Scott Report’s Release Still Uncertain As Is Status of Officers Involved in Picnic Day Incident

City Manager Mike Webb told the Vanguard on Tuesday that the city is still evaluating how and when to release the report from McGregor Scott and that they do not have a timetable for its release.

“The City has received inquiries concerning the internal affairs investigation that Mr. McGregor Scott conducted into the incident at Picnic Day 2017.  The City Manager’s office and the City Attorney’s office  are working together to expeditiously determine the City’s next steps regarding the investigation,” the city manager told the Vanguard.

He added, “No particular date has been set for the release of any additional information to the public until that process is completed.”

This contrasts somewhat to what the Vanguard was told in December when the city manager told us, “I anticipate an announcement and information to be forthcoming shortly after the first of the year.”

At the time, he told the Vanguard, a key consideration was the extent to which the report might contain adverse actions against personnel, and 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 who 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 have been as soon as January 2, and Mr. Webb said, “No, I don’t expect delays.”

But we have been told of an additional factor, which may be that Mayor Robb Davis has stated publicly on a number of occasions that he wanted to have an independent auditor review the findings.

Unclear Whether Officers Have or Will Be Disciplined

A records request filed on Tuesday shows that Officers Ryan Bellamy and Sean Bellamy remain employed by the Davis Police Department, as does Sgt. Steve Ramos – all of them were involved in the April 22 incident that saw the arrest of five individuals who have now plead to felony resisting arrest and a misdemeanor battery in exchange for probation and a deferred entry of judgment.

In late November, the Vanguard reported that during the 2016 arrest of Eduardo Letelier, Officer Ryan Bellamy walked up to and punched Mr. Letelier in the face, dropping the man to the ground.  While Mr. Letelier was on the ground, Officer Justin Raymond punched him twice as the officers attempted to put handcuffs on him.

The records request shows that Office Justin Raymond also remains a sworn Davis police officer, although the Vanguard has been told he is no longer on active duty due to an injury sustained – which will likely mean he is on permanent disability.

One of the biggest complaints now by activists and critics is the extent to which the officers have been disciplined for their conduct – not only in this incident, but in other incidents as well.

While the records request shows that the officers remain on the city payrolls, we do not know the status of disciplinary hearings or whether that process has been completed.

This is not a unique problem to Davis.  As Marcos Breton pointed out, ironically the same day the Vanguard released its report on Officer Bellamy, November 27, “The system is rigged in favor of the police every time (police brutality) is alleged.”

He notes, “The law gives cops wide latitude to use force in the line of duty. And that breadth often can seem shocking, especially when the actions of officers are caught on video and look preposterously excessive.”

Here he was referring to the April 2017 incident where Sacramento Officer Anthony Figueroa slammed African American pedestrian Nandi Cain to the ground and punched him at least 18 times after stopping him for allegedly jaywalking.

The kicker is that, seven months later, Officer Figueroa was reinstated and “state law prevents you or me from finding out what happens when cops ‘investigate’ other cops for alleged brutality.”

State law prevents us from knowing whether Officer Figueroa broke any policies during the encounter, whether he was disciplined, and even how exhaustive the investigation of the officer was.

Writes Mr. Breton: “It’s because of the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights Act, which was approved by lawmakers in 1976. It sets rules on department managers’ interrogations of police officers, bans lie detector tests and allows officers to review their personnel files. Two years later, lawmakers approved another set of protections for officers. The 1978 law prohibited agencies from releasing officers’ personnel records.

“These shields of secrecy are considered to be the most stringent in the nation, despite California’s progressive reputation.”

The same laws that protect Officer Figueroa are at play with the three Picnic Day officers.  Unless the Davis Police Department or City of Davis terminates the officers or they leave the department, we will never know if they have been disciplined.

And, even if they do leave, we might never learn the reason why.

In 2012, two individuals, Jerome Wren and Tatiana Bush, were found arguing outside of the Glacier Point Apartments.  Officer Lee Benson arrived on the scene and it escalated quickly, resulting in Mr. Wren being Tasered while Ms. Bush was slammed into the police car.

We have only limited findings as the complaint letter by then-Police Chief Landy Black indicated:

“Based on the evidence, it became clear the conduct of the first arriving officer with whom you interacted did not meet the highest standards of conduct and service we expect from our members.

“In particular, I determined your complaint of improper conduct had merit; the officer used an aggressive tone throughout and did not meet our highest standards for interacting with the public,” Chief Black wrote.

We would only learn through unofficial channels that the officer involved, Lee Benson, was fired as the result of the incident.  However, one factor that made his firing easier was that he was still on probation at the time of this (and other incidents).

However, the Vanguard has since learned that Mr. Benson has been hired by other police departments and has had continuing problems with his conduct.  These agencies hired Mr. Benson despite clear warnings from the Davis Police Department about his record.

—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. John Hobbs

    “No particular date has been set for the release of any additional information to the public until that process is completed.”

    I’m guessing sometime around easter week, less likely to attract as much attention.

    I will wager that none of the officers was drug tested following this outrage and that they will be found to be in compliance with department policy. Same old stuff, different day.

  2. John Hobbs

    The release could come earlier, if war breaks out with N. Korea sooner, but the fact that they’re hiding it tells me that they are not happy with the results.

  3. Jim Frame

    I will wager that none of the officers was drug tested

    I’m not convinced that drugs — legal or otherwise — have anything to do with it.  I think that habitually abusive police behavior is the result of emotional/personality problems rather than drug use.

    1. John Hobbs

      Sorry, but having some training in spotting drunks, the first officer out of the van exhibits poor coordination and is obviously hyper-aggressive. Of course it is possible that he is just a clumsy sort with a bad attitude, but they look like guys coming back from a liquid lunch, to me.

        1. David Greenwald

          Never?  Not prepared to say that.  But unless there is actual evidence here, it’s just conjecture at best.  And it diverts from more important points.

      1. Howard P

        John… when I was an engineering intern in a Bay Area city, ~ 1974, the local PD asked for a survey of a murder scene… one day old… the officer in charge (Lt. as I recall) was directing us, as to what he wanted us to measure… I and the asst. engineer both noted that at 1 P (early afternoon), he was obviously dealing with a “three-martini-lunch”… behavior and smell…

        I always saw that as a deeply flawed individual police officer… the other junior officers didn’t say anything, but we could tell that the other officers present knew the same thing, and were deeply embarrassed… so, yes, police officers can be seriously impaired, on duty… but the vast majority aren’t… individuals, perhaps (have no way of knowing what was in play, in Davis, last Picnic Day)… but I’d focus on individual(s), and would use a fine brush, not a roller, on how I paint police officers…

        Your observations (and experiences) are yours, and I have no reason to affirm, nor to disagree… but the possibility you posed should not be dismissed out of hand…

        1. John Hobbs

          “it’s just conjecture at best.  And it diverts from more important points.”

          Conjecture based upon trained observation. It may be the genesis of the whole incident.

          BTW If the big guy in the blue short sleeves came at me, stumbling and swinging wildly the way he came out of that van, I would have tried to drop him in the gutter.

        2. David Greenwald

          The genesis of the whole incident is that three cops involved in this case are notorious for being cowboys or adrenaline junkies.  Two of them were notorious for over-doing raids and throwing people around.  They came into that situation hot, they escalated it, and then they got more than they could handle when the individuals involved weren’t about to sit back and take it from them.

  4. Tia Will

    So what we had was an altercation involving officers in an unmarked vehicle who may or may not have clearly identified themselves as police. One important question would be, who started and was actually responsible for the aggressive actions ?  In this setting where there are differing versions of what occurred, my question would be why not treat each side equally ? Why should we simply accept the version of the police as more factual than that of the citizens ? Would it not make more sense to collect objective data ( such as blood alcohol levels) from all involved in order to make an objective assessment of the situation ? Too often, I believe that we tip the playing field in favor of the officers even though they are also human beings subject to presenting information in a light most favorable to themselves just as are civilians.

    This may be warranted in situations in which objective information is unavailable or unobtainable. I find it unjustifiable when such objective information is readily obtainable.

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