Council Set to Hire Police Oversight Consultant

The Davis City Council will be asked to authorize the city manager to execute a contract with Barbara Attard and Kathryn Olson to complete the council’s process for implementing police oversight changes.

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

At the time, Mayor Davis said, “Whether we like it or not – and we’re tired and frustrated at the things people are saying to us, but there is a legitimacy question,” he said. It’s not only locally, but “it’s legitimacy of the policing in our nation. It’s fundamentally in question right now. We have to acknowledge that – we’re part of that system.”

The plan calls for the consultant to review the current system, historical documents and recommendations already made by the Human Relations Commission.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 forum 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 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.

The council further requested that the consultant and staff present the results, upon completion of the work, in a comprehensive report to the city council for decision making on a preferred model.

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.”

In his view, the police oversight system would include some or all of the following:

  • Accepting and referring police misconduct complaints
  • Investigating police misconduct complaints
  • Monitoring or auditing a police department’s internal investigations and findings
  • Conducting hearings and making decisions on police discipline matters
  • Conducting pattern and practice reviews
  • Making recommendations for improving police policies, practices, and training
  • Reporting on oversight and its impact on policing
  • Fostering community education and engagement about police and oversight matters

The purpose of this process, he 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.”

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.

The goal 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.

The Vanguard remains concerned that the city of Davis has had no police oversight official since June 30 when Bob Aaronson’s contract expired, and hopes that the council will appoint, for the duration of the planning process, an interim police auditor whose scope and duties are similar to the previous position .

—David M. Greenwald reporting

Come see the Vanguard Event – “In Search of Gideon” – which highlights some of the key work performed by the Yolo County Public Defender’s Office…

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. Dianne C Tobias

    I appreciate the plan to review processes and educate the public but am unclear from the article what the timeline is for hiring a new ‘auditor’. Isn’t that a priority that has been identified?

    And what is the status of the outside review of the Picnic Day episode ? I have been out of town so may have missed?

    1. David Greenwald

      The thinking is that it doesn’t make any sense to hire a new auditor until we know what our system looks like. That makes sense, but it doesn’t make sense to leave the position vacant as long as it has been.

      The status of the Picnic Day review is that we are awaiting the final report. Last I check it was expected before the end of November.

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