Council Approves the Hiring of Two Sworn Police Positions Over the Objections of Activists

Photo of the Davis police department at sunrise
Photo Courtesy Don Sherman

By David M. Greenwald
Executive Editor

Davis, CA – The council on Tuesday unanimously approved the filling of two vacant sworn police officer positions – positions that were frozen last year – over the objections of a number of activists who spoke during public comment.

When COVID first hit, the city responded to revenue drops by making significant cuts across all departments, including $1 million in reductions to the police department, primarily through the freezing of several positions that were vacant at the time.

The positions that drew the attention on Tuesday were a corporal and an officer.

“The Police Department has been significantly challenged with maintaining minimum staffing as a result of multiple staff out on injury/disability leave, attrition, and authorized protected leaves,” the staff report noted.  “Without increasing the allocation of positions to compensate for those out on extended leaves as well as dealing with position vacancies and rolling attrition, the City will continue to have difficulties maintaining minimum staffing levels, which leaves both the community and current employees vulnerable.”

The city manager requested that the council reinstate one corporal, one officer and a dispatcher (non-sworn).

The staff report added, “As we emerge from the impacts of COVID when temporary reductions in staffing levels were more feasible, police related activity has been picking up in very visible ways with a recent rash of burglary and vandalism activities.”

Connor Gorman was one of several callers who asked the city to “defund the police” and “redirect those funds into public safety.”

“I’m opposed to adding any additional armed sworn police officers to the city of Davis Police Department’s city budget,” Gorman, a former council candidate said.  “I believe those funds would be better used in other ways, such as in the new department of Social Services and Housing, or in other similar and related programs.”

He added, “I understand that these positions are ones that were previously budgeted, but I believe that the city should honor previous statements around permanently removing these positions from the budget.”

Another comment said, “I am really frustrated that we’re talking about adding police instead of dealing with housing and social services issues.”  She added, “The system is that police are for punishment essentially, and what we need is not preventive punishment, we need prevention, we need social services, and that’s where this money should be going.”

Mayor Gloria Partida responded by saying, “I think this council has had a lot of conversation around this issue, and I think that we are all in agreement that money is better spent on social services.”

She noted that the council indicated that by their action in forming the new department of Social Services.

At the same time, she acknowledged that the police officers “are doing work and sometimes for very long hours because they are understaffed.”

Mayor Partida said, “I think that having a police officer that’s worked 14 hours and has to extend that shift because there’s nobody to cover him, is not a person that you want going into a situation that they have to de-escalate.”

She said, “I believe we will need less police officers once we have our new department up and going – but we’re not at that place yet.”

The Mayor added, I’m supportive of giving our police officers the help that they currently need.”

“We’re not doing this to increase the numbers.  We are doing this just to put the back that were there before.”

The council voted 5-0 to approve the item along with the rest of consent calendar.

In a statement from Yolo People Power on Wednesday, following the vote, the group which has been on the forefront of reforming the Davis Police Department since the Picnic Day incident in 2017, said, “Davis wants structural changes in public safety. We have protested and public commented for two years now. Last night, City Council did the opposite of that. They approved funding for the police department to hire two new sworn officers.”

The group said on Wednesday they believe this vote marks a reversal from the council’s position expressed in June.

At the June 15 City Council meeting, the group stated, Mayor Partida stated that hiring 2 new armed officers was “the opposite of what we’ve been talking about for a while now” and assured the public that “these two positions are not in our budget; they haven’t been added to our budget.”

City Manager Mike Webb, they said, echoed her sentiments saying, “The positions that are on that list are not budgeted, they are not in the budget, they are not funded, they are not authorized to be hired. My recommendation quite frankly just to be as clear as we possibly can be is simply to remove those positions from the list of positions moving forward.”

“Such statements and reassurances from Council and the City Manager are disingenuous in light of last night’s meeting,” Yolo People Power said. “Additionally, there has been no evidence presented by anyone to the public to prove the need for police staffing changes. It’s disappointing to see that in a city that has accomplished so much recently, we are continuing to fall back on a structure of armed police and criminalizing human beings as a substitute for true safety.”

Among the changes implemented by the council in the 18 months since the death of Georg Floyd include the support for a CRISIS-NOW model moving mental health response away from sworn police officers, the creation of a Department of Social Services, and the moving of homeless services out of the police department and into Social Services.

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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        1. Alan Miller

          I actually have no idea who Morning Joe is, that wasn’t a joke.  I’ve heard the name, couldn’t even tell you they are a newscaster.  Now I know what he looks like I guess.

  1. Don Shor

    The police department needs to be staffed sufficiently that officers are not working extended shifts on a regular basis. That is a matter of public safety. It’s also necessary to provide decent working conditions for the officers. These are not new positions, they are re-filling currently vacant positions. This was an entirely appropriate action for the city council to take.

    1. Bill Marshall

      Also, overtime rates, particularly on holidays, which is generally PERS-able income (affecting pension liabilities) etc.  Not just ‘practical’ problems, but financial/economic.
      On a strictly financial basis, this is close to a ‘push’ as to money expended.

  2. Bill Marshall

    BTW… the dispatcher position needs to be filled with whatever model the City goes with… a first responder, as it were, to respond to social services/MH/other medical emergencies, fire or police services… whatever model, they are the ‘contact point’… and, it is a high stress position to be in… a sensitive person, not an automaton/detached person is what is needed…  irrespective of the “model”…

    I’ve worked suicide prevention hot-lines… burn-out rate for a good volunteer, or paid person, is high… you need a sensitive/compassionate person… they ‘bleed’ when they hear the pain/desperation, but can only empathize and forward the information along… same for dispatchers…

  3. Ron Oertel

    She said, “I believe we will need less police officers once we have our new department up and going – but we’re not at that place yet.”

    Prediction:  Davis will never be at “that place” – regardless of the new department.

    Partly because those committing crimes are not necessarily from Davis.

    As such, they won’t have Davis social workers “talking them out of” committing crimes – or whatever that theory is.

    1. Alan Miller

      I think the theory is that go back in a time machine 30 years and give money to criminal’s parents and social service programs.  Since we can’t actually do that we defund the police now, give that money to criminal’s parents and social service programs now, suffer through 30 years of high crime from the criminals we created from the mistakes we made 30 years ago plus having no police, and in 30 years we wake up in a utopia with no cops and no crime.

  4. Alan Miller

    police are for punishment essentially

    I’d love to have a statement from the City Council and, separately, the Police Chief, in response to this comment — not that we’ll ever get one.

  5. PhillipColeman

    Well, Alan, I’ll take the bait. Try this on for size:

    The punishment of convicted criminals is not the responsibility of the police, essentially or otherwise. Punishment for violation of criminal offenses is the province of the sentencing judge in a criminal proceeding and the state/county detention component.

    A police department’s primary responsibility is the prevention of crime.

    A police department serves primarily as a deterrent to crime for those who are tempted to commit a crime, regardless of the reason, justification, blame transference, excuse, or rationale.

    No other public entity–including the one just formed in the City of Davis–is capable of deterring crime. This process may eventually prevent crime, but that lofty achievement will take at least a generation for any reversal of criminality to be seen. Meanwhile . . . .

    1. Keith Y Echols

      A police department’s primary responsibility is the prevention of crime.

      Uh….no.  Not unless you decide to station police officers at every corner in the city 24/7.

      The Police department’s primary responsibility is to ENFORCE LAWS.  That means writing tickets and capturing criminals/taking them off of the streets.  All things done AFTER a crime has been committed.

      Defunding the police is like if a community had a problem with litter everywhere.  The community decided that the solution is to address the root causes of the litter on the street (kids tourists, the homeless, lack of trash cans…etc..) while taking money away from the street sweeper’s budget resulting in messier streets.

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