Police Hammered by Interim Auditor over Handling of Picnic Day

Gennaco Faults Officers for Approach, Use of Profanity and Putting Out Inaccurate Press Release

It has been just a few weeks short of a year since the April 22, 2017, Picnic Day incident and, while many will be unhappy that they will not have the opportunity to read the report by McGregor Scott, the 23-page report from Interim Auditor Michael Gennaco on the review of the Picnic Day 2017 incident investigation pulls no punches in its criticism of how the incident was handled from start to finish.

The interim auditor issues forth ten recommendations based on the report, and Chief Darren Pytel acknowledges a number of failures on the part of his department and himself (here).

Findings and Synopsis of Report

The findings are that there is a violation of plainclothes policy relating to officer identification, sustained by two officers; a violation of policy prohibiting use of rude language, also sustained for two officers; and a violation of policy on press releases, sustained against DPD.

However, they do not sustain a violation on the use of force or biased-based profiling.

As the Vanguard and others have maintained, Mr. Gennaco argues that “the ‘plan’ the involved officers had initially devised to clear the crowd was inherently problematic, and it largely set the stage for what happened next.”

He argues that “while it is fair to say that the aggressive response of some members of the crowd towards the van occupants was also problematic – and formed the basis for subsequent criminal charges – a more thoughtful approach by the involved officers in addressing the blockage of the roadway would likely have limited (or) averted the resulting clash.”

He notes a number of alternatives, arguing “the poorly devised strategy only served to antagonize. It caused a hostile initial reaction by some crowd members that was both unfortunate and unsurprising: instead of officers, the van’s occupants were as or more likely to be perceived as obnoxious civilians interrupting a festive event without justification. The use of profanity by one of the involved officers would only have escalated this impression and response.”

He adds, “When one of the involved officers observed what he asserted to be an aggressive move by one of the crowd members, their earlier decisions had precipitated a conflict situation with no good options.”

Mr. Gennaco continues: “The regrettable result was a melee in which plain clothes officers found themselves at a significant disadvantage, especially given that two of them did not have clearly displayed identification nor chose to don tactical vests.”

Mr. Gennaco notes that two days after the incident DPD issued a press release “that attempted to justify the actions of the officers.”  He writes, “Almost immediately, though, questions were raised about the accuracy of information contained in the media release. As described below, these challenges were justified: a good deal of the information in the release was inaccurate or eventually not able to be proven.”

He faults the department for failing to correct the inaccuracies in the initial account and failing to include in public communication “any concern about officer performance or move to correct the inaccurate information put out in the initial press release.”

The interim auditor went so far as to criticize the failure of the city leadership to inform the public to the extent to which the investigative report would be made available to public.  He writes, “As a result, when there was a change in City leadership and it was finally clarified that the outside investigative report would not and could not be released, this news added to public frustration about the case.”

The first two recommendations, therefore, are that “DPD should refrain from releasing information in defense of officers’ actions until the information has been verified and vetted.”

Second, “When it is learned that the performance of officers in a critical incident was not consistent with Departmental expectations, DPD should acknowledge this, and should correct any inaccurate information it has previously shared.”

The interim auditor writes, “Because the press release contained information that was clearly inaccurate or had not yet been established by the investigation, it helped to foment public distrust in the Department’s ability to fairly evaluate and report on the incident.”

He identifies a number of clear inaccuracies in the press release.

“One officer was wearing police attire with visible badge and the other two were wearing plainclothes, although they had clearly displayed badges on their chests and visible police weapons.”

The above statement is inaccurate in the following ways:

  • At least one officer did not have a clearly displayed badge on his chest, at least not during the initial stage of the encounter.
  • None of the officers had visibly displayed police weapons.

“Before the officers could act, the unmarked police vehicle was surrounded by a large hostile group and several subjects began to yell threats at the police officers in the car.”

The above statement is inaccurate/incomplete as follows:

  • It is more accurate to say that the unmarked police vehicle drew very close to the crowd. While a few individuals may have moved to the front of the van, it is inaccurate to describe the group as surrounding the van.
  • The press release fails to acknowledge that the “threats” that certain members of the crowd yelled were “f*** you” and “what’s up” and occurred after the van drove close to the crowd. The press release also fails to note that the passenger officer replied to these remarks by ordering the crowd to “hey, get out of the road” and “get out of the f***ing road.”

“One subject quickly moved to simulate he was pulling a gun on the officers.”

The above statement is imprecise as follows:

  • Various DPD witnesses, civilian witnesses, and DPD personnel who viewed video of the incident described the action of this individual as:
  • Lowering hands
  • Reaching quickly in pocket for gun or phone
  • Dropped hands as if to clear his clothes out of the way
  • Left hand began to raise his shirt, and his right hand immediately went beneath his shirt, at his waist line, as if he had a gun.

Mr. Gennaco writes, “No witness described the action as the person ‘simulating’ the ‘pulling’ of a gun.”

“While on the ground, the officers were kicked, punched in the head, and one officer was struck with a bottle on the side of his head.”

He writes, “The above statement contained information that was not been proven at the time of the release and was never established.”  We learn that “while a person provided a bottle to one of the involved officers and told the officer that he had been hit by that bottle, that witness was never identified and the investigation was unable to prove that the officer had been struck by a bottle during the incident.”

Hence, that conduct was never charged by the district attorney.

“The surrounding crowd was hostile and presented a serious threat to the officers, who were easily identifiable by their displayed badges and attire.”

The above statement is inaccurate/misleading as follows:

  • As noted above, the crowd did not “surround” the officers.
  • Not everyone in the crowd was hostile; many can be described as onlookers.
  • Two of the officers were not easily identifiable by their displayed badges and attire, at least not at the beginning of the encounter.

“One [officer] suffered injuries to his eye and face and the other was treated for a bleeding head wound caused by a bottle.”

He writes, “[N]either at the time of the press release or at any time during the investigation was it able to be proven that the officer was definitively struck with a bottle, let alone that it caused his bleeding head wound.”

Mr. Gennaco recommends, “[A]s belated as it is, DPD should formally retract the initial press release and apologize for the inaccuracies contained therein.”

Chief Pytel’s Statement

Police Chief Darren Pytel noted that by mid-morning Tuesday, April 25, three days after the initial incident and one day after the press release, “the press began contacting the Davis Police Department for additional information regarding the incident and for a response to claims by involved parties/witnesses who reported to the media new and differing accounts of the incident.”

The media reported general claims which were: (1) that the police officers instigated the incident; (2) the officers were unrecognizable as the police because they did not identify themselves and were in plainclothes driving an unmarked police vehicle; (3) there was racial bias involved; (4) the force used in the arrests was excessive; and (5) the preliminary release of information put out by the Police Department on Monday April 24, 2017, at 3:45 p.m. was inaccurate.

He writes, “At that point in time, it was apparent to the Department there were conflicting accounts of the incident.”

Chief Pytel regrets the amount of time that transpired from the beginning of the investigative process and calls “regrettable” the “lack of early and clear communication to the community around timing and expectations.”

He writes, “In this instance, certain decisions and resulting acts by some of the officers involved in the Picnic Day incident did not meet the highest standards of conduct and service we expect from members of the Davis Police Department.”

In particular he identifies the following: “the use of inappropriate language by one of the officers; and that two of the officers while in the van were not initially identifiable as police officers. These factors played a role in the initial confusion regarding whether the officers in the van were the police.

“The actions are regrettable and I apologize for these breaches of Departmental policy and the impact that it had on those involved in the incident and our community.”

He added that “some of the information released to the public following the picnic day incident was determined to be inaccurate, poorly worded and/or not objective, none of which are acceptable.

“The initial press release is retracted in its entirety,” he says. “The release has been removed from the police department website.

He adds, “I apologize that inaccurate/misleading information was released in this incident and not timely corrected by the Office of the Police Chief. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the Office of the Police Chief to determine that only accurate and pertinent information is released.”

Additional Response

Attorney Mark Reichel, who represented one of those arrested, stated, “As servants of the public, who pay their salaries, the public demands that their employees, like Chief Pytel, conduct themselves in an honest  fashion.

“The intentional lies made as a public statement from the Davis Police Department had tragic consequences.  Often, the first message heard by the public, especially if an official statement from law enforcement, sets the tone for the public’s reception of future information about an incident.  That’s not rocket science.

“Most people still recite what they heard that day from the PIO.  Youth of color are a distinct minority in Davis, and nationwide police conduct toward young men of color is something of a national crisis.

“The lies told that day inflamed hatred and racist views in the public eye.  It is a stain on that department which will not soon be bleached out.  I know the City of Davis can do better, and hope something like this never happens again.”

Mayor Robb Davis said, “I’m thankful for its clarity and its specific recommendations. It is a model for how we can view of the role of an auditor going forward. It deals with many of the expectations I laid out in the aftermath of the incident.”

Councilmember Will Arnold added, “I appreciate the fine work conducted by our Police Auditor, and others, in preparing this thorough report of the Picnic Day incident. I believe it sheds light on a number of important details, and highlights some critical mistakes that were made. I am also appreciative of the many proactive policy steps that have already been taken to ensure an incident like this does not reoccur.

“Finally, I would like to express appreciation for the willingness of our Police Chief to accept personal responsibility for certain aspects of this incident in which he was directly involved, and which were clearly problematic. I am encouraged by the progressive policy direction our Department has taken under Chief Pytel’s leadership, as evidenced by our recently adopted Surveillance Technology Ordinance, and the ongoing police oversight and accountability process. We are very fortunate to have a Police Chief who is willing partner in these processes, and I look forward to our continued positive working relationship.”

The Vanguard will have much more in the coming days.

—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. PhilColeman

    Not surprisingly, an excessively long delay in an double-layer investigation results in more questions than answers. For all the repeated “regrettable’s,” substitute the more accurate, “catastrophic blunders.” Three issues screaming for greater detail:

    Who has ownership for the highly flawed and distorted initial press release? What review, if any, took place before its release? Typically, in an event of this magnitude there is a review process of the release by ranking officers for accuracy and voids. Who did this, if anybody?

    Publish the “before” and “after” copies of the Plainclothes Policy. What rules were the officers operating under at the time of the incident. and how,precisely, was the policy amended in light of subsequent events?

    Finally, what were the plainclothes officer in concentration in an unmarked vehicle tactically assigned to do? It could not have been an “undercover” assignment, there was at least some level of ready police identification according to the report. Why were they there, and what was their assigned purpose?

  2. Todd Edelman

    Is the Reader’s Digest version:

    “Police officers lie to their Chief about a major incident, continue to get three-quarters of million dollars per year in total from Davis taxpayers?” (I don’t use “lie” lightly, and it seems fair to says that it’s his subordinates rather than the Chief who did the initial transgression.)

    For Cycling Capitol-ists: That’s what it would cost to give every single DHS student in the same grade a Jump electric-assist bike. So after three years of these guys not working here every single DHS student could have a Jump.

    Our police officers lie. Kids don’t get an e-bike. Davis, California.

  3. Tia Will

    I appreciate the apology for inadequate handling of this case by Police Chief Pytel. I would appreciate it even more if the apparent and now admitted “errors” on the part of the officers had a real world impact on the results for the 5 individuals charged who are in effect being punished for events that would not have occurred had this event been properly handled by the police.

    Perhaps I have not been following closely enough ?  What has the outcome been for the three officers directly involved ?

        1. Keith O

          Yes they have but I was reponding to Tia’s “5 individuals charged who are in effect being punished for events that would not have occurred had this event been properly handled by the police.”  The event wouldn’t have occurred either if the 5 hadn’t got confrontational with the police.  Don’t they have some responsibility for the fight too?

          Nice meeting you at Guad the other night, my go to lunch and dinner place.

          1. David Greenwald

            But she’s accurate isn’t she? This is the problem I have with them not sustaining the use of force complaint even though they acknowledge that the incident was mishandled by police: “only served to antagonize. It caused a hostile initial reaction by some crowd members that was both unfortunate and unsurprising: instead of officers, the van’s occupants were as or more likely to be perceived as obnoxious civilians interrupting a festive event without justification. The use of profanity by one of the involved officers would only have escalated this impression and response.”

            So you have “only served to antagonize” “caused a hostile initial reaction” that was “unsurprising” and they likened the officers to “obnoxious civilians” who used “profanity” which “only… escalated this impression and response.” To me that’s a pretty damning statement which calls into question culpability.

            And sorry, I was a little distracted the other night. I had discovered I left my credit card at the place I ate lunch and was trying to track it down.

        2. Alan Miller

          > Since the rest of us can’t, can you draw a cartoon figure of Keith O.?

          What a minute . . . I swear I saw a cartoon seal posted.  Now it’s gone.  How did THAT get censored?  That was hilarious.

    1. Alan Miller

      the 5 individuals charged who are in effect being punished for events that would not have occurred had this event been properly handled by the police.

      Yeah, that bugs me too . . . if you don’t approach with aggression, you don’t get an aggressive backlash.  These people may have technically broken the law, and technically “shouldn’t” have broken the law even if approached aggressively — but I doubt they would have acted the same if the cops had parked a few feet back, not used aggressive language, and clearly identified themselves.  Something isn’t right about them having been punished for this.

  4. Tia Will


    I believe that everyone involved is responsible for their individual actions. I also believe that self defense is a legitimate and lawful action. At least in the beginning of this event, if the civilians believed that they were being attacked and had no reason to believe this attack was by police, self defense would have been warranted. My bottom line is that one group had the ability to prevent this occurrence through their own actions. That group was the police.

    I say this as an individual who has been peacefully relocated to a safer location at Picnic Day, the Christmas Parade, and the annual bike races, without the use of any profanity or physical force. This has usually consisted of something like, “Folks, we need you to move out of the street and onto the curb now”. This technique has uniformly resulted in whatever group I have been with promptly complying with no muss, no fuss, and certainly no violence.

    1. Keith O

      This technique has uniformly resulted in whatever group I have been with promptly complying with no muss, no fuss, and certainly no violence.

      No, the difference is the group that you’ve been with obeyed the people directing you and didn’t resort to confrontation.

      1. David Greenwald

        But you’re ignoring the findings of the report that the confrontation was instigated by the aggressive actions of the police who didn’t handle it well.

        1. Ron

          The incident was instigated by a group illegally blocking the street for an extended period (impacting other, innocent people).  And, who reacted aggressively, when confronted about it.

        2. David Greenwald

          The report highlights a number of alternatives that the police officers had to remedy that problem that would not have instigated the response that occurred.

          As Gennaco writes: “a more thoughtful approach by the involved officers in addressing the blockage of the roadway would likely have limited averted the resulting clash. Better approaches are easy enough to envision.” He then lists some of them.

        3. Ron

          It would be more accurate to state that it may not have resulted in the response that occurred. (Note the difference in wording between your statement and the quoted auditor’s statement.)

          In general (and not necessarily) a comment regarding this incident, there are folks who don’t respond to the police (even if they say “pretty please, move out of the street”).  And, in those cases, I don’t usually support “looking the other way”, and failing to enforce laws.

          “Whose streets”? “Our (collective) streets”. (Ultimately, the alternative is anarchy. It’s already come to that, in some places.)

          1. David Greenwald

            He said, “would likely” – there’s always uncertainty, but the proper tactics are more likely to reduce the chance of a violent response.

            That said, one of the problems with the shooting of Stephon Clark is people were skeptical of the level of force used in a vandalism call. The same can be said for the Picnic Day incident. The approach by the police was disproportionate to the situation, escalated by uncertainty about who the folks were dealing with.

        4. Ron

          Inherently problematic to enforce laws?  Just let everything go, because it’s a misdemeanor?

          Note that I’m not disagreeing, regarding methods to de-escalate, etc. But ultimately, if you’re not obeying lawful orders, then you’re suggesting that the police just let it go? No one has to obey laws (or police), then? (As long as they appear to be engaged in low-level crimes?)

          I’d call that anarchy.

          1. David Greenwald

            “Inherently problematic to enforce laws? Just let everything go, because it’s a misdemeanor?”

            At times. Talking to the chief a year ago, he thought that might have been a better approach.

        5. Ron

          At times. Talking to the chief a year ago, he thought that might have been a better approach.

          Interesting.  No doubt, he’d prefer that the situation had never occurred.  I also understand that it’s sometimes better to not pursue, when it leads to danger for others (e.g., high-speed pursuits). However, I don’t see that this particular incident meets that standard.

          If folks are (for example) blocking a street and disobeying orders from an identified police officer (or otherwise attacking the officers), I’d generally prefer that the law be upheld.  I also don’t have a great deal of concern, for those who might then claim that their rights were violated, or that they were singled out for reasons other than breaking the law (and impacting others).

          Why even have laws, if folks are simply allowed to break them without consequences? (Perhaps the laws should be changed to reflect that they are only “advisory/voluntary”, in nature.)

          1. David Greenwald

            In general there is a trade off between the risks of enforcing a law against a large and potentially belligerent group of people and the safety risks they present.

          2. David Greenwald

            BTW, Darren Pytel had an interesting comment about “why even have laws” – often people will obey laws with no enforcement. So if it is a safety issue, passing a law that most people would obey makes sense. There is then a secondary level about enforcing said law and under what conditions. There are a lot of considerations that you are not taking into account and if you are truly interested in this, I suggest you have a conversation with the chief.

        6. Ron

          Well, I hope that Davis hasn’t reached a point where there’s “large and potentially belligerent groups of people”, as you noted above.  If/when that occurs, then there’s a bigger problem, compared to how the police handled this one incident.

          Seems to me that if there’s large numbers of people coming into town to “party” off-campus on Picnic Day (with no connection to UCD or Davis), it’s a recipe for problems.


          1. David Greenwald

            There are times when there is a large group of people. There are tools that the police can use can diffuse or handle the situation better.

            From the report: “Better approaches are easy enough to envision. Either the involved officers could have waited for responding uniformed officers to arrive or they all could have donned their tactical gear which would have more identified themselves as police officers, parked the van a near distance, alighted from the van, clearly announced themselves as police officers, and requested the crowd to move up onto the sidewalk.”

            You’ll notice he didn’t recommend not doing anything.

        7. Ron

          David: I haven’t seen anyone disagree with those recommendations. In this case, I suspect that it would have worked, as the group did not appear to be initially belligerent. (Other than blocking the street, which is an obvious problem – and really shouldn’t really require a “reminder” in the first place.)

  5. John Hobbs

    “No, the difference is the group that you’ve been with obeyed the people directing you and didn’t resort to confrontation.”

    Way to deflect the point to protect the blue image in your amygdala driven mind.

    If you say “Excuse me, I need to get by.” I move aside without delay. if you say,”Get the **** out of the way”, you’ll get a bruised bum and possibly a broken jaw, if there are ladies and kids present.

    1. Ken A

      If I broke the jaw of everyone who used profanity in front of women and children there would be a lot of people with broken jaws.  Since it (almost) always “takes two to tango” there is rarely a truly innocent and blameless person in a fight…

        1. Keith O

          So what is considered instigating a confrontation?

          Just words or does it take physical violence?

          The question is directed to David, the two resident trolls need not reply.


        2. John Hobbs

          “Since it (almost) always “takes two to tango” there is rarely a truly innocent and blameless person in a fight…”

          Such baloney. Ask Kevin Johnson if he had any intention of hitting assailant Sean Thompson before he was ambushed. I find the dearth of chivalry or even nominal courtesy in today’s American culture a major cause of conflict. In recent years the police have become some of the worst violators of that basic courtesy in no small part because no one takes them to task. Similarly, I feel individuals, most often male, who abuse those on the common thoroughfare and in market place with discourteous speech are usually just as rude and witless in all other aspects of their being. In twenty-five years of public service, I raised my voice three times to citizens, never cursed or threatened and yes, I did have to deal with potentially physically volatile situations. I find the behavior of the three cops that incited the disturbance well beyond any that could be called,”justified” and like Tia would like to know more about their current status.

        3. Ken A

          Since the “picnic day five”  “instigated the confrontation” by blocking the street I’m wondering if David thinks that they are “not entitled to a claim of self-defense”…

          1. David Greenwald

            They took a plea agreement for resisting arrest which given the known facts now is a bit absurd.

        4. Ron

          Seems to me that a distinction should be made between instigating the incident (e.g., legitimate reason for initial contact), vs. instigating the violence.

          Instigation of the incident seems pretty clear; instigation of the violence is less clear. (And has been rehashed on this blog too many times to count.)

          1. David Greenwald

            Except this time, the police auditor agrees with the Vanguard’s analysis of the event.

        5. Ron

          David:  One would have to compare everything you’ve stated over time, vs. everything that the auditor stated to arrive at that conclusion.

          Regardless, I don’t see what that has to do with my statement.

  6. Ron

    [moderator] edited

    John:  “Ron, if I drive a black SUV right up into your face and come out cursing and swinging wildly, how are you going to react?”

    That’s not what I saw, in the video.

    I probably wouldn’t be blocking the street in the first place.  And, if I was, I’d move out of the way when a vehicle attempts to get by.  (While simultaneously realizing that I shouldn’t have been blocking the street.) I might even give a friendly “wave”, while moving out of the way.

    And frankly, if someone was actually “cursing at me, and swinging wildly”, I’d hopefully try to get away from the situation (and might even call the police, afterward). If I subsequently found out that it was the police who responded that way, I’d probably initiate a complaint.



  7. Alan Miller

    The initial response to circle the wagons is disturbing.

    After I heard on national news at 4:00am that protestors had been pepper-sprayed on campus, I got online and found videos of the incident and saw several friends being pepper sprayed or nearby in the protest, and none reacting violently to ridiculous aggression right before them.  I went to campus at 9:00am and ‘demanded’ to speak to the highest ranking person on duty about this (at the time I didn’t realized it was becoming an international story).  The cop at the desk at UCD said no one was available, and furthermore offered that there was plenty of evidence that the protestors had instigated the incident, and this would all come out by the end of the week.  Of course it didn’t, as they hadn’t.

    This Picnic Day incident is unfortunate, because the City Police were sort of subdued heroes in the Pepper Spray incident, not under Linda’s control and not the ones instigating the violence, it was portrayed.  That after-incident press release was a cluster-F mistake.  I’m very glad that there was an apology made for that.

    Two lessons are clear:

    1)  How police approach a situation shapes the situation — when there is not an immediate threat of danger, an aggressive approach must be forbidden.  The approach itself can itself cause danger and harm.

    2) Police and/or departments should not get defensive about their team, despite the human tendency to do so, in interactions with the public or in the press.

    I have on numerous occasions witnessed Davis/Campus police exercising excellent situational de-escalation techniques.   I am certain that are trained in this because I have been quite impressed when it has been used on me and on others.   This has been by far the majority of incidents I have seen / witnessed.

    Yet . . . another time an officer started screaming at me at the top of their lungs as they approached my car after what I thought was a traffic stop (though I hadn’t done anything that I knew of).  This was at night, when my windows were rolled up so I couldn’t hear what they were demanding.  As I didn’t know if they had a weapon drawn (I still don’t know — it sounded like it from how freaked out they were), I figured the best thing to do was sit there and not move so I wouldn’t get shot.  That could have gone very wrong, and I’m still not sure what the hell that was all about (it wasn’t a traffic stop, but why they approached me that way is beyond me).

    I think it’s still too much a part of the culture to be OK with those who use aggression as the first tactic out the gate, and wagon circling needs to stop.

    I really hope we get answers to Phil Coleman’s questions . . . though I have the feeling that if I held my breath I would turn purple.



          1. David Greenwald

            I don’t think it’s a matter of that. It’s more a matter that if we are going to have Picnic Day anywhere, it will draw people from out of town and off campus.

        1. Don Shor

          Why would it be unfortunate? It’s certainly not a family event in Davis any more. Long-time residents don’t enjoy it. Would you have your family come from out of town for Picnic Day? I did years ago, but certainly wouldn’t now. On campus is safe, family-friendly, alcohol-free. What would we miss out on if the downtown parade was cancelled and the bars kept to their regular hours?

        2. Ron

          Don:  “What would we miss out on if the downtown parade was cancelled and the bars kept to their regular hours?”

          I guess the question would be, would cancellation of those particular “events” cut down on the problems?  (I can definitely envision it, regarding bar hours.)

          Is the problem primarily centered around parties at/near private residences (e.g., student-oriented apartment complexes)? (Yeah, I’ll probably catch hell, for asking.) Perhaps attracting those with no connection to UCD and Davis?

  8. David Greenwald

    Some other points from the Gennaco report:

    • The involved officers initially decided to clear the roadway the way they did because
      they were driving a recently acquired undercover van and did not want to “burn” it.
    • As the van approached the crowd spilling over into the number two lane, one of the
      involved officers appropriately radioed to dispatch to have marked cars respond to assist
      in clearing the roadway. However, instead of waiting until the patrol units could
      respond, the involved officers decided to take action.
    • the decision by officers to position the van so close to the crowd left them with no good tactical options
    • the (use of profanity) unnecessarily caused potential confusion to crowd members
      about whether the occupants of the van were police and unnecessarily escalated the
      situation contrary to DPD’s training emphasis on de-escalation.
  9. Joel Shandling

    I make a point of staying out of downtown Davis on the night of Picnic Day. Last time I did it was a few years ago. Downtown was overtaken by bands of drunken young men from elsewhere. The streets were littered with empty liquor bottles and smelled of urine. It felt out of control, as it usually does when large groups of drunken men encounter each other as strangers. The police were trying to maintain a high profile, but there weren’t enough of them. It wouldn’t have taken much for this powder keg to ignite: a chance meeting of rival gang members or a drunken exchange between groups of boys spiraling into violence. If it started, it would have spread through downtown like wildfire because there weren’t enough sober people around to stop it.

    Policing Picnic Day is no easy feat. I understand there is discrimination and biases in the world that we need to correct, however we also have laws that we need enforced to preserve a functioning community and society. It is easy to armchair quarterback every police action, especially when one has no idea what it’s like to put one’s life on the line everyday for work.

    No one wants Picnic Day to be a lawless free-for-all, or gain that reputation. In tough policing situations like this, where mass binge drinking is the rule, police should be given the benefit of the doubt in protecting our community.


    1. David Greenwald

      “police should be given the benefit of the doubt in protecting our community.”

      I think police are given the benefit of the doubt. But what they are not given is the ability to blatantly violate rights and policies. That actually ends up endangering not only the public but the police themselves. That’s what happened here. In this case, there was a clear violation of the plainclothes officer policy among other things that led to confusion as to who people were dealing with – and the perception that as the auditor put they were dealing with obnoxious and potentially dangerous civilians. Those rules were put in place for a reason and when they were violated, there was a due process and a determination was made that officers on the scene violated rules regarding conduct for plainclothes officers as well as language – and for good reason. The right thing happened here and what you seem to be supporting actually made the situation less safe rather than more safe.

      1. Ron

        David:  Regardless of this one incident (and the subsequent dissection of it), look at the perception of off-campus activities on Picnic Day that Joel (and perhaps others) have. 

        Perhaps that’s the “bigger” story, even for some who agree that the specific situation could have been handled better.

        1. David Greenwald

          That can be taken up separately.  In this case, my involvement is because the police response was inappropriate, violated department policies and they lied about it.  So we have had a year long process to assess what happen and make recommendations.

          I have no problem with addressing concerns about Picnic Day itself, but that is really beyond the scope of this report.

        2. Ron

          David:  “I have no problem with addressing concerns about Picnic Day itself, but that is really beyond the scope of this report.”

          It is obviously beyond your focus, as evidenced by the subject of your articles.  And yet, it might ultimately be just as (or even more) important to the community at large.

        3. Ron

          In a sense, they are related.  Police are needed on that day, probably more so than on other days.  With more “opportunities” for things to go wrong. (And, not just as a result of how the police handle a given situation.)

          In general, I’m a lot more concerned about the off-campus attendees, vs. the police. (Don’t forget the guy jumping on that woman’s car, for example.)

        4. Ron

          Also, wasn’t one of those arrested on that day reportedly carrying ammunition?

          I’m failing to see why most folks would be less concerned about issues like that, vs. how the police handled this incident.

        5. David Greenwald

          The criminal matter has already been resolved  – the five defendants plead guilty to charges, entered a deferred entry of judgment which will result in the charges being dismissed if they are clean for a year from the September.

        6. Ron

          Yes, I recall that from reading articles.

          But again, I think you’re missing the boat, regarding the concerns that many folks generally have regarding off-campus activities on Picnic Day.

          Again, I’d refer you back to the perception that Joel put forth, above. (I recall similar statements from others, as well.)

        7. David Greenwald

          I understand people’s concerns, but what I’m trying to explain is that there are separate processes that deal with separate aspects of this.  There was the criminal proceedings that dealt with the conduct of the individuals.  There is the internal review process dealing with the conduct of the officers.  Any addressing of Picnic Day itself has to be done in conjunction with city and university policies on Picnic Day and enforcement of drinking and partying.  Those are all separate from each other.

        8. Ron

          I haven’t seen anyone disagree with the conclusions in the auditor’s report.

          Strange, how things seems to be under more control, on-campus. (Perhaps another argument for on-campus housing?) 🙂

        9. Keith O

          I’m failing to see why most folks would be less concerned about issues like that, vs. how the police handled this incident.

          Ron, David has an axe to grind and by golly he’s going to grind it.

        10. Ken A

          We could have packs of trouble makers coming in to Davis packing guns, knives and ammo and stabbing people and beating cops on a weekly basis and some people would just care if the Davis cops were in uniform, if they were friendly when they approached the “suspects”…

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