It might have been the first 3-2 vote in this council’s tenure, but instead the council decided that they did not need to take a formal vote to take no action. Mayor Brett Lee exhorted Chief Darren Pytel to meet privately with some members of the Davis Police Accountability Commission (DPAC) rather than do a formal restorative process.
Three members of the council expressed opposition to the idea of a new investigation by Police Auditor Michael Gennaco. The commission had asked the city to direct the auditor to review the events surrounding the April 24, 2017, press release and statements to the press by the Davis Police Chief to see if a dishonesty finding was warranted that would enable the city, under the terms of SB 1421, to release the police records.
The city estimated the cost of a new investigation to range from $30,000 to $50,000. That cost prompted public commenter Elaine Roberts Musser to lament the state of the roads and the potholes near her home.
Will Kelly, a member of the commission, told the council that they were doing what they were charged to do – review IA reports, identify deficiencies and “when necessary request further investigation.
“A key part of the recommendation was that he produce a report, suitable for public release, similar to what he did with the original Picnic Day investigation,” Mr. Kelly said.
Dillan Horton, the commission’s vice chair, said, “There are still a number of people… who still have questions after all of the investigations and public discussions of those incidents. I think it would help the people in the community who still have questions about this, turn the page of that chapter in Davis.”
He said, “It would help us make good on our responsibility as a commission to really consider all of the implications of these issues.”
However, three council members for various reasons were not supportive of what they saw as a third investigation.
Councilmember Lucas Frerichs said, “I think the city has been doing a pretty admirable job with regards to the issues of police oversight.”
He said he would be fine with the restorative process but, “I am not in favor of conducting an additional investigation on this issue.”
Councilmember Will Arnold said, “I’m very proud of my record on the council when it comes to police accountability.” He noted that, among other things, he was the one who called for the original investigator to step down after it came out that he made racist comments on his radio show shortly before being named as investigator.
“I am not going to support a third investigation,” he said. However, he added, “I am not going to tell anyone they have to move on – that’s not my place, I feel. I can say here, my interest here is in creating better policy and better outcomes. I feel that the creation of the police accountability commission will lead us to better outcomes.
“I don’t see a third investigation getting us there,” he summarized. “I want to make a better policy that is more responsive to our community needs. That is more transparent.”
He also noted, “We don’t really have much of a choice,” he said. “It’s not like there’s some gray area.”
He added, “We either must release it because there is a sustained finding or some other reasons… or we must not because of the police officer’s bill of rights. There isn’t a gray area. There isn’t a judgment call that this body can make.”
Even the council members supporting the investigation were equivocal at best.
Gloria Partida noted that she was likely the only hold out on this.
“I do believe we should uphold this recommendation which is the first that this body has brought forward,” she said. “I think this is more than just what we see on the surface… This about seeing a certain population’s needs as much as we see potholes.”
Mayor Brett Lee also indicated that he wanted to support the first ask of this commission.
Although, he added, “I must admit, I’m not really pleased that their first ask is a looking backwards ask. I think there’s a lot of things they can do in terms of moving forward and not rehashing the past.”
He was not sure that having an attorney re-open and re-investigate “really serves a meaningful purpose.”
He said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if after looking back, they came up with the same findings as before. Even after that, there is certain to be a level of dissatisfaction.”
He suggested that they defer voting on the specific request and instead address perhaps an alternative request. At this point he suggested the police chief and some of his leadership team meet with members of the DPAC to see if they could more informally discuss their concerns.
Chief Pytel indicated that he would be supportive of that.
Councilmember Will Arnold did not see the value of voting to deny the request, so the council left the item without taking formal action.
—David M. Greenwald reporting