By David M. Greenwald
In September, a Grand Jury investigation heavily called into question the decisions by the Police Accountability Commission (PAC) to limit participation by the police at their meetings as well as the police press release on the April 2017 Picnic Day incident.
Agencies like the city of Davis are required to respond in writing to the Grand Jury findings, and on Monday, the Grand Jury released responses to its 2019-20 report, including responses from both the city and the PAC itself to the investigation.
The Grand Jury issued its report which included a roughly 40-page analysis of the PAC, SB 1421 (on release of police records) and questions from the 2017 Picnic Day incident.
The Picnic Day incident in 2017 helped to launch new mechanisms of oversight, but members of the public attempting to get access to the original report under SB 1421 have been repeatedly thwarted by the city. The Yolo County Grand Jury investigated these incidents as well as the overall effectiveness of police oversight bodies.
The report was critical of the PAC’s lack of involving leadership from the Davis police due to “the PAC’s sensitivity to a limited number of individuals” which they believe has “outweighed the claims of the larger community to benefit from hearing the insights and perspectives of the DPD.
“The PAC’s adopted practice of excluding DPD leadership and police officers from its meetings restricts candid dialogue between the PAC and the DPD,” the report said. “This practice also limits the PAC’s ability to obtain the specialized knowledge it needs to make recommendations to the Davis City Council.”
In a detailed response, the PAC noted that they had agreed on limiting participating of Davis Police leadership and officers “ based on concerns expressed by multiple people from the public and our Commission Liaisons.” However, they note, “The PAC now has DPD staff come to meetings when discussions of police policy / practice are on the agenda.”
They write, “The PAC does not exclude DPD leadership from meetings and lists DPD participation on agendas, which are publicly posted. In the past, the PAC has wanted the Chief to attend a number of meetings but there has been reluctance on his part.”
The Grand Jury found, “Sensitivity to a limited number of individuals has outweighed the claims of the larger community to benefit from hearing the insights and perspectives of the DPD…”
The PAC disagreed noting, “ The PAC has heard multiple specific requests for the police to NOT attend. We have not heard specific requests for the police TO attend PAC Meetings.”
It also responded to a claim by the Grand Jury that found, “The PAC’s responsibility to provide police accountability is not limited by the nonaction of the Davis City Council at its July 30, 2019, meeting.”
They respond, “ When PAC received a Picnic Day review by IPA and asked the Council to take action to reopen an investigation into the incorrect press release, the Council declined. The PAC is unsure what else it can do because our authorizing resolution does not include investigatory privileges.”
The Grand Jury also found, “With IPA input, the PAC is charged with systematically reviewing DPD policies, procedures, and training for topics to be audited by the IPA. To meet this obligation, the PAC is authorized to inquire into departures from DPD policy, procedure, and planning during and following the Picnic Day 2017 Incident, including the DPD Press Release of April 24, 2017, and the release of the edited dashcam video on May 10, 2017.”
The PAC responds, “Three pieces of information provided by the Grand Jury are different from pieces PAC heard at the time.”
These included, “that the dash-cam video was slowed down, that there were protocols related to congestion management that were not followed, that there was the ability to know who sent out the incorrect PR release.”
Writes the PAC, “The DPD changed their policy regarding crisis press releases, now requiring that supervisors must review any crisis press communication prior to its release to the public. The PAC has agreed to review adherence to this policy after any further crisis DPD press Release.”
The Grand Jury found that the PAC “with input from the IPA, is authorized to provide community-based police accountability by inquiring as to why the OHS attorney investigators, working under the direction of the Davis City Attorney, failed in following the procedures set out in the Public Safety Officers Procedural Bill of Rights, which led to no DPD officer being held individually accountable for the inaccuracies in the April 24, 2017 press release.”
Both the city and PAC disagree here, arguing, “This finding appears to suggest that the PAC has investigatory privileges which it does not. It is a question that could be made to the IPA to clarify as it is under his scope of work.”
Among the recommendations from the Grand Jury, “No later than December 31, 2020,the Davis City Council should amend the PAC’s authorizing resolution to provide that one or more members of the DPD be designated by the Police Chief as liaison(s) to the PAC to attend all meetings.”
Neither the PAC nor the council agree with with that recommendation.
The City Council updated the PAC’s authorizing resolution at the November 17, 2020 Council meeting, however, did not include a requirement that a police representative attend all meetings.
The city stated, “The members of the community and the PAC have stated reasons why the presence of law enforcement at every meeting may impede members of the community from approaching the commission. Police representatives will attend meetings when it is appropriate based on agenda items.”
For the full responses – see here.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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