Staff Responds to Reimagining Public Safety Report; Council to Consider Next Steps

Police Chief Darren Pytel

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:

  1. Determine why racial disparities in arrests, recommended charges, and stops exist in Davis.
  2. Encourage the Davis Police Department to dialogue with the Police Accountability Commission (PAC) on the content of its Use of Force policy.
  3. Evaluate the impact of de-escalation, crisis intervention, procedural justice, and implicit bias trainings.
  4. Shift non-violent service calls to unarmed personnel.
  5. Reinvent the police-community conversation.
  6. 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.
  7. Work with County partners to build an integrated, “Crisis Now” -type model for behavioral health emergencies.
  8. Expand the City’s community navigator workforce.
  9. 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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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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23 Comments

    1. David Greenwald

      Did you miss the two links I posted in the article?

      BTW, you only have to read 25 pages, that’s the new stuff, 108 pages includes the previous report from the TJSC.

      1. Ron Oertel

        I always knew that cops hate non-white people (from what I’ve read on here), but I didn’t realize that they also hate kids.  🙂

        Defund them, immediately!

        1. Ron Oertel

          Thanks – looks like we’re in agreement. Some serious defunding is needed, apparently. 🙂

          Aren’t you a “white, privileged, middle-aged man”, by the way? With a successful business?

          Just noticed (from your original response) that cops also apparently hate women, too.

          But really, you shouldn’t be making those kind of comments in the first place if you want to engage in any kind of serious conversation. It is a typical “blog” type of response.

      2. Alan Miller

        If you’re a privileged white man with no kids.

        You forgot to add “old” to your pejorative, and you forgot that pejoratives are against your own policy, or you are too privileged, as the editor, to care.

    1. Richard_McCann

      The unwillingness to acknowledge that a problem exists at all, even in the face of overwhelming empirical evidence, has become the defining characteristic of conservatives and reactionaries. Denying the seriousness of climate change risk and the pandemic are the other most salient examples among many.

      Ron, you fail to engage in real discussion because your answer is always denial of the evidence put before you. Rather than actually critiquing that evidence, you simply deny its validity at all. And you fail to acknowledge when your own evidence is found to be fatally flawed or misinterpreted. This doesn’t make for fruitful conversation and any value that you might bring to that conversation is completed undermined. The one value is that you are a good example of how obstinate so many people can be.

      1. Alan Miller

        Denying the seriousness of climate change risk and the pandemic are the other most salient examples among many.

        True denial may be in thinking we can make a freakin’ dent in climate change, or in ever-skyrocketing Davis rents!   No vaccine for those . . .

        What is the subject again? 😐

  1. Ron Oertel

    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.”

    “Assumes” being the key word driving most of this.

    Since it is complex (as staff notes), there will not be any definitive conclusions – no matter how much additional study is done. (For that matter, the size and scope of the perceived problem hasn’t actually been established.)  But, there will remain a significant proportion of the population who are “convinced” that the assumption is correct, regardless.  (And no – those believers are not always “non-white”, nor are “non-white” people always believers.) Hopefully, the believers won’t drive policy decisions.

    Here’s another key passage, regarding shifting duties away from police (or “adding” more city services):

    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.”

    I doubt that in a city of Davis’ size (and relatively low crime rate), non-sworn “sub-specialty” employees are going to result in better service or cost savings.  But, it might still be worth exploring, to some degree.

    1. Richard_McCann

      In Eugene, a city with very similar size and socio economic composition to Davis, this shift has resulted in documented savings and service improvements. That has been reported in this blog before. Having spent substantial time in Eugene over the last four plus decades, I don’t see why we should have different results.

       

  2. Ron Oertel

    Ron, you fail to engage in real discussion because your answer is always denial of the evidence put before you. Rather than actually critiquing that evidence, you simply deny its validity at all. And you fail to acknowledge when your own evidence is found to be fatally flawed or misinterpreted. This doesn’t make for fruitful conversation and any value that you might bring to that conversation is completed undermined. The one value is that you are a good example of how obstinate so many people can be.

    This can be summed up in one word (or initial): b.s.  Not so different that what David puts forth.

    Honestly, if you and David spent less time with nonsense/personal attacks (and actually put forth unbiased, complete information regarding whatever alleged problem you’re trying to “solve”), this blog would be much better-off.

    In Eugene, a city with very similar size and socio economic composition to Davis, this shift has resulted in documented savings and service improvements. That has been reported in this blog before. Having spent substantial time in Eugene over the last four plus decades, I don’t see why we should have different results.

    Maybe, but the “problem” hasn’t even been defined, or what “service improvements” actually means. Nor has any cause been established for any alleged problem, as noted by staff.

    Truth be told, I don’t trust what’s “reported” on this blog.  It is often incomplete, at best. That is, when it’s not encouraging or engaging in personal attacks for those who question what’s reported.

    (My fifth comment, due to responses to David’s race-baiting comment.)

     

     

     

    1. Bill Marshall

      Ron, you fail to engage in real discussion because your answer is always denial of the evidence put before you. Rather than actually critiquing that evidence, you simply deny its validity at all.

      (response)… This can be summed up in one word (or initial): b.s.  Not so different that what David puts forth.

      Q.E.D. Point, set, match.

    2. Richard_McCann

      Ron

      You have failed to call out when I put forward complete, unbiased information. I generally, unlike you, put forward empirically supported data with links to relevant information. You have rarely if ever been able to repudiate what I post. Instead you choose to either attack through unsupported assertion or to change the subject (a classic Internet troll tactic). You’ve been called out. Just saying it ain’t so isn’t going to refute my point.

      The problem is very clearly defined (well it’s several problems): disparate treatment of certain ethnic groups by law enforcement disproportionately both their population share and any criminal activity (e.g., the death penalty is imposed much more frequently on Blacks than whites for the same crime, Blacks are stopped much more often than other ethnic groups, even in proportion to crime rates); over reaction to disturbances by the mentally ill that lead excessive escalation and even death; Blacks have been overincarcerated in a manner that has undermined their communities because “correction” institutions established to perpetuate the economic process of slavery after the Civil War; non-white ethnic groups have been systematically excluded from housing and accruing wealth via state and federal laws, and now Blacks and Hispanics lack the wealth to buy into the real estate market and join the most significant means of accruing wealth in this nation; Blacks have been relegated to underfunded and underperforming educational institutions, which has led to them not having the same initial access to the necessary resources at the beginning of their work lives; and there’s more…

      Should I go on? That’s quite a list of problems to start that I listed in 5 minutes on a blog.

  3. Alan Miller

    Did you miss the two links I posted in the article?

    No, I just prefer my link to yours 😐

    I found these passages of particular interest (bolding mine):

    Reform advocates essentially argue that by reducing, defunding, and/or abolishing the police, people would no longer be arrested/incarcerated, which would reduce or eliminate any kind of disparity in the criminal justice system. While it may seem that defunding the police and diverting money to further fund social services, mental health services and education would whittle away at the criminogenic factors that lead to crime, there are other realities in California that must be considered. Services such as mental health treatment, medical treatment, addiction treatment and education are not forced (an individual may be required to attend, but there is no requirement to successfully complete a course or a certain regimen). Employment is not required, nor is it required for the homeless to be housed, even if housing became available. Further, many drugs have been essentially deregulated in California; there are significant numbers of people who are addicted and are not motivated to get better and there is no requirement they make an effort to get better.  In short, social workers may also lack the systemic resources they need to actually be able to help resolve all problems.

    There is a misconception that when force is used, it is automatically due to a failure of law enforcement to de-escalate and/or use crisis intervention techniques to resolve the situation. There are incidents where these techniques are not going to be effective. In other words, there is a false expectation that all people, regardless of any other factors such as intoxication, mental health, or a strong desire to do harm, can be reasoned with in dynamic situations alleviating any need for force. Secondarily, research focuses on incidents where force was used rather than the vastly greater number of incidents where force was not used.

    Using non-sworn personnel does have limits under California state law. Non-sworn personnel cannot make criminal arrests, issue lawful orders that a person must comply with, stop or detain a person, use a red light in a patrol car (needed to actually require a person to stop), and/or issue citations for State/federal criminal offenses or traffic offenses. As an example, the call for non- sworn, unarmed personnel to conduct traffic enforcement is not allowable by statute in California and is fraught with risk for an unarmed non-sworn staff person. In all of the police reform legislation being introduced, there has been no movement at the State level to change any of the statutes to allow non-sworn to make arrests and/or issue criminal traffic citations. However, there are significant efforts to increase training, ensure better hiring standards, require professional certification (and removal) and to reduce force options. There is a wide understanding that policing duties are extremely complex and require more training, not less, and that there are significant safety issues in redirecting enforcement services.

    There are no criminal consequences (such as arrest or criminal charging) for complete non- cooperation/compliance with non-sworn personnel. For example, when someone calls the police to have a trespasser leave their property, a non-sworn member can only ask the person to leave, but cannot order a person to leave; nor can they enforce criminal trespassing laws. Furthermore, they are offered no special legal protection if they are harmed (enhancement for assault or battery), as a police officer is; nor are they authorized to use force beyond self-defense (they are also not able to carry many of the tools used for self-defense as officers are). If the trespasser realizes this, they have no incentive to vacate or cooperate in any way.

    In order to “re-invent the police – community conversation,” there must be a willingness on the part of all stakeholders to listen, engage, and work through differences of opinion, together and to understand all perspectives. Unfortunately, much of the current atmosphere in public discourse is to put down or even threaten anyone with a contrary view and not necessarily to first educate and inform and discuss ideas and options and the pros and cons of each. In the past year the police profession has been villainized by some. There are calls to dismantle the Department and create a new department. These calls do not appear to be due to complaints of deficiencies in service offered by non-sworn (parking, code enforcement, homeless services) personnel, but due to association with sworn personnel. Understanding the operations and the benefits of providing a comprehensive, seamless variety of services under a unified vision and service model is crucial to informing the policy and operational implications of dismantling it, or components of it. As discussed below, reducing arrests and having better outcomes requires significant work between all team members, sworn and non-sworn, working cohesively. Department members collectively own challenges and work together as a team to resolve them. This is a main component of community policing, which we should strive to do.

    The decision to stop, investigate, and/or make arrests/issue citations is complex. Some would propose that the police should not make stops or enforce minor traffic laws such as having lights out or having expired registration. There are certainly safety issues for having lights out, which should not be ignored (there is tendency to ignore mechanical violations until there is an actual requirement to fix them). For registration, often-times registration is not just a matter that the fees weren’t paid, but instead it’s because the driver has no insurance. These two violations are often associated with each other. Not having insurance may be fine in theory until the person is involved in a traffic collision and there is no insurance for one or more of the involved parties. With this being said, discretion is always key.

    There must be a conscious balance when making decisions to stop a person. As previously stated, Davis officers arrest a number of non-Davis residents. Davis has a high property crime rate – criminals come to Davis to victimize our residents. Deterring officers from making stops and doing investigations will likely trigger higher crime rates as it becomes known around the region there is little risk of apprehension in Davis. Staff recommends completion of the RIPA data analysis noted in #1 above, to inform future discussion of local policies and practices around stops and citations.

    1. Don Shor

      There are no criminal consequences (such as arrest or criminal charging) for complete non- cooperation/compliance with non-sworn personnel. For example, when someone calls the police to have a trespasser leave their property, a non-sworn member can only ask the person to leave, but cannot order a person to leave; nor can they enforce criminal trespassing laws. Furthermore, they are offered no special legal protection if they are harmed (enhancement for assault or battery), as a police officer is; nor are they authorized to use force beyond self-defense (they are also not able to carry many of the tools used for self-defense as officers are). If the trespasser realizes this, they have no incentive to vacate or cooperate in any way.

      On more than one occasion in my years in retail business, I have had to order a person to leave the premises because I deemed that person to be acting belligerent in a manner that could become a threat to my employees or other customers or could harm my business. The only leverage I have in issuing that order is the threat to call the police. Is it being proposed that I would be unable to do this?

      1. Eric Gelber

        These are not insurmountable problems. As new models are adopted, there may be state legislation needed to address the functions and authority of non-sworn personnel. I’m sure similar issues have come up in other states.

        1. Don Shor

          Any of these proposals that require a legislative change in the status of non-sworn officers should be completely removed from consideration by the city council until such time as those changes have been passed and signed by the governor. Even with a super-majority, I’m not confident that this important clarification in the role of non-sworn personnel could be implemented in a timely manner, and removing any penalties or enforcement for criminal trespassing would put the public at risk. As far as I’m concerned, the whole package of proposals is a complete non-starter if this issue hasn’t even been addressed.

        2. Eric Gelber

          Any of these proposals that require a legislative change in the status of non-sworn officers should be completely removed from consideration by the city council until such time as those changes have been passed and signed by the governor.

          I disagree. By working on proposals the Council would be in a position to identify needed changes in law. They could then potentially work with local legislators (Aguiar-Curry or Dodd) to see their interest in possibly authoring bills.

          1. Don Shor

            they could then potentially work with local legislators

            This is completely backwards.
            The legislators should be in these discussions first. You have identified what needs to be done to make these proposals theoretically workable, and I know you have a lot more experience and knowledge about how to go about that. Perhaps you can clarify, but from what I know the process of getting a bill to address this issue would take months within any given legislative session, and would certainly require a lot of legislative horse-trading before it would get to the governor’s desk.
            Local governments should not supercede the present method of protecting private property without clarity about outcomes.
            Putting the ability, of a business owner or homeowner or renter, to have control over their premises into limbo is a recipe for disaster.
            I find these answers wholly unsatisfactory. I hope the implications of decriminalizing trespassing and eliminating the only agency with the ability to enforce the safety of the public on private property have been considered more fully by the task force.

        3. Eric Gelber

          Bill proposals frequently come from constituents,  including local governments. Bills for the second year of the current session would be introduced early next year and, if enacted, would take effect on 1/1/23. Now is the time for developing a proposal to be brought to a legislator in late summer or fall. On this subject, this might take the form of a local pilot program.

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