Commentary: Broad Community Support for Change – But I Still Want More

Mayor Gloria Partida speaking in April at a rally

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – What did the actions by the council mean to Mayor Gloria Partida?  It was after midnight on Tuesday night and she went out onto her porch, and took a photo of her dog stating, “How do you celebrate a win in a lifetime of trying to make things right?”

As someone who has been in this fight for over 15 years now and who knows the agony of standing in the parking lot of the city hall at 3 am wondering what to do next (apparently it was start a new career), I know how she feels.

I was in high school, about to graduate, when Rodney King was beaten, and I marched in college as a freshman at Cal Poly when the cops acquitted him.

Martin Luther King famously has said, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

While the scales of justice will barely tip from what happens in Davis, I definitely felt a twang.

“Today I am looking back on almost 50 years of listening to activists question community power structures, and asking how to rebalance those structures to lift the most vulnerable out of poverty and incarceration,” Mayor Gloria Partida said.

“I am incredibly proud to today to be at this end of it,” she said.  She was especially grateful to the staff “who understood that what we needed was how to get to ‘yes’ and made that happen.”

She noted that included the police department.

“Our community continues to reaffirm that we are a city that will not accept the status quo when it comes to standing up for what is right,” she added.  “There are many councils that would have found this too much of a reach.”

It was 15 years ago that the city council voted 4-1 to shut down the Human Relations Commission for advocating a civilian police oversight committee—almost identical to the one they finally implemented in 2017.

It took the 2015 deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, among others, to re-awaken the outrage that we had in 1991-92 with the beating of Rodney King.  But it was the death of George Floyd and Brianna Taylor, among others, that finally produced action.

It is easy to dismiss the moment.  But what we have seen in Davis is this isn’t simply a few dozen activists.  Last year, over 1000 people marched for change.  Over 700 people in April of this year signed the letter urging the council to support the Nine.  Over 100 people turned out for public comment last December.

What is more, there has been almost an entire lack of protest.  When the council shut down the HRC in 2006, over 100 people spoke and it was probably an even split.  Leading the way at that time was the DPOA.

This time around—not a word of dissent.  Not a single public comment.  Not an email to council.  Nothing from DPOA.

If the public is not behind these simple but important changes, then they have remained silent through it all.  On Tuesday, with the most sweeping changes yet, nary a murmur of protest echoed across the land.

Is it meaningful the change we have seen?

Some of it is surely symbolic.  Having another agency other than the police handling homeless services is probably more of a symbolic move.  Ryan Collins has generally drawn praise across the board.

For me, it is important because homeless services are not a police action.  They are social services—what you want from, say, a social services department.

“Some of the things that we accomplish here go far beyond the police reform issue, but I think are clearly helpful there too,” Dan Carson said, noting that many of the upgrades could help make progress on issues like affordable housing.

Having an affordable housing advocate is important above and beyond the need for police reform.

Like removing the homeless coordinator from police, removing things like code enforcement and mental health services are very important.

We have asked our police to do way too much.  The biggest change probably came in September, however, when we approved the CRISIS NOW model.  As someone who unfortunately had a child last year with severe mental health challenges, calling the police in an emergency was the only real option.

The problem was the police really lacked the tools to resolve the crisis.  This is not even a criticism of them—they came, they were kind and caring, but limited.  I was always living in fear that the situation would escalate and turn out badly.  But in the end, what he needed was not an armed police officer but a professional counselor/social worker who had the skill and training to calm the situation without the use of or threat of force.

We did not have that option in 2020—in 2022, we will and that is better for everyone, including the police who mean well but know they should not be the ones handling most situations.

You always have the option of having police come if there are weapons or the threat of violence involved.  But from the experience of CAHOOTS in Eugene, that happens about three percent of the time.

While these changes are sweeping, there is more work to be done for sure.

To me the biggest problem locally are police stops where Blacks are disproportionately stopped and searched compared to their white counterparts.

As University of Arkansas law professor Jordan Blair Woods told The Appeal, police traffic stops are “one of the most common ways we see policing situations unfold into disturbing and scary consequences for over-policed communities.”

You don’t even need an over-policed community to see the potential for problems when you have disproportionate policing.

As we reported earlier this week, Philadelphia became the latest community to address the issue of police stops.

Philadelphia City Councilmember Isaiah Thomas introduced a measure to get police out of (some) traffic enforcement last October. And on October 14, the measure passed with a 14-2 vote.

Councilmember Thomas told NPR affiliate WHYY that “I’m confident that this bill will be able to address some of the equality issues that we’ve faced in the city of Philadelphia. I think it will put us in a position where hopefully we’ll see significantly less stops as it relates to these types of traffic violations.”

This will prevent stops from things like driving with a broken taillight, without registration, etc. but police will still be able to stop people for moving violations.

The remarkable thing—they did it with support from both the Police Commissioner and the rank-and-file police officers.

That is the next step that Davis needs to take, but the move that the council has done so far has gone a long way toward moving vast areas of policing out of the police department.

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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21 Comments

  1. Ron Oertel

    Some of it is surely symbolic.  Having another agency other than the police handling homeless services is probably more of a symbolic move.

    It’s not even “symbolic”.

    The changes and increased cost have no practical relationship to the police department, which is unchanged.  The employees that were moved from that department into another department have nothing to do with police work.

    Had the federal government not kicked-in more than approximately $700,000 (one-time only), none of this would have even been explored. It’s easy to have a “great social movement” when someone else is footing the bill.

    The chickens will come home to roost, when that temporary money runs out and the city has to find a way to fund the two new positions.  I have yet to see anywhere that this is addressed.

    It’s not even clear how the creation of another bureaucracy (and hiring of two additional positions) will help the homeless. Are the occupants of the two new positions going to find homes for the homeless?

    1. Edgar Wai

      The fundamental dynamic is most people decide to help based on whether they get A. Reimbursed, and B. Rewarded.

      The standard solution is a quest system based on credits. There is a quest giver council, assets they control, and quest takers that could be anyone.

      The quest givers has assets they can distribute term-based. Those assets, most typically is housing. They are distributed according to the amount of credits a person earns, which they earn by helping people.

      So, if the quest givers decide they want to reward social workers, then they set a credit for any person helping as a social worker. Those helpers would earn credits, which they may use to get housing.

      At each city/location, there could be multiple quest givers. A person can choose whether to play their game and get term based housing or play the market game and rent/buy their house.

      Why would a person choose quest giver housing instead of market housing? They might do so because the quest giver housing is nicer, cheaper, or the community is more in tune to their values.

      Since credits are not a physical thing and not regulated by a federal reserve, the quest giver may distribute as many as they like, the value of such credits lies on whether their asset distribution is popular.

      What they “need” from a “government” is to be exempted from various taxes and operate itself like a non profit organization. However, they could also operate without any tax exemption if their assets are desirable enough (people would pay market rate AND do good in other to be accepted in the do gooders community).

      The difference between a quest economy and a socialistic economy is that a quest economy exists side by side with market economy. It is not about a group of people using majority rule to turn a city into socialism. It is about each individual using their own assets and turn their own assets into desirable things and attract participants.

      What the quest system offers is a game where participants earn credits by helping people.

  2. Ron Oertel

    As someone who unfortunately had a child last year with severe mental health challenges, calling the police in an emergency was the only real option.

    The problem was the police really lacked the tools to resolve the crisis.  This is not even a criticism of them—they came, they were kind and caring, but limited.  I was always living in fear that the situation would escalate and turn out badly.  But in the end, what he needed was not an armed police officer but a professional counselor/social worker who had the skill and training to calm the situation without the use of or threat of force.

    Sounds like this problem goes well-beyond having a social worker show up to “calm the situation”.  Actually, I’m not even seeing a social worker as one of the two new positions.

    Sounds more like an ongoing need for care, beyond what a city normally provides.  Something related to health insurance, perhaps.

    As with the affordable housing / homeless positions, what would actually change, as a result of whatever new position you’re referring to?

      1. Ron Oertel

        If anyone in particular is repeatedly calling the police (or a social worker) to “calm the situation”, perhaps there’s a bigger, ongoing problem which won’t be resolved by relying-upon the brief visit that they would provide.

        Presumably, someone with this type of problem would have already sought-out whatever assistance is available, beyond that. In other words, an actual, long-term solution, so that “crises” don’t continue to occur.

        I see nothing in this which actually provides an additional, long-term solution, other than having comprehensive health insurance. Which in our society, is generally an individual/family responsibility.

        1. David Greenwald

          That’s another issue that if you really want to talk to me about, you can call me sometime and I will share. But to the maintain point here, yo ucan’t do anything if you can get all parties safely down from the crisis.

  3. Keith Y Echols

    This all sounds great.  But like Ron, I have my concerns about how all this gets funded as an ongoing cost to the city going forward.  I’m all for social services if there’s a funding mechanism to finance it.

    How does this change things in terms of actual procedure?  So they send a councilor (a MFCC?) or clinical psychologist/therapist out to address these community social issues…..but couldn’t that have been done under the police department?   Just have the armed officer sit in the car while the councilor goes out to address and take care of the situation.   I’m not saying having these services under the PD is the best solution.  But I wonder if there’s more efficiency in using the PD’s infrastructure to offer these services instead of creating a whole new department.  These two community service functions need to work together anyway.  I guess I’m always hesitant and skeptical about building another layer of bureaucracy.

        1. Bill Marshall

          And Ron O is definitely  not qualified to opine as he did @ 8:54 A (pun unintended)   and again @ 4:57 P (pun intended)… [particularly with his ‘Johnny’ referent]…

          And the ‘prize’ is the booby prize… well earned in this instance…

  4. Alan Miller

    Like removing the homeless coordinator from police, removing things like code enforcement and mental health services are very important.

    Again you state ‘code enforcement’ has been removed from police.  ‘Code enforcement’ includes removing homeless from where they are not supposed to be or doing things that are illegal/unsafe.  If the police do ‘enforce codes’ then we will get a giant city/mess such as up on F Street and we’ll have to remove by force.

    But again, I was told by someone we both know that aspect of code enforcement is not included in the shift.   So which is it?

    1. Julea Shaw

      Alan – Code enforcement was not moved out of the police department. The new department will be tasked with oversight and coordination of code enforcement across the three departments that currently handle it: Police, Fire, and Public Works. In the report it is described as “integration of an oversight role for ALL city code enforcement policies and operations across all departments to coordinate a uniform approach, consistency in response (both in on-site and written enforcement actions that aren’t criminal), and a consistent and “approachable” (e.g. non-intimidating) appearance to the program that is centered around gaining compliance, not seeking punishment.”

      1. Bill Marshall

        That sounds more correct than previous accounts… thank you!

        That is how it has been done, mostly, since I became aware of it about 40 years ago… some actions nearly just administrative… many need the specialties of the training of fire/police/PW personnel… in the early ’80’s, with syringes present, and AIDS/HIV in the headlines instead of Covid, PD and Fire deferred that to PW… who were the least trained (as to AIDS/HIV), but considered “expendable”… fortunately no known complications…

        But PW folk were/are not considered “public safety”… somewhat humorous… in a dark sense… FD/PD took charge of haz-mat, other endeavors (like cleanups of homeless camps), and direct PW folk to actually put their lives/health on the line… each have their own expertises…

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