Subcommittee Presents Proposal for New Police Oversight System in Davis

Barbara Attard (left) with Kathryn Olson at a December stakeholders meeting

In 2016, two separate occurrences coincided to produce the need for change in the Davis police oversight system.  First, the Davis Police Auditor, who had been employed by the city since 2006, announced his departure effective June 30, 2017.  Second, the Picnic Day incident occurred on April 22, 2017.

As a result, the city had a critical incident and an opportunity to re-examine the 11-year-old police oversight system.  The city brought in police oversight consultants Barbara Attard and Kathryn Olson to engage the public and recommend a system that works for Davis.

“The purpose of the City of Davis Police oversight system is to increase transparency concerning policing practices and policies, build police accountability to strengthen trust between the police and the community, and to provide for ongoing correction and quality improvement,” the executive summary of “Ensure a Safe and Healthy Community” reads.

To achieve this purpose the system has two critical and highly integrated parts: an Independent Police Auditor (IPA) and a Davis Police Accountability Commission (DPAC). “They work together to receive concerns and complaints about policing, and review police policy and procedures.”

Following the April 10 meeting, the city council appointed a subcommittee of Mayor Davis and Councilmember Frerichs to further research the recommendations of the consultants and return to the city council with a proposed plan for moving forward with a police oversight model.

The original police oversight model contained only a professional independent police auditor.  However, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing (May 2015), provides a key recommendation: “Some form of civilian oversight of law enforcement is important in order to strengthen trust with the community. Every community should define the appropriate form and structure of civilian oversight to meet the needs of that community.”

The Davis Police Department in its 2017-19 Strategic Plan “has an objective to Provide transparency and information to the public in a timely, efficient, and respectful manner and has a task committed to determining how to best implement the ’21st Century Policing’ plan.”

The subcommittee concludes: “A successful accountability system will build trust between the community (and) the police. It must be accepted as legitimate by all stakeholders and should be structured to ensure learning and change. It must seek to move beyond an adversarial police/community relationship and commit to creating space for change.”

A key factor is that the Davis Police Oversight System, as proposed, will have two distinct components that are independent both of one another, as well as the police.  However, “the two are interdependent; working closely together to provide a comprehensive oversight approach with clearly defined roles and responsibilities.”

Both the IPA and DPAC can receive complaints about misconduct from the community.  The DPAC will refer complaints to the IPA who will follow up and refer them to the police for action.

At this time, the IPA is a part-time position with an estimated 25 to 30 hours per month, done on a contract basis.  This will operate similar to the current role, but there is a critical addition that the IPA would work closely with the DPAC to facilitate their work.

The IPA would carry out a number of tasks: review misconduct complaints; audit the department complaint and discipline process; receive notice of death, serious injury and other critical incidents; audit DPD policies, procedures and training; recommend changes to those policies, procedures and training; develop and participate in community outreach; produce reports; conduct independent investigations; and assess the work of the DPAC.

A critical power is this one: “In cases in which the IPA deems an investigation insufficient or the DPD does not open an investigation, and recommendations for additional investigation are not heeded, after written notification to and concurrence from the City Manager and the City Attorney, the IPA may conduct additional or an independent investigation. The DPD will provide full access to all materials concerning the incident underlying the complaint and all relevant personnel.”

One of the big criticisms was the failure of the city to involve the current auditor in the investigation on Picnic Day.  Instead, the department made the egregious error  of hiring John McGinness, who quickly left and was replaced by McGregor Scott.  The need for an additional hire would have been avoided with this language.

The DPAC is the new component to police oversight.  As the subcommittee explains, “The key role of the DPAC is to develop and implement a community outreach plan that will enable it to inform the community about police oversight and receive input from all members of the community about concerns  and/or complaints they have concerning policing in Davis.

“When receiving complaints in this way the DPAC refers them immediately to the IPA. Their role is to assure that their meetings are accessible to any member of the public who might have a concern to assure that concerns and complaints are comprehensively collected and dealt with in a clear and effective way,” the subcommittee writes.

The DPAC carries out the following tasks: develop community outreach plan; provide input to audit policies, procedures and training as well as recommends changes; review IPA reports on misconduct complaints; provide input into reports;  and assess the work of the IPA.

The IPA will have legal training with a focus on civil rights and law enforcement practices, plus they will look toward someone with experience working within communities – particularly traditionally underrepresented and vulnerable communities.

The subcommittee recommends a three-year initial term with annual evaluations of performance.

For the IPA, to assure true independence, the IPA “should not report to anyone with a direct or indirect disciplinary role vis-à-vis the police. This implies that the IPA should be hired and report to the City Council. The City Council should designate two members to act as liaisons to the police oversight system and they should act on behalf of the City Council to hire the IPA.”

The council can terminate the IPA contract, but by a 4/5 vote.

With respect to the DPAC, there will be seven members and an alternate.  They will have two-year terms that are staggered with term limits (six years).

They will have a similar selection process to the Downtown Advisory Group with any member invited to apply for a position on the DPAC.

On Tuesday the council will consider these recommendations and direct staff to return with the documents necessary to create the DPAC and recruit for an Independent Police Auditor.

—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. Tia Will

    I am cautiously optimistic about this process. What I am hoping for is a truly collaborative process in which police, IPA and DPAC can work together to resolve the inevitable issues that will arise and prevent through police and community education new cases of both perceived and actual police use of excessive force and/or poor policy as was clearly demonstrated by the Picnic Day event as eventually admitted by the police with changes made.

    My hope would be that police, city staff,  City Council will be able to spend less time, energy and feel less “under attack” with this process and that all members of the community will feel better represented when interacting with these groups.

    1. David Greenwald

      I’m not sure that a police oversight system should be a collaborative process.  You need a way for people to feel comfortable and come forward with complaints and a way for them to be fairly investigated.

      1. Jim Hoch

        Given that one of our incoming city council members has publicly aligned herself with the “cop hater” faction she should recuse herself from this process.

        1. David Greenwald

          Or you should explain what *you* mean?  Regardless, the voters selected her first (so far), so I don’t think you have a reasonable point.

          1. Don Shor

            There isn’t any reason whatsoever for Gloria Partida to recuse herself from this issue.

        2. David Greenwald

          There is no legal conflict between a stated position on police oversight and having ability to pick a police oversight board member.

          You used legal language here: “would require recusal.”

          Relationships that would require a recusal in this case are either extremely rare or non-existent. Since you won’t explain what you mean, I have no idea what you are talking about. But I cannot imagine a legal conflict of this sort that would “require recusal.” Please explain.

      2. John Hobbs

        “You need a way for people to feel comfortable and come forward with complaints and a way for them to be fairly investigated.”

        Agreed, but based on past performance/history these rather toothless positions don’t accomplish much. Why will this time be “better?’

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