For the next eight weeks, the Vanguard will be sending the Davis City Council candidates weekly questions. They have 250 to 350 words.
Question #2: While the city’s budget picture has improved, the city is still in need of funding for things like roads, parks, greenbelts, pools, buildings, as well as some unfunded retirement needs – what measures would you support to increase city revenue and why?
Question #4: In September a murder at KetMoRee caused the community to reflect on its downtown policies. But Davis overall is changing in terms of crime and types of crime and related challenges. What is your view of policing in Davis? You can discuss issues such as staffing, resource priorities, community outreach, police oversight, and transparency like body worn cameras.
Davis remains a safe city in which to live. Our rate of violent crime is significantly lower than state and national averages. Our city leaders and police officers are to be commended for their continued efforts to keep us safe.
But there is one tragic caveat that I would like to address.
The number of sexual assaults in Davis is higher, and in some years significantly higher, than national averages. This is not uncommon for college towns. According to one recent multi-campus survey, incidence of sexual assault among female undergrads nears 1 in 4.
Thankfully, action has been taken in recent years to address the sexual violence epidemic by leaders at the local and statewide level.
Locally, a grassroots organization of parents, educators, citizens and police was formed under the moniker ‘Sexual Assault Awareness Campaign’ (saacdavis.com). Their mission is to implement sexual violence prevention training, similar to that mandated by UC, in all DJUSD schools. Dawn Yackzan spearheaded this group, an effort for which she and the organization received the City’s Thong Hy Huynh Award in 2015. I participated in the group’s initial planning meeting, and I am thrilled to see their efforts thrive.
Statewide, the Legislature recently passed SB 967, coauthored by Senator Wolk. Known as the “yes means yes” bill, it requires colleges receiving state money to enforce a standard of “affirmative consent.” This means both partners have to express their wishes in a way that the other can understand, and silence or intoxication is no longer a substitute for consent. Governor Brown signed this bill, and it is now the law.
Finally, I am pleased that sexual assault awareness and prevention was included in the City’s recently-approved entertainment permit ordinance. I advocated for this when I spoke at public comment, as I believe it is a critical public safety measure.
I understand that sexual assault is one of many public safety issues, but I wanted to take this opportunity to commend recent actions taken to address this issue, and to continue to raise awareness that more work is needed to keep our citizens safe from sexual violence.
The tragic murder of Peter Gonzalez was a tipping point, as to the late night party scene in downtown Davis, and highlighted why changes were sorely needed. The Council responded swiftly, although some of these issues have been gradually building for several years. “Hitting the pause button” by enacting the nightclub moratorium (you’ll recall that I voted against Blondies- I’m still concerned that they’ll be problematic), provided us some breathing room to systematically address the situation; via significant community outreach and input, and propose solutions to help move the community and downtown forward.
We worked collaboratively with the stakeholders: business owners, students, Davis Downtown, Davis Chamber and neighbors. I’m optimistic that the new Event Permit Ordinance will pragmatically address late-night downtown issues, all while continuing to support a vibrant downtown.
As to policing issues: Davis has come a long way in the past decade! I’m extremely supportive of Darren Pytel as Police Chief (a life-long resident, he “gets” Davis).
Davis can be a difficult town to be an officer. We routinely go through 100 applicants before we find the right fit. We’ve just hired three new officers, and have several more to go.
I’m extremely supportive of the use of the Neighborhood Court restorative justice program, believe that increased community outreach activities, such as “Coffee with a Cop” are necessary, and see the strong collaboration between DPD, Human Relations Commission, and Community Advisory Board, as vital work. I also support the increased use of technology, including body worn cameras.
More than any other local government service, public safety is event driven. I haven’t been involved in any events that required police involvement, so I see policing through the eyes of people who have. From that perspective, I strongly support transparency/accountability initiatives like body worn cameras and Davis Independent Police Auditor, Bob Aaronson, whose activities can be learned about in detail at http://cityofdavis.org/city-hall/police-department/administration/independent-police-auditor.
As part of its oversight mission, the Finance and Budget Commission receives an annual Police Department update, focusing on the fiscal impacts of the department’s staffing and resource requirements. From the update reports, the Police Department is authorized for a staffing level of 61 sworn officers, which is the optimum level needed to deal with the types of crime and challenges the Police Department faces.
However, the realities of normal staff turnover mean there are, on average, 4-5 open positions that are fully funded in the Annual Budget, but unfilled, which means officers are pulled off their normal duties in order to fulfill the duties of open positions. For example, two bicycle officers are authorized for Downtown Davis, but the second bicycle officer is almost always covering open position duties. As a result, the actual staffing falls short of the level that Police Department leadership has proactively planned to meet the community’s evolving public safety needs.
To address this issue, I believe the Police Department should be authorized for 61 sworn officers plus the 4-5 positions of the historically validated staff turnover rate. That way when turnover happens, the actual staffing will not fall short of the public safety need, and at the same time will be fiscally neutral for the City, because those 4-5 open positions are already fully funded in the Annual Budget,
Bicyclists running stop signs and riding without lights might not welcome additional policing, but the community as a whole will be a safer place to live and work. Restorative Justice measures like “fix-it-ticket” and/or “bike-traffic-school” for riders without lights can help address the increased numbers of apprehended violators.
With transparency/accountability measures in place, and a proactive staffing plan implemented by public safety professionals to meet the community’s public safety needs, I see my job as a Councilmember being to help those professionals execute the plan efficiently and effectively to keep Davis safe.
It is important to have a community oriented police force that is a part of the community not at odds with the community. I think we are fortunate that today in Davis we do have this. I think that police chief Landy Black had a large part in creating this atmosphere.
I fully support officers wearing body cameras. I voted to require this. Prior to the council vote, I met with police chief Pytel to discuss the specifics of the proposed policy. As a long-time member of the ACLU, I wanted to know how and why the proposed body camera policy differed from the ACLU’s model body camera ordinance. I left that meeting feeling like the city’s proposed policy was a good start.
I think we have some real challenges regarding police resources. At the state level AB109 and Prop 47, while having good intentions and some good outcomes, have resulted in more active criminals out on the streets.
In Davis, we have positions for 61 sworn officers. Due to attrition and hiring difficulties, we always seem to be 1 to 3 officers below this level. In “normal” times, this may be sufficient. However, when we have a murder- where do we think the officers come from to investigate the crime? They are pulled from their regular duties. So we no longer have the same resources to work on things like burglary prevention and investigations.
This is a real issue. It seems like the past few years we have had a string of high profile tragic crimes. This combined with the understaffing has created a shortage of policing resources.
Three months ago at a council meeting I proposed a $20/year parcel tax to fund three additional officer positions. Unfortunately, there was not sufficient support for it.
In addition, I have been trying to increase traffic enforcement efforts. I believe that we generally drive too fast and that too few cyclists use lights at night. At the last budget cycle, my colleagues and I approved additional funds for additional traffic enforcement efforts last fall.
People have the reasonable expectation to live in a safe community; we should all be able to go for a walk after dark without having to worry that we will be robbed or assaulted. Davis is a safe community, but it takes resources to keep it that way.