Traumatizing is the word used by longtime Davis resident Jim Leonard and an elderly couple who just moved to Davis, after a visit to the Davis Senior Center ended with a visit by a Davis police officer. That the officer, described as a younger woman, was completely professional and kind in her interactions with the three did little to shake the feeling that she never should have been called in the first place.
In fact, one of the problems was that they were never informed by the officer or staff at the senior center that the call was due to concern for the health and well being of the elderly couple. While Mr. Leonard did not know the exact problem that the man suffers from, it would appear to have beeen some sort of stroke – leading to some confusion and disorientation.
The Vanguard sat down with the three earlier this week at the couple’s home. Jim Leonard explained that the they went to the senior center to return some property borrowed from the senior center, but, while they were there, he asked staff to explain to the couple what the senior center was and what services were offered there.
He sensed something amiss at that point, as the head person came over to him and starting grilling him about various things.
“Why do I have to be grilled?” he asked himself. “Do I appear to be a dangerous character?”
He had asked the staff if they could bring out the piano so that the man – evidently an accomplished piano player – could play. The staff’s response was no, that the piano only comes out for events.
Mr. Leonard explained that he started to call around trying to find a piano, at one point contacting Atria Covell Gardens. He had asked a woman at the desk to write down the number and she was reluctant – he ended up pushing her to do so.
“I exerted a little bit of pressure on her, but not much,” he explained later.
Getting nowhere, they left the senior center. But when they got out to the car, the officer came over, lights on, and confronted them.
According to the officer, the head director had asked the elderly man if he knew who Jim was and he responded no. Then she asked if he knew where he was and he responded no. The wife denies this conversation ever took place – she was next to him the entire time.
It was not until the Vanguard contacted Lt. Paul Doroshov of the Davis Police Department that we learned the police call had actually been for a wellness check on the elderly couple. No one had informed the three people of the nature of the call.
According to Lt. Doroshov, the police received a call from the senior center. According to the caller, “the couple appeared to be disoriented to some extent.” Staff asked “for a check on the elderly couple to make sure they were okay.”
The officer arrived, made contact, and cleared them with no further issues.
Jim Leonard, in a follow up phone conversation, told the Vanguard: “The way I was treated by the staff at the senior center made me and the people I was with extremely uncomfortable. Unfortunately it is doubtful that the people I came with will be going back to the senior center.”
He believes that the senior center overreacted to the situation by calling the police to begin with.
He noted, “When I go down to the senior center, I rarely see seniors. I’m wondering if that’s the reason.”
Mr. Leonard had positives to say about the police officer, describing her as “very nice and professional.” He said she was “very warm” and “approached in a very non-threatening way. I have no problem with her. It seems like a waste of resources to have her involved.”
City Manager Mike Webb, in a statement to the Vanguard, said, “Our police are a resource to help, and we never want to discourage people from calling the Police Department if they feel someone may be in need of assistance. Police are trained to assess a situation, perform a wellness check, and follow up if, or as, necessary.”
Still, had she informed the three as to the purpose of the call, it might have put some of their anxiety at ease. The couple told the Vanguard that they felt very traumatized by the incident. Even a few days afterward, the man seemed quite shaken and said he doesn’t want to go back.
Jim Leonard never felt very welcome by the senior center, and described his treatment as “very cold.” He stated, “Senior centers don’t have to be like this.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting