By Emily Dill
DAVIS — Tuesday’s City Council meeting was overwhelmed by a surge in public comment surrounding the Temporary Joint Subcommittee’s recommendations on public safety. There were 162 commenters who called in for this item of the agenda.
The meeting adjourned around 1:00 a.m. as council members listened to each public comment and saved their own discussion of the subcommittee’s recommendation report for their Dec. 15 meeting.
This agenda item began with a presentation of the report by four members of the subcommittee – Bapu Vaitla, Judith MacBrine, Emma O’Rourke-Powell and Dillan Horton. After which, councilmembers Will Arnold and Brett Lee shared their gratitude with the subcommittee for the report. Arnold stated, “It didn’t strike me as unachievable, and that’s important.”
The majority of commenters echoed the council members in support of the recommendations, many feeling that this is a step in the right direction. There were 137 members of the public who voiced their support of the recommendations, 22 that disagreed and three that varied.
“I support a new independent public safety department that handles non-violent calls and social services,” said one public commenter, encapsulating the feelings of most who voiced their support Tuesday night. Recommendation number nine of the report, to change the structure or department set up that the city currently has with the Davis Police Department and
their influence on the social services of the town, was a popular topic.
Several commenters voiced a need to have “an investigation and elimination” of the alarming racial disparities that data has brought forth. Recommendation one on the report focused on this and was another highlight for the public.
The recommendations report was crafted from evidence-based reforms, offering solutions to the public who feel “we really need a data driven approach to evaluate racism in our police departments and in our city.” Another member of the public emphasized the issues with our criminal justice system and its focus on punishment, stating, “the punitive system that we have right now only further ostracized and leads to further crime.”
Many shared personal experiences of issues with police in Davis. Rachel Schroeder discussed two different encounters they witnessed within the year. Schroeder said, “Both these encounters were with community members of racial minorities.” They were non-emergency calls in which the DPD “dispatched multiple armed officers.”
Schroeder went on to emphasize that lived experience of community members, alongside the racial disparities observed in the data highlight, calling it “a system of harassment and terror on Black and indigenous people of color.”
Some voiced their support for the recommendations with an emphasis on the fear.
“I have a sister who is schizophrenic,” one commenter shared. “I could get a call any minute telling me the Oakland police were justified in shooting her because she was acting uncontrollably.”
An individual who “lives down the street from where Christopher Gray was shot” voiced his support for these recommendations on re-envisioning public safety. Gray was fatally shot by police during a mental health crisis in December 2019.
The CAHOOTS model (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) used in Eugene, Oregon was commonly referred to in public comment Tuesday night. This model mobilizes two-person teams that consist of a crisis worker and a medic who respond to a wide-range of mental health crises.
Commenter Emma Carney stated that the unarmed mobile crisis team responds to “24,000 calls in one year and only 150 of those calls required police backup,” proving that “less than one percent” of these calls turn violent.
Individuals from various organizations like the Yolo County ACLU, ASUCD, Davis College Democrats and HOPE at Davis called in to voice their support on this change.
While the majority of commenters felt that these recommendations were a step in the right direction, some called in with their concerns of increased crime in the area and the need for more police presence, rather than less.
One commenter felt that “the country is going in the wrong direction.”
“Instead of looking to reimagine or defund police, you should look at the increasing police resources to address the problems of the city,” another commenter voiced. “There are not enough officers patrolling the streets. Crime is increasing.”
Some felt that “this [decreased police involvement] is victimizing our city and the people that live here who pay all the taxes.”
Putting the differing opinions on police reform in perspective, one commenter stated that “those of us who advocate a tough on crime stance and those who support the recommendations do agree that we want to avert harm.” They went on to emphasize that “a main difference is that the former is basing their plea on a natural human wish to make the bad guy go away, while the latter is coming from the social science of what is effective.”
The City Council’s discussion of the recommendation’s report will take place at the Dec. 15 meeting.
Emily Dill is a fourth year Political Science major at UC Davis, also minoring in Professional Writing and Environmental Policy.
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