By Lauren Smith and Jordan Varney
DAVIS — At the Feb. 16 City Council meeting, public commenters called in to support the recent recommendations the Temporary Joint Subcommittee (TJS) provided to City Council around reimagining public safety in Davis as well as ask them to be leaders in this time of change.
Yolo Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the local DSA chapter, mobilized people to call in and email the City Council members. The public commenters and emailers emphasized an “Independent Department of Public Safety” which correlates to TJS recommendation 9 and a “Three-Year Moratorium on Police Hires.”
The email they sent states, “Despite strong community support for real public safety in Davis, councilmembers have yet to commit to the vision layed out in the recommendations. Community members have also not received a formal response from City Manager Michael Webb, who was tasked with examining the TJS’s recommendations.”
(Editor’s note: the city manager’s office sent the Vanguard an email showing their response to every email correspondence which includes the statement: Thank you for writing to the City Council with your ideas for police reform. All members of the Council have received this email, and I am acknowledging it on their behalf.” As well as: “The proposed budget will be presented to the City Council typically in May of each year with City Council adoption in June and start of the fiscal year on July 1, 2021. “)
The email also links to a document that specifies tasks that could be moved to a new Department of Public Safety such as welfare checks, party complaints and barking dogs.
Roughly ten commenters called in to support the TJS and Yolo DSA’s demands during general public comment with a few more calling in during other agenda items. Around 50 people emailed City Council in support.
One public commenter expressed support of the creation of an independent public safety department and a three year moratorium on sworn police hires. However, she highlighted how the council has reacted to proponents of these demands, stating, “I have heard you respond to these demands as something only activists care about, I am also a community member and not only am I a community member I am also part of a union that represents thousands of people and in Davis our local has endorsed these two demands…I don’t understand why these two categories are being used to discredit what community members are saying.”
A second public commenter requested that “the council to be leaders in working towards real public safety in Davis by committing to create a new department of public safety independent of the police department.”
He further stated that the City Council has claimed that they are only hearing from activists on this topic; however, he called this argument “a logical fallacy called ‘No True Scotsman.’ As soon as community members voice their concerns for public safety and racial disparities, they cease to become a community member and transform into an activist.”
“In other words, no true Davisite would want an independent department of public safety. Well, you’re wrong. On December 1 there were 4 hours of public comments the overwhelming majority of which were in favor of a new department of public safety. I believe you should do your job council members and represent the community members,” the commenter continued. “If your concern is the minority who strongly oppose the new department, you should also remember that your job is to be a leader and make decisions which will make Davis safer, healthier, and a more just community.”
He concluded stating, “In Davis, Black people are stopped at a rate five times higher than white people. What are you going to do to address this? We need a concrete way to address racial disparities in stops, arrests, and charges.”
Nancy Erickson, a Davis resident who has lived in the city for 30 and has raised her children here, also expressed support for creation of an independent public safety department.
Adrian Perez, a graduate student in Davis, asked the council “to commit to create a new department of public safety independent of the police department…and freeze the hiring of new police officers” while the details of establishing an independent department are being “worked out.”
Livelong Davis resident and voter in South Davis, William Alpers stated, “If you care about Black people and if you think Black Lives Matter you’re going to do this. It’s really that simple. If you said Black Lives Matter, if you posted it, if you agree with this, you do this. There’s really no other option here.”
Police Accountability Commission Chair Dillan Horton called in and stated that he was “looking forward to the April 6 meeting about path forward and low hanging fruit with regards to Temporary Joint Subcommittee nine recommendations [and] opportunities [that] outline new structures that let us start from scratch in creating professional cultures and incentives to gear all of our services for public safety around the strategies that are best prepared to create long term public safety scenarios in our community” such as “the separation from the department in mental health services, in drug rehabilitation service, in outreach to our homeless population and in traffic enforcement.”
As Horton stated, council will be meeting on April 6 to discuss the “path forward” in addressing the TJS report.
In the goals section of the meeting, Vice Mayor Lucas Frerichs asked City Manager Mike Webb to clarify when the discussion of public safety as it pertained to goal setting should take place. Webb stated that a “higher level goal” discussion of re-imagining public safety can happen on March 23 with “a placeholder on the specific objectives” being put in so it can be filled in when staff present to Council on April 6.
Lauren Smith is a fourth year student at UC Davis, double majoring in Political Science and Psychology. She is from San Diego, California. Smith is co-editor of the City Desk for the Vanguard at UC Davis.
Jordan Varney received her masters from UC Davis in psychology and her B.S. in computer science from Harvey Mudd. Varney is co-editor of the City Desk for the Vanguard at UC Davis.