Earlier this week the Vanguard reported that Chief Darren Pytel has received the Picnic Day report and is in the process of evaluating it. When we spoke with the chief, his anticipation was that it would be ready before the conclusion of the city business this week. However, City Manager Mike Webb told the Vanguard on Friday that that will not be the case.
“I anticipate an announcement and information to be forthcoming shortly after the first of the year,” Mike Webb told the Vanguard.
A key consideration here is the fact that, to the extent that this report might contain in it adverse actions against personnel, there would need to be time for the personnel to appeal to the city manager. For that reason, at this point the city manager has not read the report, as he is the person that would review any appeals from officers hit with adverse actions.
We asked if an appeal could push the release of the report back past the target date which might be as soon as January 2, and Mr. Webb said, “No, I don’t expect delays.”
To date, only Chief Pytel in the city has seen this report, and not the city council or city manager. Decisions still have to be made as to what the public will get to see.
An additional factor, shared by several members of council in addition to the city manager, is the idea of not putting out the report right before city hall closes for the holidays. That would
leave members of the public without a clear outlet to express dissatisfaction with the report and the findings.
Mindful of optics, some expressed concern that the city could be accused of putting out controversial information (no matter how the report ultimately rules) at a time when no one is paying attention.
Moreover, City Manager Webb felt it was beneficial to have the report come out with a city council meeting in the near future, where citizens would have a vehicle and platform to engage. The council meets on Tuesday, December 19, and then not again until January 9.
A January 2 release would allow the public to speak during public comment within a week of the release of the report.
On April 22, around 3:30 pm, three Davis police officers were involved in an altercation with a number of individuals who had gathered at the corner of Russell Boulevard and College Park. Ultimately, five individuals were arrested and pled to reduced charges.
Because of public controversy, the city originally named former Sacramento Sheriff John McGinness to head the investigation, however, he quickly bowed out after the Vanguard revealed he had made remarks that African Americans were better off before the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The city then named McGregor Scott to replace him.
From the start the city has been vague about what would be released to the public. Part of the release of this is complicated by two factors. One is new personnel rules governing the release of records that would be deemed to be personnel files. In addition, the 2006 Copley Press decision by the California Supreme Court held that records of sustained misconduct charges are confidential and may not be disclosed to the public.
The decision prevents the public from learning the extent to which police officers have been disciplined as a result of misconduct. Prior to that, Penal Code section 832.7 prevented public access to citizen complaints held by the employing agency, which meant that internal affairs records were confidential, but records of appeals to outside agencies were open to the public.
As the ACLU noted in a 2007 primer: “Copley Press has effectively shut off all avenues for the public to learn about misconduct involving individual police officers, such as excessive force and dishonesty; officer-involved shootings; patterns of misconduct and leniency; previous discipline for misconduct by another agency; and even the identity of officers in misconduct cases.”
In a commentary earlier this week, the Vanguard suggested that the city follow the model of UC Davis for the release of this report, by looking at the Kroll Report from 2012 following the Pepper Spray incident. Here was a similar case – high profile, and the university hired outside investigators, Kroll, to investigate the matter. They turned in a lengthy report, but redacted the names of the officers.
So the public will continue to wait for the release of the Scott report, but the end is in sight.
—David M. Greenwald reporting