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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

McGinness withdraws from Picnic Day investigation


Outside investigator under fire after racially insensitive remarks

John McGinness, who had been investigating an incident on Picnic Day which landed two officers of The Davis Police Department (DPD) in the hospital, recently withdrew from the investigation after coming under fire for racially insensitive remarks.

The investigator, who had been selected as an outside resource, pulled out of the investigation only hours after city councilman Will Arnold issued a statement on McGinness’ “ignorant and insensitive” remarks.

Arnold called for McGinness’ resignation Monday, May 15, only three days after a KFBK radio program interview in which McGinness compared socialism to capitalism.

“Capitalism has been unbridled, unfiltered,” McGinness said during the radio program. “If you look at certain groups within our broad population, for example, African Americans in this country did much, much, much, much better before the Civil Rights Act.”

McGinness’ comment followed claims that The Davis Police Department had made the three African American males arrested targets of racial bias.

“I never saw this as a racial investigation, but rather a decision-making investigation,” McGinness said in an interview with Fox40. “Was the conduct engaged by the Davis Police Department appropriate or not? That’s what they were seeking to find out.”

McGinness justified his claims on the radio show with Census data, claiming that data on the decline in crime rates and pregnancies in 1960 provided concrete evidence that African Americans were better off in terms of economic growth and intact families.

“I have thus far remained silent regarding the Picnic Day incident in hopes of allowing an independent, unprejudiced investigation to take place,” Arnold said in an emailed statement to The Davis Enterprise. “But the recent on-air statements of former Sheriff McGinness are beyond the pale, reveal an ignorant and insensitive view toward African-Americans, and threaten the very independence and lack of prejudice we must preserve.

This most recent development in the investigation also occurs only days after video of the incident was released, showing the officers in plain clothes fighting with a crowd of people. In a full statement provided with the video, The Davis Police Department acknowledged the then-newly hired McGinness.  

“The City Attorney’s Office has retained former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, who has extensive experience in conducting investigations and also in law enforcement management, to conduct an Internal Affairs Investigation into the conduct of the involved officers to determine whether there was any misconduct and whether any changes to departmental policy and/or training are warranted,” the statement said. “McGinness began his investigation last week. He will have access to all evidence relating to this incident, along with full access to any members of the Davis Police Department that are needed to conduct the internal investigation.”

McGinness has not acknowledged any conclusions made during his investigation, and a new outside investigator has not yet been hired.

“The department has a commitment to be transparent, but I have to balance that with the officers’ due process rights,” said Davis police chief Darren Pytel in an interview with The Davis Enterprise. “If discipline does result, I have to ensure that we arrive there in a fair, impartial way.”


Written by: Samantha Solomon – city@theaggie.org



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