Wanted – Leadership Substance on Public Safety, Not Spin
September 14, 2021
By Francesca Wright
It has been over a year that community members have been asking City Council to create meaningful structural change in how we address public safety. We have marched. We have sent public comments to City Council meetings. We have analyzed local police traffic stop and crime data, researched the underpinnings of public safety as well as examples of effective public safety practices.
We have sent petitions. We have met individually with each council member. Over 800 people signed an open letter to the Council. Three council-appointed commissions unanimously supported nine recommendations on public safety.
Our former Mayor offered a road map of how to create a Department of Public Safety that could position the City of Davis to become a leader in evidence-based prevention and early intervention.
This may be the most public pressure exerted on any council in the 23 years I have lived in Davis California. And after all of this, how has the current city council responded?
We have witnessed performative rhetoric, an increased police budget, and the most modest changes possible. All while numerous other cities are taking progressive steps forward, the very kind we’ve been urging the City of Davis to take. Our “fair city” is falling farther behind the curve.
Recently the Mayor invited the Chair of the Police Accountability Commission, and the leadership team of Yolo People Power to meet and discuss differing perceptions of what the City Council has accomplished. We heard from the Mayor that downtown business owners are worried about crime. We heard from the Vice-Mayor that “all those people who called in to defund the police don’t know what they are talking about.”
What was sadly missing from their comments hurt more. We did not hear their plan to address disparities in the ways people of color are treated by police in Davis. We did not hear their plans to shift code enforcement and traffic control to unarmed personnel or to narrow permissible reasons for making traffic stops. We heard no efforts to adopt anti-racist policies in the city despite council members’ appearance at multiple Black Lives marches, even claiming that racism must be systemically addressed like Covid-19. We heard no commitment to create a department-level position to oversee and direct evidence-based public safety.
Basically, Council has accepted the police chief’s concession to move two homeless outreach workers out of his department, earmarked some one-time funding for an analyst. Thankfully, they have agreed to participate in an important county-led mental health response project, “Crisis Now,” which has already been wholeheartedly embraced by Woodland and West Sacramento.
While they have not resisted the county’s vision, they have not advanced Davis’ vision. This is not leadership. This is maintenance of the status quo.
I no longer feel it is worth providing research and advocating for structural change with this Council. Until we have persons in office who can imagine better, who will incorporate research into policy, who will provide clear direction to staff, and who have an agenda for change, we will remain the community where those with racial and economic privilege can pretend all is well. Meanwhile, police will continue to justify helicopter surveillance and use of attack dogs to capture homeless seeking warmth in the winter; to stop, search and arrest black people nearly six times more than white folks; and to persist in the misperception that policing is reducing harm.
To have meaningful change we need effective visionary leadership.
Francesca Wright is a Davis resident and the co-founder of Yolo People Power
Imagine better, oh Council!
Posted by: Alan Miller | September 14, 2021 at 03:13 PM
This council's attitude described by Francesca, has played out with so many issues on which Davis residents have made their voices clear. Truly, citizen concerns have fallen on deaf ears. For example, although Davis just voted No on DISC, the developer, with the council's full support, is poised to place the project back on the ballot in June 2022. Not one council member reached out to my neighborhood to discuss the many serious concerns we had about the project even though we are the district the mayor supposedly represents. It is a sad time for Davis.
Posted by: Pam Gunnell | September 14, 2021 at 03:22 PM
I would like to share 2 thoughts in response to the article above and Pam Gunnell's post:
I just finished reading a long thread on NextDoor concerning homelessness. By and large, people seem to want the police to do more about this problem and the increase of petty crime associated with it. I'm not sure our city is of one voice in the issue of policing.
Second, I agree with Ms. Gunnell that there is inadequate communication between city council members and constituents. In years gone by, it was fairly easy to have a chat with city council members at farmers' market on Saturday. That seems to be gone. The city does provide an email subscription service to enable your representative to communicate with you. I'm subscribed, but have not received any communications for district 4 since enrolling. Here is the link to sign up if interested.
Posted by: George Galamba | September 14, 2021 at 04:06 PM
"Until we have persons in office who can imagine better, who will incorporate research into policy, who will provide clear direction to staff, and who have an agenda for change..."
I think this leads to 3 questions:
1) Without the credible threat of loosing an election will anyone currently on Council change?
2) Does any challenger have a chance of overcoming the massive incumbent advantage district elections creates?
3) Will anyone even attempt to run against the incumbents in the next council election?
Posted by: Colin Walsh | September 14, 2021 at 10:36 PM
"police will continue to justify helicopter surveillance and use of attack dogs to capture homeless seeking warmth in the winter"
I'm still waiting for some explanation as to what the above refers to (this was earlier posted in the Vanguard). Is this referring to some single incident that occurred in another county or state - or is there an accusation that Davis police use helicopter surveillance and attack dogs to capture homeless seeking warmth in the winter?
I'd really like that clarified by the author.
Posted by: Alan Miller | September 15, 2021 at 08:11 AM
# crickets #
Does anyone know of the use of "helicopter surveillance" and "attack dogs" in Davis to "capture homeless seeking warmth in the winter". In Yolo County? In Sacramento? Anywhere? When they capture then for seeking warmth, do they put them in cold cells so they still aren't warm?
Posted by: Alan Miller | September 16, 2021 at 02:31 PM
# crickets #
Posted by: Alan Miller | September 18, 2021 at 02:01 PM
Alan, it appears the answer to your question is "NO". But it sure sounds sensational doesn't it?
Posted by: Keith | September 19, 2021 at 07:37 AM
I Googled searched for this, first locally, then nationally. I can't even find one such incident. I had challenged this in the Vanguard before it was reposted here, but it was not corrected before appearing in the Davisite. Is it so hard to answer the question, oh author of this article?
Posted by: Alan Miller | September 19, 2021 at 08:16 PM
Posted by: Alan Miller | September 21, 2021 at 02:45 AM