In the aftermath of the Nov. 18 pepper spray incident, UC Davis community members began considering the possibility of developing a civilian oversight committee to oversee campus police action.
Currently, plans are underway to begin proposing models that would best fit UC Davis and the greater community.
“Oversight in its many forms provides accountability and transparency for police issues that are otherwise inaccessible to the larger community,” said Barbara Attard, private oversight and accountability consultant and former president of the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE). “Community members work to ensure that police practices reflect the values of the community— and that there is a balance between maintaining public safety and respecting constitutional rights.”
There are several basic models of civilian oversight, including the commission model, the investigative model, the auditor/monitor model or a hybrid of the three.
“We’ll be looking at identifying concerns with the current police situation, how we can better student-police relations and how we can have a level of transparency and accountability in police actions,” said Rahim Reed, associate executive vice chancellor of campus community relations at UC Davis. “Once we’ve identified those issues and concerns, we’ll look at which model best helps us reach those goals. After that, it’s going about the process of training, orienting the people who are involved … about the process and making sure there is the proper communication plan to inform the campus community at large. As a whole, civilian oversight would improve student and police relationships.”
In an Oct. 16 seminar, Attard addressed the positive and negative aspects of civilian oversight.
According to Attard, civilian oversight adds credibility and transparency to police disciplinary systems, works to improve thoroughness and fairness of complaint investigations and helps to sensitize police to community needs. However, civilian oversight can polarize the police and segments of the community, requires public funding and does not completely eliminate police misconduct.
For oversight to be successful, a number of necessary features must be met, she said. The board must remain independent from special interest groups and the police must receive adequate funding and authority and must make findings accessible to the public.
UC Davis Police Department Police Chief Matthew Carmichael is optimistic that oversight will be effective.
“I feel oversight will have a positive impact on the department but more importantly within the community,” said UC Davis Police Department (UCPD) Police Chief Matthew Carmichael. “Oversight provides the community with another avenue as it relates to the complaint process. I will continue to meet with community representatives to seek input on policy and the needs of our community.”
Currently, UC Berkeley is the only university campus in California to employ a civilian oversight agency.
STEPHANIE B. NGUYEN can be reached at email@example.com.