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.
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