A Check In on the Mayor’s Expectations for Picnic Day List

Mayor Robb Davis in August

In mid-May, as the community was deep into the question of the Picnic Day incident and what would happen with the investigation moving forward, Mayor Robb Davis published in the Vanguard an article entitled “Expectations,” which laid out his expectations for the process.  It seems like a good time to evaluate the progress of his expectations.

As the mayor explained, “Above all, people want to hear what City Council members think and what we are asking for. While I do not speak for other Council members, and while there is still much I do not understand about the event and what will follow, I will endeavor to lay out here, the expectations I have going forward.”

Here he wrote, “I expect and hope for the following…”

That a full, independent and impartial investigation of the events by an investigator who is beholden to no one, who understands police tactics and procedures, and who can use that knowledge and good investigative technique to critically analyze what happened on that day, will take place.

Progress: While the first investigator, John McGinness, was dismissed, the city eventually hired McGregor Scott.  His report remains ongoing and we will see the results of that in the coming weeks or months.

That the investigation will yield specific key learning points, specific recommendations for change and correction, and options for further training.

Progress: In progress.

That Chief Pytel will provide a list of specific and actionable responses to the investigative report (as allowed by law).

Progress: In progress.

A better understanding of policing policies and practices and, in particular, in what circumstances plainclothes officers and unmarked vehicles are and are not appropriate tools to maintain public safety.

Progress: While this remains in progress as well, the city has updated its policy regarding the use of plainclothes officers and unmarked vehicles.

The release from May 18 reads: “A revised policy will expand the circumstances under which police personnel must wear various types of uniforms that make them more readily-identifiable as law enforcement officers. The policy further requires vehicles used in plainclothes assignments to be equipped with a forward-facing red light that must be used when the vehicle is used in taking enforcement action.  Interim guidelines for undercover personnel have also been issued to underscore existing plainclothes policies that restrict circumstances when undercover officers may directly take enforcement action or use force.  Such circumstances are limited to situations when an officer acts to protect themselves or another person from imminent injury or harm.  A more detailed undercover policy is expected to be issued soon.  Finally, the Department is also crafting a new policy clarifying the operational circumstances under which undercover officers may be deployed, including identifying factors that must be considered in reaching such decisions.”

Clarity in what ways the training in de-escalation techniques that all our police officers participate in were used or not used in this event and what that means for future training.

Progress: This remains in progress.

To engage with UC Davis leadership in a deeper analysis of the challenges of policing on Picnic Day.

Progress: In progress.

To engage with my colleagues and staff on an analysis of whether our current policies and practices related to dealing with the large Picnic Day crowds continue to serve us or whether we need to take other measures to limit large gatherings that have caused problems even for those hosting parties.

Progress: In progress.

That Chief Pytel will reactivate the citizens’ group that met for over a year to discuss issues of racial profiling and bias—meetings that led, ultimately, to the development of our “alternative dispute resolution” policy that allows citizens to directly engage police officers who have caused them harm.

Progress: The citizens’ group has been meeting.  Last Thursday, Chief Darren Pytel came to the Davis Human Relations Commission to present their community survey that they have put together.  The Human Relations Commission and Davis Vanguard were among several groups to sign on as co-sponsors of that effort.

That Chief Pytel will work with the Phoenix Coalition and our talented community facilitators to hold community meetings to allow members of the community to share concerns, ideas and a vision for future policing efforts.

Progress: The Chief has already participated in a forum in June sponsored by the Vanguard on police oversight and more efforts are underway this fall potentially.

That the City Council will continue its discussion and make a decision on the next phase of civilian oversight of the police that includes a continuation of a police ombudsman and some form of Council subcommittee with citizen members to hear community concerns about policing and recommend options to improve it.

Progress: The city council met in July to discuss the future of police oversight.  Council passed Mayor Robb Davis’ proposal to have a series of outreach meetings and gain public input from forum and input from the Davis Police Department to recommend options that would fit Davis given its size, history of policing and community needs.

Recommendations, his proposal stated, “should include model contract and scope of work” for the auditor, and details of the role that other entities might play and how “they might change from what is currently in place.”

The hope is to have some of these meetings this fall.

That our current, departing, ombudsman will be replaced in a timely way—and whoever is in place will review the report when it is issued.

Progress: The city has put out an RFP for a new police auditor.

That, in due course, all those harmed in this event will come together in a carefully planned and facilitated meeting so they can describe the harms they experienced, ask questions of those who harmed them, and seek, together a way forward to make the harms “as right as possible,” so relationships can be restored and justice accomplished.

Progress: The plea agreement for the defendants included a restorative justice proposal that is a requirement in order for them to meet the terms of the deferred entry of judgment.

Conclusion: Many of these key components are underway.  The key right now is for the investigator, McGregor Scott, to release his report.  Clearly, the city needs to make this public and unveil it in a clear and transparent manner.

—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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