(Editor’s note: this is the first of six candidate surveys of the Davis City Council, Yolo Supervisor, and Woodland Council Candidates).
Yolo People Power 2020 Candidate Survey
Yolo People Power is a county-wide network of residents working toward criminal justice reform. To better understand the level of commitment of current candidates for city councils and the Yolo Board of Supervisors races, Yolo People Power invited all candidates to respond to a six-question survey. These were reviewed and scored independently by reviewers from Winters, West Sacramento, Davis, Woodland and UC Davis.
Yolo People Power appreciates the 14 candidates who thoughtfully responded to our questionnaire. These included the following: Supervisor Jim Provenza and Linda Deos; Woodland Mayor Pro Tempore Tom Stallard and candidates Karen Bayne and Victoria Fernandez; and Davis Vice-Mayor Lucas Frerichs, Councilmember Will Arnold, Josh Chapman, Kelsey Fortune, Connor Gorman, Larry Guenther, Dillan Horton, Rochelle Swanson, and Colin Walsh. Their willingness to put their thoughts to paper and to respond to a community group demonstrates a level of responsiveness to community concerns which we commend.
The high scorers demonstrated complete answers and awareness of impacted populations. They provided examples of previous reform efforts, offered specific ideas they would support going forward and demonstrated a commitment to civic engagement, particularly with the most impacted populations. A perfect score would be a “4”.
Yolo People Power (YPP) founded in January 2017, was originally focused on policing in Davis. The group soon expanded its scope to all of Yolo County and now has active members from all Yolo municipalities. The group supports policies and programs which prevent crime, assist those in crisis, treat all people with dignity and prepare inmates to reintegrate into communities. Hoang-Van Nguyen of the West Sacramento chapter explains “We recognize systemic and institutional racism and call upon our local governments to undertake the difficult work of transforming public safety from a policing and punitive approach to a public safety model.”
To receive a PDF of all the completed answers, please email YoloPeoplePower@gmail.com. To learn more about Yolo People Power, visit https://www.facebook.com/Yolo-People-Power-104100361133412
What in your opinion are the strengths and weaknesses of modern policing and specifically the policing in your city/county? In your role as an elected official, what is your responsibility to address weaknesses in policing in your jurisdiction?
BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
The Board of Supervisors, our elected legislative and administrative body, must develop broad public safety programs. We must distinguish between “policing”, which constitutes enforcement of criminal law and sanctions, and public safety, which is a much broader area including public health, mental health, and the promulgation of programs which increase the quality of life for our citizens. Law enforcement is only the first step in the criminal adversarial process and is subject to the rule of the criminal courts. Law enforcement is not an appropriate vehicle to create and/or administer programs addressing mental health, homelessness, addiction, or adjunct services. Cops with guns are not social workers and should not act as lone, first responders to most of the calls that they receive. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), in conjunction with local incorporated cities, should be tasked with homeless outreach, mental health, domestic abuse, and any rehabilitation programs. Indeed, no meaningful evaluation or therapeutic program can or should exist without using
licensed professionals who can assure people that their communications are privileged.
Supervisor Jim Provenza
The County has oversight and budget responsibility over the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department. The Sheriff is the elected official who sets the policies and procedures for the department. The Sheriff’s jurisdiction is in the unincorporated areas of our county. Its strength is that it has been effective in providing law enforcement in our large rural areas with a relatively small number of deputies. A weakness is a lack of regular community engagement on policies and procedures and budget issues. Our sheriff has been on the job for less than two years. He recently eliminated the use of choke holds in the department’s use of force policy. I am working with the sheriff and others on a plan to better engage the public on policy and budget issues.
Davis City Council Candidates
Council Member Will Arnold
Ensuring the safety of our fellow community members is an essential municipal service. By all measures, Davis is an incredibly safe community. I believe that is, in no small part, a testament to the work of our Police Department. Our officers are to be commended for the work that they perform on behalf of our community. That is not to say, however, that our Police Department could not benefit from rethinking and reformation. In my first term on the Council, we have enacted several significant, progressive reforms, including creation of the community-led Police Accountability Commission; expanding the police auditor position and hiring Michael Gennaco; enacting a surveillance technology ordinance based on ACLU model language; and requiring body worn cameras and mandatory training in crisis intervention, de-escalation and restorative justice, to name just a few. But I believe there is more to be done to ensure the policies, procedures and personnel of our Police Department meet the needs of our community. That is why I recently called for the reimagining, redesign and repurposing of our public safety system in Davis.
The primary weakness of modern policing is that it has been militarized over the past several decades. The militarization of law enforcement has been the product of policy making primarily at the state and federal level. This militarization of law enforcement has led to conflict between local police departments and the communities they are sworn to protect-in particular low income and minority communities. I believe that the DPD has, for the most part, been able to resist the militarization trend, which is a credit to this community and to the current leadership of the Department. I was heartened to see the Davis Police Department’s reaction to the murder of George Floyd. However, I do not necessarily see that same progressive approach to law enforcement at the county level, where we have seen prioritization of funding for the expansion of the county jail and an elected District Attorney who has resisted many of the progressive reforms being implemented in communities across the country. My responsibility as a leader is to hold law enforcement accountable to citizens, and to ensure that the police department is keeping its citizens safe rather than operating as an occupying force.
The strengths of modern policing in the United States and in Davis are limited to the policies with which they are tasked and enforcing their priorities. Policing currently performs well for white people of high socioeconomic status. Officers respond to their calls and treat them with respect. People are satisfied by the knowledge that there are armed officers who will respond to threats to life and property. However, policing becomes more complicated when contact occurs with people of color, unhoused people, transient individuals, people suffering with addiction or mental illness, and victims of sexual assault. Historically, law enforcement has not served these individuals fairly, and inequity continues today. It is the Davis City Council’s task to build our community into an example of a system that serves everyone with equal respect and dignity. My plan calls for a department of public safety that houses a police department in addition to social workers, mental health professionals, homelessness services, addiction services, and victim advocates. We need to shift our focus and funding from policing to prevention.
Council Member Lucas Frerichs
Davis faces many of the same issues around modern policing as other cities. I feel it’s my responsibility as Councilmember to work on these issues. As a result of the Picnic Day incident, an extensive police oversight effort was conducted in 2017-18 involving various stakeholders (including disenfranchised groups), which resulted in the City Council creating a citizen-led Police Accountability Commission (PAC) and enhancement of the role of the city’s independent police auditor, Michael Gennaco. The Davis Police Department, in conjunction with the city Human Relations Commission and other community members, developed an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process, using restorative justice practices, as an option for individuals with complaints about the police. The Council also recently enacted a forward-looking surveillance technology ordinance, instituted body worn cameras and video release policies, and DPD has instituted mandatory training for officers in procedural justice, principled policing, guardian mindset, de-escalation, crisis intervention for mental illness, restorative justice, racial profiling (explicit bias), and unconscious (implicit) bias training.
Modern policing has a lot of weaknesses. First and foremost, its primary purpose is not to ensure public safety but to maintain the status quo which is based on exploitation and oppression, particularly of marginalized groups like Black people and homeless communities. More specifically, all police, regardless of their individual intentions or beliefs, enforce unjust laws which are themselves designed to maintain social hierarchies. On top of this, many police departments and officers exasperate these problems through implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, biased policies, cultures, and behavior. I question whether modern policing has any strengths. In terms of Davis specifically, some aspects of the Davis Police Department’s (DPD’s) culture seem to be a bit better than other jurisdictions, but that’s a low bar and is still questionable (more details in the next section). As an elected official, at the bare minimum, I would push for stronger policies within the DPD around use of force, appropriate responses to different calls, and stricter disciplinary actions. Furthermore, I would work to redirect resources and funding from the DPD to true public safety.
The weaknesses in Policing in general and also in Davis are, A) it is punitive system, B) there is a lack of transparency and accountability, C) there is a lack of connection to the community, D) there is an overreliance on surveillance technology and weaponry, and E) they are asked to do things they were never envisioned or trained to do. I believe the people attracted to police work are people that want action. We need people that want to de-escalate, not just people that are trained to de-escalate. Unarmed personnel addressing most situations should be central to our Public Safety system going forward. The Davis PD makes an effort to recruit and bring up officers generally committed to helping. The Community Service Officer program is at the heart of this and should be expanded (see question 3). I have seen Davis police officers show compassion, professionalism, and a desire to create the best outcome. We need to learn from and reward good behavior. I believe the role of electeds is to shepherd the process and make evidence-based decisions about changing our Public Safety system and to ensure the system is working for the entire community.
At first glance a strength of our system of policing is the rhetorical commitment from PD & City leadership to make this system more workable for traditionally underserved populations. This highlights the first glance weakness of the system that it is often unwilling to go beyond rhetorical gestures to develop true public safety for people of color, for those experiencing housing insecurity, those dealing with substance use issues, and those going through a mental health crisis. When people in these populations experience threat or crime their first thought usually isn’t to the police, because there is no expectation of genuine help or support.
The improvements and strengths in modern policing include better training, body cameras, more arduous hiring practices, oversight bodies and improving technology such as wireless sensors for a gun being removed from a holster. Background checks and psychological screening improves the outcomes of hires that have a background of violence, extreme bias and poor training. In earlier times, hires were family to family and friends of friends. Weaknesses range from outdated policies, officers who do not reflect the community, and mindsets rooted in criminal suspicion versus public service and safety. Further weaknesses include inconsistent hiring or long-term hires that have not benefitted from the updated requirements and scope of services that are beyond the training of an officer – especially around mental illness, homelessness and drug addiction. The role as an elected is to fully engage the community at large, to have policies that reflect the tailored needs of their specific community, root out inconsistencies, continually strive to have a department that embodies best practices, and ensure transparency. In addition, the elected body must have regularly scheduled reviews.
Weaknesses are highlighted by the handling of the “Picnic Day 5”. The situation was escalated by a disproportionate response. Later, when confronted with the problem it was not addressed head on and seemed to be obfuscated. The recent response to a BLM protest is another example of disproportionate response. The bigger challenge though is addressing the less visible implicit biases that officers may hold. Strengths include the many good relationships between citizens and the Davis police. Things need to keep improving, but the PD seems willing to listen. Natalie Corona was an officer people rallied around and exemplifies what the police can become. As a council member, I will work with the community, county agencies and the PD to reevaluate how to appropriately distribute responsibilities, like dealing with traffic, homelessness, and mental health issues. Ideally, funds will be reallocated rather than increased, but these issues are important, and it may require more funding to make better use of social workers and other trained and relevant non-police professionals. I would also insist on transparency, making sure that statistics and auditor reports are released to the public.
West Sacramento Candidates
None of the 7 candidates from West Sacramento responded the survey invitation.
Woodland City Council Candidates
Woodland Police Department (WPD) uses Community-Based Policing. Their School Resource Officers (SROs) focus on mentoring, counseling, & restorative practices. For the SRO’s, enforcement is their last priority. WPD has a partnership with the Yolo County Conflict Resolution Center. All WPD officers go through anti-bias training every other year. Woodland’s 3x2x2 committee, which consists of elected officials representing Woodland Joint Unified School District, Woodland City Council, Yolo County Office of Education, and Woodland Community College, and which focuses on youth development, has had many discussions about the six gang-related homicides which occurred in Woodland last year. WPD Chief Kaff, who earned a BA sociology, has displayed an excellent understanding of the relationship & causality between racism, poverty and crime in these conversations. As a professional counselor myself, I was impressed. As an elected official, it is my responsibility to address racism in the law enforcement department under the council’s jurisdiction, and also to insist that there be a philosophical orientation that values all humans equally and understands Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).
I believe community policing should be encouraged. We should be proactive with our youth resources so that youth encounters with police are positive. Community Outreach should also be supported. Residents should feel comfortable calling the police for assistance. Victims should not be victimized by their perpeptrator and the police. There should be open communication between the public and myself. I would be available to listen to their concerns and find ways to resolve or address those issues.
Vice Mayor Tom Stallard
The primary strength of the Woodland Police Department is its people. From the Chief on down, ours is a focused, caring organization that always tries to do the right thing. From four ride-alongs, I have seen firsthand how officers work with the public. The protection of the public as well as the officers themselves has been enhanced by technology including the use of laptops, body cams, mobile phones and the like. An obvious weakness is the limited officer time available and the increasingly diverse demands for service.
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