By David M. Greenwald
As the trial of the officer accused of murdering George Floyd continues, the fallout of mass demonstrations and changed thinking continues at a local level as well as at a state and national one. Locally, the key question is whether Davis follows a long line of communities that are seeking to reimagine how policing operates in a post-George Floyd world.
Last fall, the city’s appointed Temporary Joint Subcommittee came forward with nine recommendations for improving Davis Policing that were presented to the council. Now city staff, led by Chief Darren Pytel, has responded to those recommendations and council will be presented with that response and asked to seek next steps.
Staff notes that “in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers, many communities across the country were calling to ‘defund the police.’” There was “widespread concern in the nation about racism in law enforcement and questions about when police officers, rather than unarmed individuals, should be sent to a call for service.”
Council asked staff in the wake of calls to “defund the police” to “develop a proposed outreach/work plan related to identifying and funding community health and safety improvements.”
From that came the formation of the Temporary Joint Subcommittee (TJSC) which was comprised of members of the Human Relations, Police Accountability and Social Services Commissions and met from August 11 to November 18 “to discuss issues around law enforcement, mental health, racism, substance abuse, and related topics.”
The nine recommendations:
- Determine why racial disparities in arrests, recommended charges, and stops exist in Davis.
- Encourage the Davis Police Department to dialogue with the Police Accountability Commission (PAC) on the content of its Use of Force policy.
- Evaluate the impact of de-escalation, crisis intervention, procedural justice, and implicit bias trainings.
- Shift non-violent service calls to unarmed personnel.
- Reinvent the police-community conversation.
- De-prioritize, decriminalize, and offer restorative remedies for minor, victimless offenses through warm hand-off programs, an expansion of the specialty court system, and other measures.
- Work with County partners to build an integrated, “Crisis Now” -type model for behavioral health emergencies.
- Expand the City’s community navigator workforce.
- Commit to a vision of reimagined public safety.
“While the joint subcommittee put much effort into their report, the process is only one part of a complex set of public policy issues,” staff writes. “Policing throughout the United States, like many professions, has changed greatly over the past decade and continues to evolve, as communities redefine what public safety means to them.
“The City of Davis has actively participated in this evolution with new layers of accountability, starting with additional training for officers, utilization of technology such as body-worn cameras, the creation and continued funding, first of a Police Ombudsman position, and later the enhanced Independent Police Auditor position, the creation of the Community Advisory Board, and the creation of the Police Accountability Commission.”
Staff also notes that “implementation of recommendations had not been reviewed for cost implications, with an understanding of police operations, or legal parameters.”
Staff has provided a 25-page response to the nine recommendations – read the full report here.
Staff writes, “In this report there are examples of things the Department has done to evolve policing in Davis – for the better. Some are significant accomplishments and are progressive.
“Our evolution is a product of continued and formal strategic planning. The Department is in the process of creating a new 3-year strategic plan with the guidance of a professional consultant from POST. As with the past plans, staff will endeavor to do more and adopt many of the principles that the community desires. However, it takes time to analyze and make positive adjustment,” staff explains.
They note: “In almost all respects the ‘Police Department’ really is a ‘Community Safety Department’”
Staff continues: “The members of the Davis Police Department want to do their jobs and do them well and much is asked of them. We have a responsibility to provide staff the tools and the environment to succeed. Re-inventing the police – community conversation is essential to this success.”
First is the response to recommendation one, “Determine why racial disparities in arrests, recommended charges, and stops exist in Davis.”
Staff acknowledges: “Of all of the recommendations in the report, this one is perhaps the most complex, with causal data difficult to isolate and interpret, and appropriate solutions even more perplexing. Looking at, analyzing, and responding to this and similar data will require continuous attention from law enforcement, including the Davis Police Department.”
They write: “In order for this data to be most meaningful to policymakers and law enforcement, a qualitative analysis should be included and data should be normalized, and compared to factors in addition to the estimated racial makeup of Davis residents. Having a more nuanced understanding of the data will more closely define actual disparities and allow for more targeted solutions.
“The issue is significantly more complicated than comparing the number of reportable stops or contacts to resident data,” they continue, noting that we do not “know the denominator” and second they note “proportionality assumes that any arrest disparities must be due to bias alone and not some degree of differential offending.”
They argue instead, “There are, in fact, many studies that address differential offending as a result of disparities in very complex and intervening societal risk factors.”
In terms of the response to recommendation nine, “Commit to a vision of reimagined public safety,” the staff reports notes, “The City Manager is recommending that homeless services be moved from the Police Department to the City Manager’s Office (CMO) next fiscal year.
“While staff is not recommending at this time a move of code enforcement or parking services out of the Police Department, either could theoretically be transferred to a new organizational structure,” staff continues. “The purpose and net benefits of doing so at this time are unclear, however, in light of the considerations set forth above. There are also legal considerations and possibly cost implications that could affect service delivery that would need to be thought through carefully.”
Staff notes: “While we rely on non-sworn personnel to handle a wide-range of services, they are not a versatile responder because the positions lack the legal authority of a sworn police officer and cannot respond to in-progress law enforcement emergencies. In most cases, other than providing dispatching services, there is no legal duty to actually do many of the tasks that non-sworn personnel perform. In other words, they provide valuable service that contributes to the health and vibrancy of Davis, but the services provided aren’t statutorily required.”
Staff also points out while the TJSC contemplated this new model as a “go alone” model, the city is not the only community “reimagining policing.”
Therefore, “Changes are under discussion and consideration at the County, State and even federal level to look at systemic public safety changes. Davis should leverage partnerships and work in conjunction with all partners to make change where it makes sense to do so and based on local needs and, ideally, evidence-based practices.”
Staff says “we recommend taking the time to implement the staff recommendations within this report, analyze outcomes, and identify any continued gaps in service delivery that may still need to be addressed.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting
Staff has provided a 25-page response to the nine recommendation – read the full report here.
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