Police Auditor Analyzes Use of Force in Davis

By Emily Dill

Independent Police Auditor Michael Gennaco presented the work that has been done and next steps to be taken regarding the “8 Can’t Wait” policies at the Mar. 1 Police Accountability Commission meeting. 

The eight policies required are de-escalation, use-of-force continuum, ban of chokeholds and strangleholds, required warning before shooting, ban on shooting at moving vehicles, requirement to first exhaust all other alternatives, a duty to intervene, and comprehensive reporting. 

Gennaco stated that “we have done a side-by-side comparison of the 8 Can’t Wait policies and compared them to the current policies that exist” according to what is posted on the Davis Police Department’s website. The goal is to identify the areas of the policies that match and do not match and then research prior cases to see if the policy that is congruent with 8 Can’t Wait is actually followed through in fieldwork.

So far the extent of this audit is the side-by-side comparison of policies. Gennaco stated that they have not been in contact with the Davis Police Department as of yet—but that is the next step.

The findings from the comparison were not discussed, but rather just a progress update on the audit. 

Gennaco will discuss the findings with the department and proceed with the next steps as they obtain a random sample of cases involving use of force as described in 8 Can’t Wait. A timeline of when the public will receive its next update was not discussed.

At this point in the audit, Gennaco is doing a baseline review of the policies that already exist—to see what needs to be implemented, improved, or is already up to par. 

Some policies in 8 Can’t Wait will be difficult to identify and review in sample cases, as they are not common in Davis. Gennaco explained, in regard to the ban on shooting at moving vehicles, that “the policy is written, the only issue is I can’t tell you that the policy has been implemented because we, fortunately, don’t have any cases like that to review.”

Cases to do with other parts of 8 Can’t Wait will be reviewed “to see whether or not the officers were able and did consider de-escalation techniques prior to resorting to force.”

In June of last year, a co-founder and data scientist for 8 Can’t Wait resigned after coming forward about the “flawed messaging” in the campaign, and that “the initiative was rushed,” leading to various issues after implementation of the policies. Multiple police departments have killed unarmed people even with 8 Can’t Wait policies in place.

Following this update on the ongoing audit, Gennaco discussed the new legislation in California about the hiring process in police departments. For example, the legislation implements a “state-wide certification requirement,” meaning that “all officers would need to be certified by the state.”

This means that if a police officer were to leave their department and seek to be hired elsewhere, “certain information would be provided by that certification piece, in regard to examining any issues that forced the officer to leave his or her former employment.” 

Legislation regarding education requirements for entry officers has been introduced and, Gennaco states, “it requires some level of college education in order to be eligible for a police officer certificate.” This is still moving through the legislative process and is likely to change, but as it stands currently this would be a requirement.

There also has been an increased interest by communities in California in the hiring process of local police departments. Recently, many agencies in the state have moved away from an internalized hiring process and sought a “wider variety of people” to assist in the interview process and vetting future officers. This has been done with involvement from review boards, and is open to more of the public—but to whom exactly that will apply is still in the works.

Looking into the criteria requirements for potential officers, Gennaco explained that many departments are trying to move away from the traditional hiring of individuals with prior military experience. Departments are shifting their focus to hiring people “with life experience that is different from the military experience, as part of a reinvention of who might make an ideal police officer,” he explained, and “the trend lines are going in a different direction” than they used to.

Gennaco also noted that hiring in police departments has slowed recently.“Impacts that COVID has had on the economy” combined with “the George Floyd murder,” is causing a decrease in the hiring of police officers statewide, Gennaco explained.

“There aren’t as many opportunities for people who are interested in becoming police officers to enter into the profession,” because of “hiring freezes,” and “hiring cutbacks that have been imposed on multiple counties.” 

The other variable in the drop of hiring is “that there appears to be a lack of interest among younger individuals.” Gennaco explained that this is most likely a result of “the concerns that have been expressed about what is the future of policing, should it be reinvented, and some of the criticism that has been part of the national narrative.”

Focus has also been brought to the “hiring pool,” and if there is a more “ethical way of getting to individuals who might not be thinking of policing as a profession,” and Gennaco elaborated that this is an attempt to “diversify the ranks of officers.”

Nearing the end of the meeting, Commission Member Don Sherman asked if there was an update on an incident from Dec. where “police had handcuffed a person in the street, interviewed them for about 20 minutes, and then released them.” Sherman explained that the resident who reported the incident “had witnessed the entire thing and felt that there was no justification for the stop.”

Sherman refrained from naming the individual who reported the incident, but Gennaco assured him that “if it’s the incident that I think you’re referring to, we have that incident under review.”

Emily Dill is a fourth year Political Science major at UC Davis, also minoring in Professional Writing and Environmental Policy.

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