Nearly 40 members of the Davis community and the Davis Police Department (DPD) gathered in the Davis Veterans Memorial Center Jan. 21 for the second meeting in a series of Public-Safety Dialogues related to concerns that arose from the city’s acquisition of the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP) this past June. Although Davis is no longer in possession of the MRAP, the issue brought attention to concerns of the community related to safety and communication between the DPD and the community.
According to Judith Macbrine, facilitator of the Public-Safety Dialogue, owner of The Mirror Group and long-term Davis resident, the meeting was essential to allow both members of the DPD and the Davis community to recognize views on the issue that differ from their own.
“When there’s a hot issue like this, often people think they have the whole view of something. It’s like with a hand: if you’re looking at the palm of my hand, you have a certain view of my hand. If I’m looking at the back of my hand, I have another view of my hand. Both of us are right about what my hand looks like, but it’s incomplete,” MacBrine said.
The same notion was asserted by City Council member Brett Lee. According to Lee, there was a disconnect in communication between the community and the DPD, where the community was surprised by the acquisition, and the DPD was surprised by the community’s reaction.
“The idea of the community dialogue was to bridge that gap [between police and community],” Lee said.
Although Lee referred to the first community dialogue held in November as more informative, he believes that this second dialogue allowed people to directly converse with police officers.
“It gives the people at the different tables a chance to talk to police officers and get to know them better…[some people] never have even spoken to a police officer in Davis. It was kind of a low-key setting, just talking and interacting with each other,” Lee said.
MacBrine facilitated the meeting’s schedule and organized the table configuration to create an environment where participants felt they could express their opinions. There were approximately 15 tables in a circle consisting of people from different community groups including individuals from the city council and the DPD.
“We made sure that there is somebody from the police department in each table. But we were equal participants in the dialogue. The goal was information gathering and community awareness,” said Thomas Waltz, DPD press officer.
MacBrine began the meeting by introducing the idea of “listening to understand” explaining that “everyone is right, but only partially.” According to MacBrine, this created an accepting and open environment for people to freely share concerns.
“If you can create a safe environment for people to speak, then the different voices can start to mingle and influence each other so we can start to be creative as a community,” MacBrine said.
The participants discussed different polarities that they see within the community. The group came to consensus that the main polarity of the situation involving the MRAP, the DPD and the community was one of balancing trust and accountability.
“My hope is that by hearing these different perspectives, getting to know the reasoning behind some of the decisions that are made and realizing where there are blind spots or gaps in communication, that all of that will happen, in fact and make things better for the future,” said Davis resident Mary Loibl.
The MRAP acquisition, according to Lee, was not to create a surplus of military equipment but instead, to replace the DPD’s broken down vehicles. Furthermore, Lee said the public-safety dialogues have resulted in a general consensus from participants in the community that can now understand the police’s reasoning of purchasing the MRAP, even if they disagree with the acquisition.
“I think the next step would be the city council discussing, not of a military vehicle, but if the police force need to have access to an armoured vehicle,” Lee said.
In addition to internal discussions by the council members, future community dialogues will be held to further develop communication between the DPD and the community.
According to MacBrine, the goal of the first meeting was to gather information from participants while the goal of the second meeting was geared toward working with the conflict brought to light in the first meeting. She explains that setting this foundation is important before trying to find solutions.
“We tend, as a society, to want to fix things before we’ve really heard what we need to hear and worked with what we need to work,” Macbrine said. “I suspect that at the next dialogue we’ll start to get into some concrete things that can be done to balance this polarity that we explored at this meeting.”
Photo by Katherine Lin