a need to act if action is needed, but there is also a need not to overreact. The danger in any tragedy is that we act based on emotion and in order to “do something.”
As one reader posed the question yesterday: how many murders have to occur before action is taken?
We have seen all too many murders in recent years, but I have seen little change result from any of them. When Daniel Marsh murdered two elderly residents, did the school change their protocols for handling students with depression and other mental health disorders? Did we re-examine the depression drug protocols for teenagers, even in light of evidence that he might have been prescribed the wrong medication?
When Aquelin Talamantes drowned her daughter, did we change the family court system that gave her custody of the child, despite serious warning signs?
When William Gardner shot and killed Leslie Pinkston, did we change the way stalking and harassment were treated? Did we change release protocols from prison? Did we change the law to notify potential victims of such release?
Those seem to have been much more preventable killings and we seem to have done very little in this community and in this county to correct the errors that led to those tragedies – but there are people who want to shut down our bars based on this tragedy.
The first step is that we should find out what happened. We don’t know. We only know that one man is dead, the police think it was a gang-related killing, and there are five young men in custody with a sixth at large. We don’t even know which of those men actually stabbed the victim.
The police, while concerned, seem to be approaching this through an air of calmness that the rest of the community should attempt to emulate.
Assistant Chief Darren Pytel indicated that, while there are problems at KetMoRee and they have seen increased problems with respect to that restaurant, “I can say that all of the officers have told me that the staff that works at KetMo does a good job of dealing with the crowds, they handle the incidents inside their bar very well, they call the police anytime they feel it’s necessary.”
Others have told me that the security at KetMoRee is very good, but that is not a universally held belief.
Mr. Pytel told the Vanguard that, at KetMoRee and other locations, they are seeing more and more weapons. “We’ve taken more guns and knives off of people arrested in fights downtown,” he said. “We have kind of seen a change regarding escalation in weapons and violence over the past couple of years.”
The question is whether that is related to bar activity – whether the Davis bars draw in that kind of element or whether it is incidental.
Darren Pytel clarified that the calls for service have not suddenly doubled or tripled downtown, that it’s always been busy. However, the nature of these incidents have escalated somewhat in the last few years.
One thing that he said has improved things is that the police made a conscientious effort to approve more businesses with ABC licenses in the downtown. “What we’re finding is that when you only have a couple of bars and then you have hundreds people standing in line, we were dealing with a lot of problems just with the people standing in line,” he said.
Contrary to what people may believe, the more people you get into a bar, because of the security inside, you actually reduce the problems. So having more places can be a better situation than having not enough space and having people waiting in line, angry that they aren’t inside, having fun.
“Downtown is actually more orderly now that we don’t have all of the long lines in front of some of the bars like we used to,” he said.
This, of course, suggests that curtailing bar business is actually not an effective solution.
But again, I think we need to figure out what happened first before we can figure out the answer to the problem.
That said, I think a lot of people have believed that having more patrol officers would be helpful. Hiring about five extra regular patrol officers, which would add about $800,000 to the city budget, would allow the police to have some additional bodies available to monitor the scene.
Right now, even on a busy Friday or Saturday night, there could be as few as five officers on duty. The city budget remains strapped and stretched thin. It is one reason we have been concerned about the exorbitant fire compensation – the extra few million going to salaries there could have funded additional patrol officers.
Still, as the city looks at revenue measures and developing its revenue base through economic development, adding in funding for more police officers would probably be helpful even if it turns out they would not have prevented this tragedy.
—David M. Greenwald reporting