Davis Residents Want Police Reform, Study Finds

Davis Police Car

Davis Police Car

By Lauren Smith

 

DAVIS, CA – As a result of the recommendations to Davis city council to engage the community voice in discussions over reimagining public safety, the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research (CHPR) presented the results of a 2020 research study on public opinion about public safety in Davis, Sacramento and Boyle Heights, during Monday night’s Social Services Commission meeting.

 

The aim of the research study as stated by Dr. Karen Shore, a research fellow at CHPR, was to “conduct public deliberation sessions on police reforms in three communities, Boyle Heights, Davis, [and] Sacramento.”

 

The main method of outreach was via Next Door posting and outreach by the city.

 

The core question for study participants was, “Taking into account the unique circumstances in your local community, and speaking on behalf of your community (versus as an individual), what police reforms are most acceptable in your local community in the next 1-3 years?”

 

The participants could select any of the following four options:

  1. Increase transparency and accountability within policing
  2. Enhance training of police to better match their current responsibilities
  3. Reduce policing by shifting responsibility for nonviolent responses
  4. Replace/re-imagine policing with other systems of community safety/justice

 

Each participant was provided with background information, including that “the city devotes over 30% of its unrestricted tax revenue to the police department” and that a lower percentage is “allocated to parks and community services, fire, and public works.”

 

In addition, Davis participants were told that a “2% decrease in police funding” specific to the Davis budget, “could allow for the hiring of an estimated 7 behavioral health case managers, or 9 paramedics, or 11 mental health peer support workers.”

 

After each participant selected their choice from the above options, they engaged in a group deliberation, and then were asked to vote again, with added freedom in creating additional options that were not part of the original four choices.

 

There were 126 participants who participated in the study overall, 44 of them were from Davis. Of those 44 participants, 81% were white, 5% were black, and 2% were Asian/Pacific Islander, with no Hispanic or Latinx participants. In addition, 34% of the Davis participants were aged 65 or older, 27% were aged 56-64, 25% were aged 46-55, 7% were aged 36-45, 5% were aged 26-35, and 2% were aged 18-25. The gender breakdown was 52% women and 48% men.

 

Dr. Shani Buggs, Assistant Professor with the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis, shared the study results.

 

7% of the Davis participants selected option 1, increasing transparency and accountability in policing. The participants expressed that “greater transparency will cause people to think more about what they say and do.”

 

25% percent of Davis participants selected option 2, enhanced training of police. The participants reasoned that “enhanced training would build trust and promote more positive relationships with the community.”

 

34% percent of Davis participants selected option 3, reducing policing by shifting responsibility for nonviolent responses. According to Dr. Buggs, “mental health needs were mentioned by many of the participants, as well as a need for deescalation of the situation.”

 

In addition, the participants discussed challenges “such as shortages in professional mental health counselors or social workers, or the fact that there is limited information shared with dispatch when 911 calls come in so it could be hard to match the right professionals to the needs of the person being responded to.”

 

34% percent of Davis participants selected option 4, replace/re-imagine public safety. Dr. Buggs stated that participants who chose this option discussed the “need to address root causes of violence and crime such as structural racism, mass incarceration, disproportionate resources, and the historical effects of redlining.”

 

Dr. Buggs stated that one participant in particular stated, “if everyone’s needs were met, would we need the police?”

 

The participants who selected option 4 also stated that the “institutions of policing in America are too resistant to substantial reforms and too lenient about harms caused by the police to sufficiently meet community safety needs in an equitable and fair manner.”

 

In addition, they discussed a “constant fear of police among community members, particularly those from marginalized communities.”

 

Dr. Buggs pointed out that “a majority of respondents voted for significant changes to current policing.”

 

Overall, the timeframe of 1-3 years was a “key factor” in the participants’ decisions. Dr. Buggs stated that “there was a lot of conversation about how ready the communities are for substantial reforms of public safety and some participants talked about the community not being ready for substantial change and some communities said there was support for significant reforms and it was important to begin now if structural and substantive changes are desired by community members.”

 

Based on these results, the researchers recommend that Davis “should work strongly to engage more community members, including those not typically involved in civic engagement regarding police reforms” and those “communities/people who are disproportionately impacted by policing.”

 

The study found that overall, “substantial reforms are desired” and that “participants recognized that 1-3 years was not enough time for substantial reform to be completed, so an expanded time frame is important to be considered and planned for.”

 

Patricia Powers, a principal consultant with the CHPR, stated that “people took very seriously that they weren’t just representing their own views and they frequently said ‘there aren’t a lot of people of color in this session, but we need to keep that in mind and how they may view the question’ that was asked in the group.”

 

Public commenter Connor Gorman highlighted that the age demographics of the Davis participants “are quite skewed on the upper end compared to the population in Davis,” yet despite that, “a vast majority of the participants still chose options 3 or 4.” 

 

Gorman also highlighted that the city council recently voted to reinstate “several armed sworn police officer positions into the City of Davis budget despite previously saying they would not constitute those positions and despite opposition from various community members.”

 

“This shows the desire of people in the community to redirect funding from the police department [to other] services and programs that we know will really reduce harmful behavior and crime,” he continued.

 

Gorman also highlighted what a 2% decrease in the police budget could do stating, “the 2% number was mentioned, like what could you do with [that] when you reduce the police budget even by 2% so that is something that I hope the city continues to pursue and I hope this commission continues to pursue it as well.”

 

Commissioner Alana O’Brien echoed Connor’s concern on the demographics of the Davis participants in “both age and race,” asking what outreach efforts were done in regards to students. 

 

Dr. Shore stated that there was “some outreach to students” but the time of the sessions, 4pm-6pm or 5pm-7pm, may have “limited who could participate,” adding that “20 people would sign up, and 12 or 13” people would attend the session.

 

Commissioner Susan Perez stated that “we try our hardest to elicit a range of voices and experiences, but at the end of the day it’s kind of like who’s willing to show up and speak to this and it tends to skew towards individuals who are more civically involved and with civic engagement also comes the privilege of time and resources so you absolutely see that reflected in the demographics.”

 

Commission Chair Judith Ennis questioned what outreach methods were done to connect with “communities that are disproportionately impacted by policing.”

 

“It was primarily community based organizations (CBO),” Powers responded. “We were looking at zip codes, we were looking at race, ethnicity in terms of faith based organizations, we pretty much did it that way, the combination of CBO’s that would be vehicles to reach individuals that may be disproportionately affected.”

 

Ennis concluded that if “this were to continue” she hopes to see “a greater spread in the diversity of the participants.”

 

About The Author

Jordan Varney received a masters from UC Davis in Psychology and a B.S. in Computer Science from Harvey Mudd. Varney is editor in chief of the Vanguard at UC Davis.

Related posts

33 Comments

  1. Ron Oertel

    Public commenter Connor Gorman highlighted that the age demographics of the Davis participants “are quite skewed on the upper end compared to the population in Davis,” yet despite that, “a vast majority of the participants still chose options 3 or 4.” 

    Seems to me that a “vast majority” didn’t respond at all:

    There were 126 participants who participated in the study overall, 44 of them were from Davis.

     

  2. Keith Olson

    The participants could select any of the following four options:

    Increase transparency and accountability within policing
    Enhance training of police to better match their current responsibilities
    Reduce policing by shifting responsibility for nonviolent responses
    Replace/re-imagine policing with other systems of community safety/justice

    The title of this article states that “Davis Residents Want Police Reform Study Finds” but all four options were all about reform.  So is it all that much of a surprise that that  a whole 44 people from Davis chose reform?

     

     

     

  3. Matt Williams

    I was one of the 126 participants in the study.  It was a study, not a poll and required several hours of participation in multiple Zoom meetings.  The participants were volunteers.  The full pool of volunteers was screened to select the 126 in a manner such that overt biases were avoided.  If I remember correctly the four choices referenced in the article were not the only ones that the participants had to choose from; however none of the participants expressed any interest in the “continue the status quo” options presented in the first pass.  Based on my observations in the Zoom meetings, all the participants recognized that there were trade offs in the alternatives that the sense of the group most actively supported … as well as trade offs associated with the make no changes alternative.  The multi-part question cited in the article was used to comparatively weigh the sense of the group regarding those trade offs.

    1. Ron Oertel

      The full pool of volunteers was screened to select the 126 in a manner such that overt biases were avoided.

      Not sure if you were one of the 44 within that 126, but it’s probably not all that important in your case.

      however, none of the participants expressed any interest in the “continue the status quo” options presented in the first pass

      Just noting that being willing to participate beyond that point reflects an “interest” in police reform, and as such already reflects a bias.

      Even being willing to participate in the “first pass” cannot be extrapolated to the larger population.

      The article itself notes “leading” questions. Perhaps they could have also noted how many starving people in the world could be fed by laying-off police.

        1. Matt Williams

          Yes and no, Keith.  As I remember it, the full complement of questions covered the full spectrum of options. The process of narrowing down the full question set by the participants themselves was not “leading” at all … it was reflective of the collective thoughts of the participants as expressed in their answers.  The questions taken out of that context do have the appearance of being leading, but I do not believe they were leading in the slightest degree.

          1. David Greenwald

            Thanks for sharing your experience – in fairness, if you read the survey document they put out, it was hard to tell how they went about doing it.

        2. Matt Williams

          I agree David.  That is why I shared my first-hand experience.  It had its flaws, but it was a modest forward step in my opinion.  I was glad I got to participate.

  4. Rick Entrikin

    This study clearly wasn’t designed to determine what we, the people of Davis, want or expect from our police department.   And after offering four possible “reforms,” only 34% of Davis participants chose “replace/re-imagine public safety.”  That is 15 of 70,000 Davis residents.  An no one I know was among those 15, or among the entire contingent of 44 from Davis.

    Here’s a much more accurate title for this so-called research study of a 70,000-member community:

    “Only 44 Davis residents cared enough about police reform to complete a Next door poll – and only 15 voted to replace or re-imagine the Davis Police Department!

    [edited]

    1. Matt Williams

      Rick, it wasn’t a NextDoor poll.  It was a UC Davis research study covering multiple California cities.  Since I live outside the City Limits, I don’t know if I was one of the 44, but I absolutely was one of the 126.

      1. Ron Oertel

        From the article:

        The main method of outreach was via Next Door posting and outreach by the city.

         

        covering multiple California cities.

        What other cities? And why only 126 responses, then?

        Was the “problem” ever defined? (For example, did they ask about catalytic converter thefts, parked car break-ins, “smash-and-grab” incidents, increased murders and assaults, car jackings, etc.?)

      2. Rick Entrikin

        Well, Matt, I now know one of the 126 (you), but still don’t know if I know one of the 44 “from Davis.”   But as I read the article and Ron O., confirmed in his quoted text, the main recruiting tool was Nextdoor.   So I still choose to label the recruiting process, if not the entire “study,” a poll.

  5. Keith Olson

    “Only 44 Davis residents cared enough about police reform to complete a Next door poll – and only 15 voted to replace or re-imagine the Davis Police Department!

    Well stated.  It all depends in how it’s framed.

      1. Ron Oertel

        Though I guess one could argue that “reimaging” mental health services might have resulted in him being alive, today. Who knows, really.

        I always get his assailant confused with the “other” guy, who tried to kill Reagan.

        This country made a mistake in shutting-down asylums, without an alternative system in place.

        But certainly, in the minority regarding the reason that most violent crime occurs.

  6. Mark Yelton

    If you do not like the product, in this case, the survey results, then attack either those conducting it or the words defining. Reform is not that scary, people unless used in front of the word school. The definition of reform is to make changes in; something, typically a social, political, or economic institution or practice) to improve it, the keyword is “improve”. For those who like to sing, then imagine is to form a mental image of something in one’s mind. As such, the image in one’s mind may not be universally shared. The same could be said for the word reimagine, which is to imagine or conceive something in a new way. The significant difference is the reference to something that already exists. An example could be changing the name of the Police Department to Public Service Agency. There is a simple example that has caused an uproar when attempts have been made to make such a change even though no other change such as scope, budget, or number of officers were to be changed, it would still be a rose, but people thought the threat of calling the Public Service Agency on someone made them sound less impressive. I agree the limited number of people involved cannot be seen as representative of the ‘people’ and the only action is not a call for change but a more complete survey – this was not a poll by definition.

    1. Ron Oertel

      If you do not like the product, in this case, the survey results, then attack either those conducting it or the words defining.

      I don’t believe anyone on here has done either of those things.

      I agree the limited number of people involved cannot be seen as representative of the ‘people’ and the only action is not a call for change but a more complete survey – this was not a poll by definition.

      I’m not sure that there’s even a “call” for a more complete (or controlled) survey.

      I don’t believe that a “problem” has even been defined.  I’d start with that, if anything. If a problem hasn’t even been defined (and agreed-upon), how does one “improve” the situation? (Actually, that type of question can also be asked of other “issues” brought up. Various “crises”, and what-not.)

      Though apparently, a significant change has already been made, regarding a couple of additional positions. And like the additions to the fire department, they’re also “counting on” temporary federal money as I recall.

      My fifth comment, for today.

       

  7. Alan Miller

    Clearly everyone, the participants, the gov’t consultants, the commission, the commenters, the writer – agreed on one thing:  the participants didn’t represent Davis.  I mean if you start with, “there were 126 participants . . .  with no Hispanic or Latinx participants” how do you even continue the session without starting over with outreach?

    But one statement was tragically humorous:

    people took very seriously that they weren’t just representing their own views and they frequently said ‘there aren’t a lot of people of color in this session, but we need to keep that in mind and how they may view the question’ that was asked in the group.

    This is the very essence of the error of progressive identity politics:  the ‘on-behalf-of’ fallacy.  We know what is best for marginalized groups, so we will believe as they would and act as they would act and speak on their behalf.  One problem, of course, is white progressives always assume the marginalized groups they are proxying ‘on-behalf-of’ are as left-of-left as they are, when in fact many black, h/lx, Asians have strong and varying conservative values that are assumed away, so these white progressives are only assuming for progressives in those groups, getting it partly wrong anyway because they ‘are not them’, and ignoring the more conservative folk.  The “principal consultant with the CHPR” clearly can’t see the inherent bias in themselves and therefore in their statement.

    The solution to selection failure is to try, try again and get your selection right, not have the whole group take it upon themselves to speak up for what they think others would believe who they cannot possibly represent.  The entire study or poll or session or whatever it was should be thrown in the trash, and considered reflective of nothing but a jumble of the values of the creators and participants which was then whitewashed as some sort of reflection of Davis.

    Fail 😐

    1. Matt Williams

      Alan, in basketball there is a tried and true adage … “Never up, never in.”  You choose to only see the relative emptiness of the glass (metaphorically), rather than the relative amount the glass has been filled. It is true that the amount filled is modest, but it is a start.  Your approach leaves us stuck with our feet encased in concrete.

    2. Rick Entrikin

      Excellent analysis, Alan.  And even though I don’t identify as “disproportionately affected,” I am interested when someone I don’t even know cares enough to speak on my behalf and claims to know what I want.   So, it was with the title:

      Davis Residents Want….

      You did a fine job of arguing that claim, but I was still intrigued about whether Matt W., was one of the 44 “Davis residents,” since he lives outside the city limits, in El Macero.   But since El Macero shares the 95618 zip code with much of Davis east of Pole Line Road, Matt must have been considered a Davis resident – one of 44 – on that basis.

      Still, and even though Matt is typically thorough and thoughtful, I disagree with him that Alan M’s

      “…approach leaves us stuck with our feet encased in concrete.”

      In fact, the authors of the study under discussion could have used some concrete – as foundation for their conclusions.

      Even if the study was considered “preliminary,” it appeared biased from the start, and certainly wasn’t scientific.   Supporters of changes to our policing and community safety policies should insist on sound design and solid data to support their claims.  Poorly-grounded, over-reaching extrapolations actually harm, rather than help, efforts to improve community safety for all.

  8. Ron Oertel

    Dr. Buggs stated that one participant in particular stated, “if everyone’s needs were met, would we need the police?”

    Ask Bernie Madoff, or Jeffrey Epstein. That is, if you happen to run into them wherever they’re “residing”, now. And if you do, you might want to rethink your other beliefs, as well.

    But in all seriousness, most of those committing serious crimes already have their “needs” met (e.g., food, shelter, and significant opportunities to control one’s destiny).

    There’s parts of the world in which the population has far-fewer of their “needs” met, but don’t experience the same level of crime.  One might conclude that crime isn’t usually related to “need”.

  9. Ron Oertel

    This is the very essence of the error of progressive identity politics:  the ‘on-behalf-of’ fallacy.  We know what is best for marginalized groups, so we will believe as they would and act as they would act and speak on their behalf.  One problem, of course, is white progressives always assume the marginalized groups they are proxying ‘on-behalf-of’ are as left-of-left as they are, when in fact many black, h/lx, Asians have strong and varying conservative values that are assumed away, so these white progressives are only assuming for progressives in those groups, getting it partly wrong anyway because they ‘are not them’, and ignoring the more conservative folk.

    Personally, I only claim to speak on behalf of somewhat older, white males. Or, at least anyone with my name in my own home who matches that description, assuming that there’s only one of us. (Well, let’s hope that there’s only one of us. Otherwise, I’m going to have to start referring to myself as “they”.)

    1. Alan Miller

      Well, let’s hope that there’s only one of us. Otherwise, I’m going to have to start referring to myself as “they”.

      It’s 2022.  There can be only one of you, and you can refer to yourself as “they”.  It’s a brave new world 🙂

  10. Bill Marshall

    A very small ‘data point’… you need at least two ‘scientific data points’ to define a line… much more for a ‘trend’…

    The study population was very small… and “Boyle Heights” (neighborhood in LA), along with Davis and Sacramento?

    Also, the ‘authorities’ the author cited…

    the UC Davis Center for Healthcare Policy and Research (CHPR)

    main method of outreach was via Next Door posting and outreach by the city (which one, or all?)

    Dr. Shani Buggs, Assistant Professor with the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis

    Methodology, implicit bias, lack of depth, lack of corroboration (except by self-selected folk who show up at Commission/CC meetings), means I give the confidence level, meriting “reporting”, at about 0.01%.

    And the ‘editing’ review before posting @ ~ 1%

    Maybe ‘filler’ or an exercise for an ‘intern’…

     

    1. Rick Entrikin

      Appreciate the thorough analysis, Bill.  Agree fully.  But even after numerous accounts of serious “study” flaws, the Vanguard retains the hyperbolic headline:

                  Davis Residents Want….

      And since that might be the most egregious claim of the entire post, now wondering who is responsible for such a misleading headline.

      1. Bill Marshall

        The editors, those who post the headlines?  The “Commander in Chief”?

        Good question.  Suspect there will be no answer (from the ‘powers that be’)… this issue is not ‘pandemic’ on the site, it is ‘endemic’.  No ‘spikes’… more like SOP

        At a 50% confidence level, this post will disappear or be ‘edited’ before noon tomorrow…

        [aka, ‘Hearst reporting/journalism’]

        1. David Greenwald

          The students are in charge of their own publication, so the headline was either from Jordan or Lauren. That said, I probably would have gone with something similar. It’s not really that overreaching as some are suggesting.

        2. Alan Miller

          It’s not really that overreaching as some are suggesting.

          True.  I WANT a Pony.  So does the little girl who lives down the lane.

          Headline:   People in Davis want a pony.

    2. hansenrobj

      I didn’t read the study’s methodology but a sample of 126 is not large enough to get a fair representation of the population. Maybe they should have focused on one city rather than three. Qualitative research and analysis like this is much more difficult to come to reach any solid conclusions typically. If students were involved, then they had a limited time frame to gather samples which is another issue. I would have went door to door and conduct a smaller survey that asked direct questions. Do you support police reform? Do you support current law enforcement practices? Neutral? Do you somewhat support reform? Do you somewhat support current practices? But that’s just me.
      That said, there is a movement to reimagine policing and however that looks will depend on each city and county across the nation as city councils and county supervisors determine how much money police receive. Who people vote for is a good indication of what people think. Come to think of it, that gives me an 🤔🧐🤓

  11. Rick Entrikin

    There is no question that the study cited in this article is flawed in many ways.   And there is simply no way that an objective journalist could conclude anything from that study, let alone the claim that “Davis Wants…”.

    And yet, after being apprised of those facts, the Editor of The Vanguard continues to display a title that is misleading at best and, arguably, downright false.  In his words,

    The students are in charge of their own publication, so the headline was either from Jordan or Lauren. That said, I probably would have gone with something similar. It’s not really that overreaching as some are suggesting.

    To the contrary, the article is identified as being  “Breaking News” of the Davis Vanguard, not UC Davis Vanguard or even Student Opinion.

    Posted by Jordan
    Date: January 27, 2022
    in: Breaking News, City of Davis, Law Enforcement

    And even if this article were part of the students’ “…own publication…,” I seem to recall the Vanguard Editor claiming to be a “mentor” of student interns.   Does that role not extend to advising student writers who publish on this site under the banner of The Davis Vanguard?

    If the Vanguard is truly committed to journalistic integrity, it will not publish misleading headlines, whether or not they fit a particular narrative or if written by a student.   After all, The Davis Vanguard does  have Guiding Principles:

    Accuracy

    Our fundamental goal, whether it is a news story, commentary or investigative piece is the pursuit of truth. We must do our best to ensure that what we report creates an accurate depiction of reality. When we do err – which is inevitable – we will do our best to correct the stories and the record in a way that makes sense. We must rigorously and systematically review our facts and be convinced of their accuracy prior to reporting them to the public.

    Emphasis added.

     

Leave a Reply

X Close

Newsletter Sign-Up

X Close

Monthly Subscriber Sign-Up

Enter the maximum amount you want to pay each month
$ USD
Sign up for