This is our seventh of eight questions. The candidates get exactly 250 words. The answer was due at 9 pm on Thursday.
Question 7: Various councilmembers have voiced support publicly for Black lives. However, data from the Davis Police Department shows that the Davis Police disproportionately stop Black people in particular. If elected to council, how would you address racial profiling or disproportionate policing?
To address this issue, we must first take a scientific approach to understanding stop and arrest data. When compared to our demographic makeup, traffic stops and arrests indeed take place at a disproportionate rate. This is especially the case for Black folks, who accounted for 9.3% of traffic stops in 2019, and 11% of adult misdemeanor and 17% of adult felony arrests from 2015 to 2019. This demographic group accounts for only 2% of our local population, leading to a logical conclusion of disproportionality.
It is essential, however, to understand the limits of drawing conclusions based strictly on local population data, ignoring the presence of individuals who do not live in Davis. From 2015 to 2019, an average of 53% of felony arrests and 43% of misdemeanor arrests were of non-Davis residents. This would suggest that comparing such data to regional population numbers may yield a more accurate assessment.
If re-elected, I would make further data collection and analysis a priority. Davis has made such data available four years earlier than required by law, and I applaud that effort. We must also continue to utilize and expand on training for our officers, like those recently instituted, such as explicit and implicit bias, de-escalation, crisis intervention and restorative justice. Finally, I believe we ought to look at whether certain interactions, such as traffic and parking enforcement, mental health calls and homeless services, may be more appropriately addressed by non-police personnel, as I have proposed.
California’s legislature has declared:
“Racial or identity profiling is a practice that presents a great danger to the fundamental principles of our Constitution and a democratic society. It is abhorrent and cannot be tolerated. Racial or identity profiling alienates people from law enforcement, hinders community policing efforts, and causes law enforcement to lose credibility and trust among the people whom law enforcement is sworn to protect and serve.”
I agree. Racial profiling has no place in Davis or anywhere else.
I thank Yolo People Power for acquiring data from the Davis Police Department through the CA Public Records Act. I also appreciate that the DPD has released the Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) data for 2019, several years ahead of schedule.
Analyzing this data is complex and does not present obvious answers on profiling. When adjusted to consider the distribution of ethnicities in Davis, stark disparities between the percent Black and Hispanic population of Davis and the percent Black and Hispanic arrests in Davis seem evident. However, when you further consider that the DPD suggests as many as 50% of the people stopped are not Davis residents, it becomes less clear.
What is clear is that the Council and the police department must continue to evolve to assure equitable practices in policing. This is best done with active involvement from our commissions, the public at large, and the police department itself. Practices have evolved and improved over the last several years and should continue to evolve and improve going forward.
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. I’ve been fortunate to work on a variety of police reforms in Davis, and yet there is more to do.
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 (initiated by the YoloACLU), 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.
Changing the culture of any organization is difficult, and I believe in the need for continued improvement.
I believe it’s important that we all take the time to educate ourselves, recognize our implicit bias, open our eyes to how we got here, and then we can fully work toward change and equality.
Racial profiling is endemic in our culture. It is not only that arrests are disproportionate with regard to race, but calls are as well. That is, community members are more likely to call police on people of color. Our culture puts different value on different people and it is clear that skin color is an important factor in that valuation. While there is conscious bias in our culture, I believe the more pervasive and difficult issue we must address is unconscious bias that comes from our cultural valuation.
Community members analyzed arrest data from the Davis Police Department and gave a presentation to the commissions charged with re-imagining public safety in Davis. This analysis does not conclude that arrest disparities are conscious. They are, however, real. Changing this will take a great deal of education and training, but the Police and the community must first accept the existence of this bias and second, be willing members in changing this bias. It will also take a change in our public safety system from one of reaction and punishment, to a system that is restorative and understands and addresses the root causes.
Simply changing policies is not enough. Our community as a whole – including our police – must work together to make this change.
I believe we need: A) un-armed first responders addressing most calls; B) to change how we recruit and train officers so that initial response is always de-escalation and providing services; C) robust, permanent, on-going, anti-racial training.
To begin addressing police abuse and discrimination in Davis, at the bare minimum, I’d push for stronger policies within the Davis Police Department (DPD) around use of force, appropriate responses to different calls, and stricter disciplinary actions for police misconduct.
However, while bias (both explicit and implicit) is part of the problem, the fundamental issue here is structural. More specifically, the U.S. was built on racism, anti-Blackness, and other systems of oppression, and these systems are still embedded throughout our society. On top of this, modern U.S. policing is rooted in slave patrols and strike breakers. Furthermore, despite what some may think, Davis is no exception to this history and context. Therefore, the best way to address police abuse and discrimination in Davis, while simultaneously creating real public safety, is to start reducing the number of interactions between police and community members by replacing these with alternative interactions, services, and programs.
On that note, Davis should start redirecting resources and funding from the DPD to community safety through a new Department of Public Safety. This department should include such things as 24hr mental health crisis intervention, homelessness outreach, and shelters. It should also be separate from the DPD in order to give it a decision-making structure, budget, and culture that’s independent of the DPD and the Davis Police Chief.
For more information about my positions on policing, check out my platform, my responses to recent Yolo People Power and Indivisible Yolo surveys, and this event tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon.
As a mother to young black men, I am particularly sensitive to the fact that people of color are more likely than their white peers to be pulled over by law enforcement. To be effective, we should better understand the facts and context behind the numbers, the experience of local residents and the decisions behind the stops in the data referenced in the question.
This is an issue the City Council has a responsibility to address with an open and transparent process which reaches out to invite voices from across the community with a focus on those that are not typically engaged in our political process. The structure of a Council and commission meeting can often end up adversarial because of the limitations of public comment on real time dialogue. Perhaps a more effective structure is found in a moderated forum or other format that is less intimidating to those not accustomed to political activism and local politics. Improvements to public safety need to reflect the needs and make-up of the community.
That said, the forum should be comprehensive where representatives from public safety and mental health professionals directly engage with a diverse group of community members. This forum needs to address how public safety is currently administered and identify what kinds of improvements community members want to see in the near future. The next step is a feasibility study on how to quickly and efficiently implement these crucial changes. Once implemented, metrics should be reviewed on a bi-annual basis.
I believe that Black Lives Matter, and that racial injustice permeates every aspect of daily life, and is particularly noticeable within the criminal justice system.
Policing is an important piece of this conversation. As a City Councilmember, I want our community to recognize that the data highlights a truth — we are over-policing black residents and visitors. So, let’s lean into this truth in order to change these numbers so that the statistics are more consistent with our collective values. We can do this in several different ways: by setting concrete data-driven goals and expectations for leadership to reduce these disparities; by proactive hiring practices focused on increasing racial diversity within law enforcement agencies, which has proven to reduce racial profiling; and by creating robust civilian oversight of the Police Department with real accountability. For such a Commission to be trusted and successful, it must reflect and represent those who have been most harmed by the disparate impacts of over-policing. The Council has historically failed to ensure this diversity.
Many of the issues we are reckoning with have developed over decades and are due to decisions we made collectively to undervalue and under-invest in social programs while putting more and more responsibility into law enforcement. We need to untangle these past decisions in order to move forward with a process that puts public safety, and everything that it represents — including health and wellness — at the forefront, instead of punishment. Walking this back will take time, effort, and humility.
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