Seemingly Unproductive Joint Subcommittee Meeting Results In Critical Public Comments

Davis City Hall with an old style bicycle statue out front

By Emily Dill 

DAVIS — A month before the joint subcommittee for public safety must report their findings and recommendations to City Council, they struggled to find an overall “goal” for their organization for the long term, without having their actual recommendations figured out for the current task at hand, sparking concerned and frustrated comments from the public. 

The first half of the Oct. 15 meeting consisted of previous discussions the public has heard repeatedly, about finding and identifying a solid goal for the duration of this joint subcommittee. Ideas and broad goals were brought up, including how to conduct helpful outreach to communities who may not feel as willing to voice their feelings to commissions. 

Police Accountability Commissioner Judith MacBrine presented a detailed outreach report in the last subcommittee meeting that had specific procedures outlined, yet it was still a major discussion point at Thursday evening’s meeting.

Human Relations Commissioner Emma O’Rourke-Powell introduced the idea of, “fram[ing] [the goals for the next couple of months] within the context of one big goal.” 

O’Rourke-Powell further stated that when looking away from the current task, and toward the overall goal for Davis. 

“Years from now there is no police department,” she said, and that the charge of this committee will be to make “each of these recommendations fit underneath of that.” 

Public commenters took control of the meeting when the meeting opened to the public, echoing one another in pleas to analyze the situation Davis is in right now and proposing ways to help. 

“The most frustrating thing that I’m hearing is the recurring question about the goal of the subcommittee,” voiced Morgan Poindexter. “I think that we all understand the goal… so can we stop talking about that.”

Julea Shaw emphasized that the committee seems to be moving in circles, and that “we are already into October,” with the recommendations on public safety needing to be reported to council in November. 

Touching on the substance of the report itself, Shaw urged the subcommittee to look into work that has already been done by Yolo People Power (YPP), a local volunteer group committed to justice and public safety and MacBrine’s report from last meeting to make sure that the committee isn’t “starting from scratch.” 

Commenter Jordan Varney elaborated on the work of YPP’s Local Voices project and offered services to the committee in the form of collected testimonials of people affected by law enforcement in the Davis community, surveys they have conducted and “connectors in marginalized communities that they are reaching out to.”

Varney urged the committee to look at previous testimonials from past years because “this is not a new issue in Davis” – the community has spoken about this for over a decade and that the city should “be making progress, being aggressive and urgent.”

After public comment, the subcommittee members shifted the focus of the meeting to be more deadline oriented.

Social Services Commissioner Bapu Vaitla, who chaired this meeting, presented his drafted form of the report and highlighted sections where different commissions would need to take the lead in order to have a finished product by their next meeting, which is scheduled for Nov. 18. 

The provisional report that Vaitla presented to the subcommittee consisted of recommendations and two major points: race and policing, and public safety and social services in Davis – each containing several subpoints that will elaborate these two major points further. 

Some of the prominent provisional recommendations in the report include: an in-depth analysis of racial disparities in traffic stops, arrests and charges, a shift to unarmed responders in non-violent service calls, other crises response changes and several more suggestions that the committee will add on to, and improve, before they present to council. 

After hearing the urgency from the overwhelming amount of similar public comments, the committee ultimately decided that they would ensure the report on public safety recommendations was finalized by their next meeting to make final edits, and would present it to City Council at the Dec. 1 meeting.

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