Council Faces Community Wrath on Policing, but Adopts Proposed Budget

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Photo Courtesy Don Sherman

By David M. Greenwald

Davis, CA – Despite an overwhelming number of citizens supporting changes to policing, the council largely passed the budget as proposed on Tuesday night, leaving some of the more heavy lifting to a later point.

By our count, 108 people called in during public comment.  Of them, only one person called to increase funding for the police department and one other was neutral.  Everyone else called asking the council not to increase funding for the police.

As one typical example put it: “I’m calling to strongly oppose increasing funding to the police department.  Instead I would like to see more money going toward a new office of public safety that can more adequately address mental health circumstances as they arrive and keep the residents of the city of Davis safe.”

A 75-year-old resident called in to say, “The reason I’m calling is to discourage the city council from increasing funding for police.

“We need less armed enforcement officers running around the city and more people trained in conflict resolution without the threat of weapons to try to maintain.

“The city of Davis should take a lead in looking for peaceful conflict resolution which means do not bring weapons to every little event that occurs that shouldn’t need a weapon.”

He said, “We could do this in the name of Natalie Corona, seeking peace rather than having armed enforcement officers that just encourage unstable, unhinged, disillusioned people to see ways to grab attention—that’s just terrible.

“If we seek peace rather than seek the strongest weapons and the most weapons to try to keep order, we’ll have a more peaceful city.”

At least five of the public commenters explicitly threatened not to vote for any councilmembers who voted to adopt the budget as currently conceived.

Joanna called and said that Davis is failing “to imagine anything but the same deadly status quo that benefits white supremacy and real estate capital.”  She said, “Your proposed budget represents an investment in safety for the white, housed, and wealthy.  It’s a massive middle finger to the historical uprising and the folks we marched with.

“We know our Black and Brown siblings are disproportionately represented among those living outside.”  She asked the city to move all three homeless outreach positions out of the police department, not just two.

Catherine Hagen criticized the city for failing to hire a single person “to create novel solutions for community safety.”  She noted a Vanguard article quoting the chief saying “in almost all respects, the Davis police department really is a community safety department.”

She said, “If you really believe this, city council, then why don’t you have police officers out doing tree trimming?  Because that’s a dumb idea.

“The point here is to remind you that there are plenty of professionals outside the police department with expertise and career commitments dedicated to community safety,” she added.  “These people could do so much more if the city committed budget resources to support them.”

Todd Edelman added, “Equity is a process, not a goal. We fight for it, forever and always.

“The fight for equity is recognizing and adopting—not only adapting—best practice from other communities.”

Dillan Horton, Chair of the Police Accountability Committee, expressed concern and frustration “at the growing gap between the city council’s verbal commitments in support of the nine reimagining policing recommendations and the city’s actions so far.

“A year ago during the 2020 budget process we were told that the council at the time supported reform but that the budget was essentially fully cooked and that we’d have to wait until the next budget discussion,” he explained. “I think we have all been around Davis politics long enough to know of examples where our community faced a difficult social issue and a forum was quickly organized for people to vent their frustrations and then leaders in our community tried to move us on from that subject as quickly as possible so we can ‘get back to normal.’”

He explained, “ I am determined, along with a lot of other people, that our city not follow the usual pattern on this issue. The only way to break out from that pattern is for our elected representatives to push and lead to make meaningful change happen.”

On April 6, he said, “Council had an opportunity that evening to reiterate the expectation that they laid out in December and make it clear to the public that they understood that this document was substantively different and smaller in scope than the nine recommendations. The council could’ve acted to add in what was missing, instead y’all approved work on recommendations that the temporary joint subcommittee never asked for, seeming to disregard and partially disrespect the months-long work of the TJS.

“So it’s really beyond frustrating, a year later, to hear our city leaders tell us what we were told a year ago, that more time is needed and really this might be too complicated to do in the way that the community envisions,” he added.

Morgan Poindexter, in a comment sent to the Vanguard, noted, “The Police Budget is continuing to increase, even accounting for inflation. We analyzed the last 10 years of DPD budgets that were approved (adopted) by City Council and found that despite a small dip in funding due to the COVID-19 crisis, the police budget increases every year consistently.

“This two-year budget is no exception. And inflation does not account for these increases at all. When comparing the adopted budgets in today’s dollars (red line), the trend is clear. Police continue to get more and more money,” she said.

Councilmember Will Arnold pointed out where the budget was in comparison to the fears that existed a year ago with economic shutdown and the pandemic.

“I’m proud of where we are, I’m proud of this budget and I’m excited for where we’re going as a community,” he said.  “We’re stepping up to do more on (public safety).  We’re working with the community to examine our policies, examine our assumptions about how we do community safety, we’re leaning into that.”

Vice-Mayor Lucas Frerichs noted that nearly $800,000 of ARP [American Rescue Program] money would go toward ‘reimagining public safety.’  Those dollars will be spent on a management level position, plus a public safety data analyst, “those are both to be potentially relocated in the city manager’s office.”

But he said, “There is yet more to come.”

Mayor Gloria Partida understood some of the frustrations of the community.

“This process has been slow,” she said, in part because they engaged the commissions and are listening to the community.

She noted that, while the comments this evening were one-sided, “The people who didn’t call in this evening, there are people who are concerned about money being taken away from the police department.  It is important that we are balanced in how we go forward here.”

City Manager Mike Webb noted that, for any departments with a general fund funding source, “the budgets go up even though operations and staffing levels have not changed.”

He explained, “In large part this was do to the GASB [Government Accounting Standards Board] principles and the best accounting practices that we need to adhere to in our budget documents.”

There are also “legally obligated MOU cost obligations.”  Things like COLAs and PERS pension increases and benefit cost increases.

Webb argued that any increases were due “to changes in accounting treatments and those MOU cost allocations,” not staffing increases.

—David M. Greenwald reporting


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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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15 thoughts on “Council Faces Community Wrath on Policing, but Adopts Proposed Budget”

  1. Keith Olsen

    By our count, 108 people called in during public comment. 

    How many were the usual activists or DSA members?  I give credit to the left leaning organizers in Davis, they’re always good at rallying the troops.  But does it represent an “overwhelming” number of the 65,000 Davis residents or just outliers?  The council needs to consider this when making their final decision.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I didn’t count that part of it, but I will say this – a lot of the names were not ones I recognized. Some were names I recognized.

      “The council needs to consider this when making their final decision.”

      If you look at the end, you will see Mayor Partida made a similar point.

  2. Ron Glick

    A few observations:

    108 calls. How many points were repeated? The CC needs to return to in person meetings.

    Dylan Horton: “A year ago during the 2020 budget process we were told that the council at the time supported reform but that the budget was essentially fully cooked and that we’d have to wait until the next budget discussion,”

    Way to go Dylan! Hold their feet to the fire. As I.F. Stone said in the 60’s “You have to remember last year’s lies to understand this year’s lies.”

    Joanna said: “Davis is failing “to imagine anything but the same deadly status quo that benefits white supremacy and real estate capital.”  She said, “Your proposed budget represents an investment in safety for the white, housed, and wealthy. ”

    This is true of course but it shouldn’t be limited to the discussion on policing. It should also be in the discussion on housing.

    Another person said: “We need less armed enforcement officers running around the city and more people trained in conflict resolution without the threat of weapons to try to maintain.”

    Meanwhile the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed the decision of a Federal Judge throwing out California’s ban on assault weapons.

    In an ideal world the cops wouldn’t be armed like in London. Sadly, in a country where everyone is armed to the teeth, asking the cops to bring a knife to a potential gun fight is a bigger ask than people seem to understand.

    Morgan Poindexter noted: “The Police Budget is continuing to increase, even accounting for inflation. We analyzed the last 10 years of DPD budgets that were approved (adopted) by City Council and found that despite a small dip in funding due to the COVID-19 crisis, the police budget increases every year consistently.

    Mike Webb addressed this but left out that the five years before the start date of the budget study coincided with budgets that began recovering from the Great Recession .

    “At least five of the public commenters explicitly threatened not to vote for any councilmembers who voted to adopt the budget as currently conceived.”

    Rarely is threatening a CC member in this manner a good way to influence public policy.

    1. Robert Canning

      So, it would be interesting to see an analysis of the DPD budget in two ways: controlling for inflation and the “usual accounting standards” that the city manager mentions. Did it increase despite those usual increases for salaries, benefits changes, and the ubiquitous “overhead”? And also compared to other city departments.

  3. Alan Miller

    At least five of the public commenters explicitly threatened not to vote for any councilmembers who voted to adopt the budget as currently conceived.

    I’m sure they were terrified.

    Davis is failing “to imagine anything but the same deadly status quo that benefits white supremacy and real estate capital.”

    Deadly status quo in Davis?

    White supremacy and real estate capital?

    “Your proposed budget represents an investment in safety for the white, housed, and wealthy.

    Only the white?  Only the housed?  Only the wealthy?  Or are they arguing ‘disproportionally’?  That I could believe.  Does the police dept. cracking down on bike theft and drug use and sales near where where people live constitute what the person decries as “an investment in safety for the white, housed, and wealthy” ?  I’d call such crackdowns the job of the police.

    “We know our Black and Brown siblings are disproportionately represented among those living outside.”

    I have lived adjacent to an spot that often attracts so-called homeless and has several times turned into a bike parts ‘n meth camp; the street is also a bit of a travel corridor for the so-called homelesss.  About 80% are white, and almost all of those we’ve seen smoking/dealing meth and heroin and stealing bicycles and bike parts are white.  I don’t know why that matters; just that the statement flies in the face of what I’ve observed for decades.  If they are speaking on a national, rather than a local level, then maybe that’s true.

    She asked the city to move all three homeless outreach positions out of the police department, not just two.

    The only reason we have been able to clear this drug using and criminal element out of the area is when the police department acts.  When they don’t act is when the drugs and thefts spiral.  If we are talking literal outreach – fine, take it out of the police dept.  If we are talking about masking public drug use / drug sales / bike theft and other such behavior as ‘poor homeless people’ and not allowing police to engage them – nu uh!   All for supporting the truly down & out — but the police must be able to deal with the criminal element/behavior masked as ‘homelessness’ for what it is.

  4. Keith Olsen

    She noted that, while the comments this evening were one-sided, “The people who didn’t call in this evening, there are people who are concerned about money being taken away from the police department.  It is important that we are balanced in how we go forward here.”

    There’s a core group who always seem to organize for these types of social issues.  Don’t let them speak for the whole community.  I’m glad to see that Partida said this.

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      And third, as The Times just reported, “homicide rates in large cities” — many of them run by Democrats — were “up more than 30 percent on average last year, and up another 24 percent for the beginning of this year.” Soaring murder rates and policing are becoming huge Republican and right-wing-media talking points. Democrats are vulnerable. That’s why President Biden plans to lay out a forceful anti-crime strategy on Wednesday.

      Friedman is part of the problem here. Because homicide rates in cities are up whether it’s Democrat or Republican Mayor and whether it’s a red state or blue state.

      1. Alan Miller

        That’s why President Biden plans to lay out a forceful anti-crime strategy on Wednesday.

        Sounds like Biden is confirming that crime is up.

        1. Bill Marshall

          How can Biden go after guns without congress? 

          By “doing it”… but yes, without Congress and/or SCOTUS, will he be successful?  Likely, NOT!

          But remember, “guns don’t kill people, ammunition kills people”…

          I like guns, although I don’t own any… I’d focus on ‘clip size’ and ammunition sales rather than guns themselves…

  5. Keith Olsen

    I understand there was a template telling callers what to ask for in public comment.  Sounds like it was pretty organized.

    David, do you know anything about this?

    1. Bill Marshall

      If true, (and I don’t doubt it, particularly given the relative or full anonymity of the callers [as opposed to here, or in the previous live ‘public comment’, where folk were asked to state their names, and were ‘on camera’]), that would be good to investigate and expose, in the interest of ‘transparency’…

      Suggestion, Keith O. … ‘don’t hold your breath’ for a response… am suspecting “crickets” as to your very reasonable question… David may well not know… if that is the case, he should say so… if he does know, or has reasonable suspicions, that is a different matter…

      Good question, though… when working for the City (32+ years), I oft encountered ‘public comment templates’, with enough evidence that some were not even original, putting the question/comment in their own words… they were reading from a script… @ Planning Commission and CC meetings in particular…

       

  6. Bill Marshall

    Council Faces Community Wrath on Policing, but Adopts Proposed Budget

    Perhaps better titled “Council Faces  A PORTION OF Community Wrath…”?

    Another poster nailed it… ~180 vs. ~ 66k…

    Gotta’ create conflict to sell newspapers or blogs… but “reporting”?

    Not ‘reporting’…

    —David M. Greenwald reporting

    Particularly when the “reporter” is also the “headline editor”, and “editor in chief”… whatever…

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