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Davis, California

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Davis Police Accountability Commission hosts first regular meeting

PAC discusses new independent police auditor, develops community outreach plan

On Feb. 7, the City of Davis’ Police Accountability Commission conducted its first regular meeting. The commission discussed the police department’s strategic plan, the new independent police auditor and the commission’s future community outreach plan. Police Chief Darren Pytel also gave the commission an overview of the Davis Police Department’s current state.

PAC consists of nine members and one alternate. One of the members, Jonathan Laraque-Ho, represents ASUCD. PAC has been in the works as a component of the city’s developing police oversight plan since April of 2017. The commission was finalized in fall of 2018.

“There had been concerns of years, if not decades, about use of force in the PD here in Davis and the particular relationship that the police had with people of color in the community and people with disabilities, particularly the homeless as well,” said Dillion Horton, the PAC vice chair.

Although this was PAC’s first regular meeting, the commission had conducted a special meeting on Jan. 31. During its special meeting, the commission members received their orientation and were able to become familiar with each other.

“The first meeting wasn’t a regular meeting, so we kind of think of the meeting that happened [on Feb 7.] as the first real meeting,” Horton said. “The first meeting, we had an orientation from the city staff on what our role would be relative to the [DPD] and the police auditor.”

The meeting began with public comment. Yolo County District Attorney Dean Johansson spoke about how PAC has been a goal in the community for a very long time.

“Back in 2005, 2006, this was what people dreamed of, is having a commission like [PAC],” Johansson said. “And there are many that aren’t going to be here that fought very long and hard for what [the commission is] now a part of.”

Along with the formation of PAC, the city hired Michael Gennaco, a new interim independent police auditor, in 2018. On Feb. 5, he was officially hired for a more permanent position. Gennaco is based in Southern Calif. and is under contract. He is not an official city of Davis employee.

“The council had on our agenda […] a section of a more permanent police auditor,” said city assistant manager Kelly Stachowicz during the meeting. “Because that was just approved [Feb. 5], he is not here this evening. He will start coming to these meetings next month.”

While Gennaco was not present at the first meeting of the commission, he will be present for all future PAC meetings. During this time, he will be able to meet with the commission members and the Davis community.

Afterward, the commision had a brief introduction to DPD’s strategic plan for 2017-2019. While PAC may not be able to change the plan, its input and criticisms of the plan may affect the new plan that the DPD is drafting for 2020.

One of the responsibilities of PAC, according to the referendum establishing PAC, is to develop a community outreach plan. During the meeting, PAC began discussions of this plan. In the future, PAC plans on conducting its meetings throughout Davis in order to reach different communities and wider demographics.

“We’re going to need [to] meet some of these people where they are,” Horton said. “I think we are going to have to make a direct outreach to communities of color and what I like to call constituencies of concern [in order to make] sure that they know that the organization exists and what our role is and what we can help them do if they reach out to us.”

During the meeting, Pytel also talked about the current state of the DPD. According to Pytel, there are a high number of vacancies in the DPD. In a typical year, the DPD has two or three vacancies; now, there are currently seven.

“One of the questions that I asked the chief [about] was if there was a really strong feeling about the anti-police nature of some of the conversations that have happened in Davis over the last few years that [have made] officers in the DPD feel unwanted or unwelcome in the city,” Horton said. “Not that we were unaware of that, but I think that the chief’s comments kind of brought that dynamic into sharp release maybe more so than we expected.”

While the meeting went over the scheduled amount of time, according to Horton, there were many aspects of the meeting that he considers a success.

“The first meeting generally went well,” Horton said. “I think the meeting went well in terms of the public comment. I think it went well in terms of we handled the outreach plan early on. And I was also glad we had an opportunity to talk to the chief. I think really it was good that we had the chance to have a conversation about the 2019 strategic plan, which I think informed some of the questions that we had for the chief for when he arrived later on in the agenda.”

The PAC will meet on the first Thursday of every month at the Davis Senior Center. Those interested in attending a meeting can find more information on the City of Davis website.

Written by: Hannan Waliullah — city@theaggie.org


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