Local police have been attending ASUCD committee meetings since 2007 in order to communicate with students and residents about issues they may be having.
But the real issue, committee members say, is getting students and residents to show up.
Problems from the start
The ASUCD Student-Police Relations Committee suffers from chronic low attendance, an issue that has plagued the committee since its inception. The committee was formed in 2005 but had infrequent leadership and attendance, often remaining empty for quarters at a time. The committee was re-established in 2007 and despite having consistent committee chairs, has had trouble getting people to come to meetings.
“It’s like pulling teeth,” said Kara Rodenhizer, current chair of the committee. “I can’t chase [members] down and tell them they have to go, after all.”
Rodenhizer said that although participation from both the Davis and UC Davis Police Departments has been constant, getting student committee members to attend has been more difficult.
“I’ve been willing to change meeting times,” she said. “A lot of people don’t respond. Some people have said directly that they’re not interested.”
Committee membership includes representatives from both police departments, ASUCD, and over a dozen campus, student and greek organizations. The committee met on Mar. 10, 17 and 24 and on Apr. 7, Rodenhizer said.
The committee held a Student-Police meet and greet event last Thursday on the M.U. Patio, which featured several police officers available for questions in addition to having police cars and equipment on display.
Originally slated to occur last spring, the event was cancelled due to outcry over the timing. Students from several organizations objected to a police event happening on campus at the same time as La Raza Cultural Days.
Rodenhizer said that the event was going well until the last 10 minutes when a group of approximately one dozen students arrived, protesting the event. The protestors, led by Laura Mitchell, protested the police presence on campus.
Mitchell also led much of the Mar. 4 student fee protests on the UC Davis campus and was arrested on suspicion of inciting a riot and resisting arrest.
“The protest was an impromptu reaction to the police meet and greet,” Mitchell said in a prepared statement. “This could have been a more productive conversation had the event planning been more widely publicized.”
UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza agrees that more publicity would probably benefit the committee.
“I think [attendance] has been a little disappointing,” she said. “I think the [committee] chairs have done a great job and it’s been pretty much a solid committee, but I don’t believe the community is taking full advantage. Maybe that’s the first step we take, increasing publicity.”
Rodenhizer believes that the committee should become a full-fledged commission because she feels commissioners are more likely to attend meetings if it’s in their job description.
“It would increase the likelihood of people showing up to each meeting. There would be a more consistent attendance,” she said.
In addition to attendance, becoming a commission would mean having a budget. ASUCD committees make informal recommendations to the senate and do not receive any money from ASUCD. Unfortunately, the committee appears to be caught in a catch-22.
“My personal sentiment is that we have to have a committee that works before we give it full commission powers,” said ASUCD President Jack Zwald. “The number one problem is that we don’t have a system that works. The number two problem is that there’s an overlap with the External Affairs Commission. It would also cost money; commissions aren’t free.”
In regards to future events, Rodenhizer said the committee is contemplating an event prior to safeboats and another one tentatively titled Know Your Rights as a Protestor.
“A lot of students feel that the police were harassing them or beating them [on Mar. 4], but in reality the police were protecting the students because they could have been hit by cars,” she said.
Mitchell is skeptical of the idea.
“‘Know Your Rights’ trainings have been lead regularly this year in collaboration between activists and legal professionals,” she said in her statement. “I would be very critical of police-developed training.”
RICHARD PROCTER can be reached at email@example.com.