Council Asks City Manager to Hire Interim Police Auditor

The main action from Tuesday night was for the council to name Kathryn Olson and Barbara Attard as police oversight consultants.

Back on July 11, Mayor Robb Davis moved forward a plan to hire a short-term consultant to review the current police oversight system, then have a public input process in order to implement a new one.

The plan calls for the consultant to review the current system, historical documents and recommendations already made by the Human Relations Commission. The consultant would also participate in up to five public or sponsored forums as a content expert. The forums would be used to solicit input from the community on the goals of oversight, guiding principles, and key desired processes for oversight.

The consultant would recommend one to three options that would seem to fit in Davis given size, history of policing, and community needs, and would include a model contract and scope of work for ombudsman/auditor and details of the role of any other entities and how they might change from what is currently in place.

However, this process is expected to take time, with a goal of having the information gathering and review phase completed by February 16, 2018, with a report prepared by March 31 and a presentation to council completed by April 30.

That would have left the city without a police auditor from June 30 when Bob Aaronson’s contract expired to April 30, at the earliest – a period of ten months.

Councilmember Rochelle Swanson asked if an interim auditor was something we could do, as “April is quite a ways away.”

Assistant City Manager Kelly Stachowicz said, “Our thinking was that if we did need additional assistance that we could draw on our resources at Best Best & Krieger (the firm that employs the
city attorney) but we didn’t want to hire somebody and then have to change the system.”

“I’m interested in being able to do an interim, we do interim things all the time,” Councilmember Swanson said.  She said that you simply let the people coming in know that they are interim and will only be around as a stop-gap measure.  I’m very interested in putting that out there, if it’s something that we can do quickly.  Not only do I think it’s right we should it, but I think it sends the right message to our community  that yes we are trying to move these things forward expeditiously but also be thoughtful about how we’re doing it – making sure we have qualified people.”

Lucas Frerichs said, “I support that as well.”

City Attorney Harriet Steiner said that “the city manager has the authority within the budget to hire a consultant as interim police auditor.  I don’t think there has to be specific council direction to do that.”  She said that specific council direction would require bringing the item back.

She added, “Doing that is within the budget and within the budgetary authority for the position and the ability to hire a consultant to fill that position already exists within the city budget – the city manager can fill that on his own.”

One possibility is that the city expand the role of Barbara Attard and Kathryn Olson to act as interim auditors in addition to their role as consultants.

Barbara Attard and Kathryn Olson both have vast experience in the area of police oversight.

Ms. Attard currently works with the San Francisco-based Accountability Associates, and has served as the San Jose Independent Police Auditor and in police review positions both in Berkeley and San Francisco.

She also worked with UC Davis on recommendations for their police department after the pepper spray incident in 2011.

Kathryn Olson, who received her undergraduate degree from UC Davis, also has a long professional history working in the police oversight field. A practicing attorney, Ms. Olson is currently a principal at Change Integration Consulting, focusing on police accountability issues.

Previously, she held positions as the Director of the Office of Police Accountability in the city of Seattle and with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Mayor Robb Davis prepared a paper that fleshed out his ideas and thoughts about what a process to determine appropriate police oversight might look like.

In that six-page paper, he wrote that “the ultimate end (goal) is to create a police accountability system that increases transparency, builds trust, and fosters policing practices and policies that create public safety for the entire community. This accountability must involve both the police as an agency and the behavior of individual officers.”

Robb Davis quotes from The New World of Police Accountability, by Samuel Walker, that “that the police have legitimacy when they enjoy the understanding, trust, and support of the people they serve… Legitimacy takes a comprehensive view of policing, looking at individual officer conduct, police departments as organizations, and relationships with the entire community.”

The purpose of this process, Mr. Davis writes, is “[t]o bring a diverse group of Davis stakeholders together with police oversight experts to learn more about oversight options and elements and develop a set of guiding principles for police oversight and several models or options for oversight that fit the needs of the community.”

In particular, he notes that “community members help define key guiding principles that will form the foundation of police oversight” while “[u]nder-represented populations within the City also help define guiding principles and oversight elements, but also deepen the broader community’s understanding of their experience of the police in Davis.”

The goal, as stated above, is to have the information gathering and review phase completed by February 16, 2018, with a report prepared by March 31 and a presentation to council completed by April 30.

—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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  1. Keith O

    Our city can find more ways to waste revenue.  We have a few loud voices complaining about police oversight and the council is quick to appease them and blow more funds.  This is not anything that the majority of our citizens want or need, it’s just the usual crowd complaining and stirring up problems.

    1. David Greenwald

      How is this wasting revenue? It was already included in the budget for the year as it has been for the last decade. The police chief considers it a net savings as it greatly reduced the number of lawsuits against the city.

        1. David Greenwald

          Because they should have for a lot of reasons which outweighed their reasoning for not doing it.  It ended up hurting them with the bad initial hire and then the additional cost.  Really disastrous decision-making.

    2. Robb Davis

      This is not anything that the majority of our citizens want or need…

      This is in the Davis Police Department’s strategic plan.

      This is something the police themselves want to develop.

      This is not the work of a minority of citizens but something this City has worked on for 10 years.

      This is something that cities across the country—cities with far different local politics from Davis’—are developing.

      This is how we build trust and legitimacy for our local police force.

    3. Tia Will


      This is not anything that the majority of our citizens want or need”
      Your evidence for this assertion would be ? I believe what you are factual asserting is that this is nothing that you 
      personally feel you want or need. A legitimate point, but without evidence, hardly reflective of the “majority”. 

      1. Keith O

        I talk with friends and neighbors, you know the ones who have jobs, have other important obligations besides going to every council meeting to express one’s activism like we see in Davis.  Often times they’re referred to as the ignored silent majority.

        1. David Greenwald

          I watch the voting patterns in Davis – 15% voted for Trump, less than 30 percent voted against the last parcel tax, less than 30 percent voted against recreational marijuana, I don’t know what a silent majority means, but I don’t see evidence that there is one.

        2. Keith O

          What, you don’t think Democrats might have voted for Hillary but at the same time support our police dept?  You don’t think people might vote for different parties and support school parcel taxes?  You don’t think a Trump supporter could vote for recreational marijuana because they want big brother to stay out of people’s lives?

          I notice you’re really doing a lot of dancing around this morning trying to justify your assertions.

          1. Don Shor

            I notice you’re really doing a lot of dancing around this morning trying to justify your assertions.

            If they’re silent, how do we know what they believe about anything? Are you a pollster? Is your sample representative of anything at all except your own preconceived beliefs? Your “assertions” are neither provable or falsifiable with respect to what Davis residents believe.

        3. Tia Will


          And often times, while they may be silent, that is no indication that they are in fact in the majority. I also speak with friends and acquaintances most of whom are in favor of having a police auditor. Seems like we may be part of different social circles ( many of my friends are also fully employed, at least those who are not retired). But I am not making a claim that those I speak with are in the majority. I simply do not know and doubt that you do either.

  2. Nora Oldwin

    I have never understood the deprecatory idea behind the “few loud voices”. How about a few citizens willing to stand up for decent human rights? To my knowledge, and I am one of them but do not claim to speak for any but myself, MOST of the folks with loud voices on this one are not of color, have not been incarcerated, and do not fear police retaliation for speaking out. So- this is about recognizing and doing our civic duty- and I”m glad if our voices are loud. Someone is hearing us. Now, if only we can get more to “listen”!


  3. PhilColeman

    My generation is often guilty of perceptions expressed in terms of time. “Back in my day,” brings eye-rolling by those who were not around in those days. Looking back in time is seen with rose-colored glasses, and events seemed more pure and innocent than they really were.

    Yet, we of a past generation also have a cumulative knowledge base of first-hand experience, and the ability to see and note changes from a perspective of “then,” and “now.” Human flaws are a constant throughout time, so that never changes.

    “Back in my day,” we in the law enforcement profession also had highly publicized and controversial criminal cases fall into our laps. A confrontation with a publicity-seeking cause or individual, an arrest of a celebrity with unlimited resources and ready access to an adoring public. A street incident that started out simple and then went postal. We knew were going to catch hell no matter what we did, or did not do. We had a catch-phrase for such times, that’s how common it was. “At least we’ll be criticized for doing something right.”

    Duty supervisory and command staff mobilized their best investigator personnel. The universal admonishment was “everything is asked and answered, everybody available in interviewed, and all witnesses sign written statements (which, by the way, has been lost to time and practice).

    This could all be happening on an early weekend morning, which was often the time frame when bad things happen. The point being made here is that, back in the day, there was a final uncompromising command given in terms of time for completion.

    A written report will be on the Chief’s desk at 8am, Monday. And it was, always was.

    If anything, “back in the day” we had much less immediate access to relevant records and references. Communication devices were vastly inferior. Human resources were no greater then than now. If anything, employee skills were less then than now.

    And yet, a similar incident happening today translates to a completed report in weeks when it used to be hours. A comprehensive report that could stand up to scrutiny was completed in a month, not the better part of a year.

    Want proof in a very contemporary setting? Think back to the recent natural and human-made catastrophes we’ve witnessed. Hundreds and thousands of people affected, infrastructure including communications destroyed. Everywhere you look is human tragedy. How long does it take for some suits and uniforms to stand in front of a battery of microphones and give a thorough report of what’s happening and what’s going to happen. Is it a few hours or a day, maybe two?

    Or do they say we having nothing to report? We’re thinking of hiring a consulting team in a few months and get a report and give it to you sometime, maybe, in the next several months.

    It does not take months to study relevant police policy procedures relevant to any police incident, it can be done in a day, with coffee breaks. Were a consulting group given a “performance bonus” in terms of a timely report, (not a bad idea, incidentally) that report would be done in less than a month.

    Anybody who has read consultant reports know the voluminous content is largely boiler-plate stuff and fluff. It’s a meek attempt to justify why it took several months to finish and the ridiculous cost. The real meat items can be done in a couple of weeks of concentrated effort. “Concentrated effort by experts” defines the need for hiring consulting in the first place. Yet consultants take longer in investigating than the in-house capability. Anybody every wonder why?

    Closing with the obvious, these prolonged delays in response to a public clamor are manufactured and deliberate.


  4. Tia Will

    Phil’s comments are based on the assumption that everyone filling out reports will be completely unbiased and truthful in their statements. However, life indicates that no such assumption can be made. It cannot be made of every surgeon’s operative report, and it cannot be made of every police officer’s report. Investigations may sometimes need a long time for the full truth to be ascertained. For anyone doubting this is true, I have one word: “Watergate”.

    1. David Greenwald

      I’m skeptical as well – one of the reason we have gone to these oversight systems is that the old system didn’t work very well.  But I don’t have enough first hand knowledge to know for sure.

      1. PhilColeman

        No, not at all. Nobody, and particularly me, said a written report is unbiased and truthful and never would I make such an assumption. Practiced investigators are trained to never assume anything.

        And, David, I’ll readily share your skepticism. But if we really want to be fair and objective–and truthful–we must apply the same standards of value measurements to your proposals. Try this on for size.

        Retaining an auditor, a consulting firm, or selecting an oversight committee, these selections will be by persons who are free of bias and know the truth. The persons selected these roles as substitutes for flawed police oversight. They, too, have these necessary virtues, but law enforcement as a summary grouping do not.  I’m not going to assume this can be done, it’s far more appropriate to assume it can’t be done at all.

        Anybody can attack a concept using these these noble values of total objectivity and truthfulness as a standard, but one can’t support another approach while at the same time conveniently ignoring these same standards of measurement.

        Please research all of the police oversight efforts. I have a several-decade chronology. You’ll find there remains much community dissatisfaction, often greater than before. And a consequence you won’t find (but it’s there) is that with an police oversight layer in place, internal police accountability is often forfeited and abandoned. Fearful and lazy police managers can and do say, “That’s their job” and close both eyes.

        To the minor, almost extraneous point of the value of a written statement, it has great value. It documents a view in a time context. This view is subject to eternal scrutiny and can be compared to other views in the context of time, location, circumstance. From that we can often come closer to finding out what really happened. Ergo, the truth.

        1. Robb Davis

          Just to be clear about the role of the consultants: they are helping lay out the parameters for what oversight means and models that are available.  They are also helping to facilitate community dialogue, listening, speaking to stakeholders (including City staff and police leadership and officers) and making recommendations.  Having been a consultant myself I believe the way this role is structured will enable them to move beyond “pre-cooked” responses and provide recommendations that fit this community.  Of course the parameters are limited—there are not unlimited numbers of ways to structure police oversight—but the two selected have experience and come with strong support for being able to share, listen, observe and then recommend directions.

        2. Howard P

          I agree with Robb… if you look at the value of the time that staff would expend to do the tasks envisioned (total comp – salary, pension, PREB, etc.) and what would be put aside while they did that, compounded by some folk questioning the end product, because it came from “City staff”, paid consultants sound like a damn good deal.

          Phil’s idea of a consultant ‘bonus’ to prioritize the study and delivery of results, has potential merit.

          edited Robb and others have rationally explained why this is a good approach… I accept that… edited
          Done, said my piece…


          [moderator:edited. No personal attacks, please.]

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