Davis Police Chief Explains Show of Force on Richards Overpass

Photo posted on Twitter by Emily – https://twitter.com/blahdiem/status/1267237229853765632

On Sunday evening the Vanguard became aware that there was a short-lived standoff between the Davis Police, joined by CHP officers in full riot gear with a relatively small group of protesters.

In a text from Davis Police Chief Darren Pytel he explained that on Saturday, the Davis police had been providing mutual aid to West Sacramento because protesters there were attempting to enter the freeways and they were in need of assistance.

Protests were meanwhile occurring in Sacramento and expanding rapidly.  As a result, Sacramento was calling for mutual aid to Yolo County.

With a protest planned for downtown Davis on Saturday afternoon and in Central Park on Saturday evening, Davis Police were at the ready.

As Chief Pytel explained, “Because frozen water bottles and other objects such as hard glass and Molotov cocktails were being thrown at law enforcement in Sacramento, we did have officers in protective gear and staged for our march on Saturday should they be needed (our officers on Saturday and Sunday personally witnessed this along with fires being set).”

But the Chief noted, “Fortunately, the march never went towards the freeway on Saturday and the staged officers were not needed. After the Saturday march we were told there would be another march on Sunday evening.”

Conditions escalated on Sunday.  There was a flyer that reference Target and local pharmacies with a money bag and Davis police were receiving reports of widespread looting in others cities in the region.

He noted when the Sunday march started, they had officers staged in various areas “because of the same concerns we had on Saturday.”

“When the march started, we provided an escort like we normally do. As in the past, we facilitate marches, demonstrations and protests, even if they block traffic. We do not allow protests to enter the freeways because of the extreme danger when that happens,” the Chief explained.

They became concerned when the protesters started to head southbound on Richards Blvds.

“we activated the officers on Olive Drive to stop them from going to the freeway,” he said.  “They made it around by using the bike path on the West side of Olive so the line was actually at the onramp at the overpass. Although many involved looked to be students, there were several in the crowd that seemed to want to agitate them.”

At this point Chief Pytel explained that “Officers wore protective gear and equipment because it only takes one person to throw an object that can create injury and a cascading series of events that may lead to force when it isn’t otherwise needed.”

However, the march remained peaceful and they remained on the roadway allowing the march to go off without incident.

“When protesters left we again provided escort so that they could use the streets to march. Unfortunately, they used Pole Line Rd to make their way back to the onramps at Richards. We again placed officers at the onramps,” he said.

He added, “The situation was resolved not long after that because we reached an agreement with the protesters that they wanted to just use the overpass to make their way back to downtown and disperse. They were allowed to do that and again, this went off without incident.”

Chief Pytel pointed out that “We did send the same officers that were in protective gear to Sacramento. They were again placed on looting duty and were dealing with violence. Again, none of our officers were injured or used force.”

—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

    It was November of 2011 when I first saw then Officer Pytel and first became truly engaged in Davis politics. While peaceful protestors were being pepper-sprayed on the Quad, a short distance away Officer Pytel could be seen gently moving people to clear a path. He was smiling, chatting, and patting people on the shoulder. I was impressed by his calm actions when others were clearly acting in an abusive manner.

    I came to last night’s virtual commission meeting wondering if he had lost that quality of appropriately balanced action. In listening to his explanation of why the police had chosen what I call riot gear, and he calls protective gear, I was satisfied that he has not abandoned his desire to protect all involved: the protestors, the police, and those traveling on the freeway. I am pleased with both the actions and outcome when so many others are failing to protect above all.

  2. Alan Miller

    While peaceful protestors were being pepper-sprayed on the Quad, a short distance away Officer Pytel could be seen gently moving people to clear a path.

    That stays in my mind as well.  The City police called out to UC Davis were generally not the ones who incited the crowd and attacked students, but were doing their best to calm things down.

    I have no issue with Davis police blocking protestor access to the freeway.  It’s a dangerous and stupid protesting tactic that can get people killed.  And answer me this – how does running out onto a freeway forward the cause of much needed police reform?

    1. Keith Olsen

      And answer me this – how does running out onto a freeway forward the cause of much needed police reform?

      Or arson, or looting, or beating up a female store owner with a 2×4, or trying to pull motorists out of their cars on the 101……..?

      1. Edgar Wai

        I know Alan probably can’t read this.

        But the common argument is:

        “We will escalate until people do what they can to reverse the oppression against us. All we do is sharing the pain inflicted unfairly upon us. We are making it fair.”

        As you may know, many of the protesters do not condone such tactics nor the underlying message. But if you ask why, this is one of the reasons.

        1. Keith Olsen

          Sorry, but rioters beating up a female store owner with a 2×4 when she’s trying to stop them from looting her business and all the other thousands of looters ransacking stores aren’t doing that for any cause.  They’re acting that way because they know they can get away with it.

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