UC Davis Police Accountability Board holds first public session of the year

The recently-formed UC Davis Police Accountability Board (PAB) held its Fall Quarterly Meeting on Oct. 22 at the Student Community Center. The PAB was formed in May 2014 to strengthen the relationship between the campus community and UC Davis Police Department (UCDPD). The board handles complaints made against UC Davis police officers and is responsible for making policy recommendations to the chief of police.

ASUCD representative Ben Marchman opened the public meeting shortly after 7 p.m. After introducing board members and alternates, Marchman proceeded to update the public on the board’s activities since summer. Two major themes the PAB highlighted were accountability and building community trust.

“Having these public meetings is one way to build trust with the community and bring you guys into the process,” Marchman said. “I think that’s really important, and over summer we’ve been doing that. It’s been a great process where we’ve learned a lot of things from other boards that have been doing this for a long time.”

In addition, the PAB sent alternate Abram Jones, representing the Graduate Student Association, to the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE). At the annual convention, Jones connected with other police accountability boards to provide insight from a higher education perspective, as well as receive input to make improvements. A key point the PAB took away from NACOLE was establishing a more formalized relationship with the UCDPD.

“We are an independent body that serves the community, but we also work with the police department,” Marchman said. “That doesn’t mean friendship with the police department, but equal working partners.”

Another improvement the board is pushing for is enhancing its language program for students concerned about reporting a complaint in a language they are uncomfortable speaking.

Later, UC Davis Police Chief Matthew Carmichael updated the public on the department’s recent activities. The student escort service, Safe Rides, is now wheelchair equipped and has increased its support to three vans. Its newly extended hours will provide students transportation during the hours Unitrans stops running, from campus to anywhere within the city of Davis. Online police reporting is now available, and the number of Aggie Host student patrol officers has increased for more campus coverage.

“We’ve re-diverted funding from vacant officer positions to increase security profile, after conducting comprehensive staff assessment to determine needs on campus,” Carmichael said.

Chief Carmichael also mentioned that the department is currently in good balance, with 48 police officers and 130 student officers.

Before opening up discussion to the public, Marchman addressed expectations of the public forum, informing attendees that the board may not immediately have all the answers.

“It’d be very unfair and completely reckless of me to speak on behalf of the board, especially if the board hasn’t come to a consensus on it,” Marchman said. “We want to know what you have to say, we want to hear your suggestions… but we have to go about it in a responsible and accurate way.”

Public discussion opened at 7:19 p.m. with the first comment from Theodore Mitchell, a second-year clinical nutrition major minoring in neuroscience.

“Recently in the [Sacramento News and Review], it said that UC Davis has one of the highest reporting of rapes in the college system,” Mitchell said. “Is that because of an increase in the number of reports, or are we actually having more incidents on campus?”

The board was unable to provide an answer and Marchman advised Mitchell to speak with the police department regarding the issue. Harley Litzelman, external director of ASUCD Lobby Corps responded from the public by shedding the boost in campus sexual assault reports in a positive light.

“Universities have done such a scandalously bad job of sexual assault reporting and consent education historically, that any increase in reporting indicates an improvement in the culture of reporting, rather than an actual change in the rape culture at the university,” Litzelman said.

Fifth-year African American studies and sociology major Brittany Jenkins made the next comment, regarding broken trust between the non-white community members and the UC Davis police officers.

“What would be your role in communicating concerns with people of color and communities that have distrust between the police department, and those who feel targeted or profiled?” Jenkins asked. “If we want to complain about an officer, what does that process look like and how do we build that trust back up?”

Although the PAB wished to withhold any statements directly addressing Jenkins’ question, Marchman agreed to discuss at least the process surrounding reporting. He advised those fearful of reporting in person to utilize PAB’s other resources such as online complaint submissions at pab.ucdavis.edu. He said that the Office of Compliance then investigates these reports and passes it along to PAB to further deliberate and make policy recommendations.

PAB member Tamara Cole, representing the UC Davis Health System, stated that anonymous submissions were one way to protect the identities of students and those filing complaints.

“To address your comment about trust, which is probably one of the reasons why this board was instituted in the first place, is to improve the transparency of what’s going on with police practices on campus,” Cole said. “The best way you can help us is to tell us what’s going on.”

Litzelman made the meeting’s final public comment, asking the board about its knowings and policies surrounding UC police’s receipt of military grade material. The board claimed to have no prior knowledge regarding any supplies or equipment the police department receives. However, Chief Carmichael elaborated on the issue of not having a policy.

“There’s policy as to what we can receive, how long we have to keep it and how we dispose of it, but there’s no policy that says we have to be trained on it, that we should consult with our community about the nature of the equipment and what it’s intended use is,” Carmichael said. “So we should work together to formulate a policy that talks about the 1033 DRM program, that will help us drive as a community.”

The meeting adjourned at 7:38 p.m.

The next public forum will be held at the UC Davis Medical Center on Jan. 28, 2015.