Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE
Maintain safety, minimize need for police involvement on campus, in city
Picnic Day is this Saturday, and in response to UC Davis’ notoriously rowdy springtime celebration, fines for some municipal code violations, like noise and open containers, will be doubled, and police officers throughout the Enhanced Safety Zone on campus and in the city of Davis will be on higher-than-usual alert. And while this kind of enhanced policing is standard practice for many events of Picnic Day’s size, it can increase the risk of violent or upsetting interactions between police and civilians.
UC Davis Police Chief Joseph Farrow has spoken multiple times about his department’s desire to be a responsible, productive, community-oriented force and the need to build trust between the police department and the community. Last May, Chancellor Gary May announced that the department would begin prioritizing de-escalation tactics, and Farrow told The California Aggie in October that “we are trying to make this organization the best we can. We are completely changing the culture of this police department.”
Previous Picnic Days, however, have had ugly encounters between revelers and police. Most notably, in 2017, five young people were arrested and charged with felony resisting arrest after a fight broke out between the group and three undercover officers. It was unclear from dashcam footage who threw the first punch, and protests sprung up in support of the group, dubbed the Picnic Day Five.
Amid ongoing national and local discussions about policing and on a campus that has its own recent history of police violence against students, Picnic Day is a perfect opportunity for campus and city police to act on their culture-changing rhetoric and demonstrate that they’re willing to uphold their obligation to improve the relationship between police and communities. Many community members are understandably fearful and distrustful of the police, and individual officers as well as the department as a whole have a duty to prove to the community that they can and will do better.
If we want to minimize the extensive police presence on campus, then one of the best ways to do that is to minimize the need to involve the police in situations that don’t require law enforcement. It’s unavoidable that police will be on campus, but through community cooperation, we can help prevent unnecessary police interactions that put us at risk.
Policing ourselves means keeping an eye on our friends and doing what we can to de-escalate situations before they get out of hand and someone feels like their only option is to call the police. So know your own limits and don’t get so intoxicated that you’re a danger to yourself or others. If it looks like two of your buddies are spoiling for a fight, enlist a few bystanders to separate them before they start throwing punches. If you’re hosting a party, make sure you have at least a few sober, responsible people in attendance. Ask your neighbors to keep the noise down yourself before calling the police to break up the party. As much as possible, seek out alternative kinds of help, like mental health crisis hotlines and community safety initiatives –– there may be someone better equipped to safely resolve a situation than a police officer. And yeah, don’t do things that you know are stupid, dangerous or illegal and ask for trouble. Don’t steal stuff. Don’t break stuff. Don’t let your friends steal or break stuff. Absolutely don’t let anyone get behind the wheel if they’ve been drinking, even if that means wrestling a friend into an Uber against their will.
There are of course some situations that require police intervention, and you shouldn’t avoid calling for help when it’s really an emergency. But if we take care of ourselves and each other, we can de-escalate many situations before they turn into emergency and keep everyone safer.
Written by: The Editorial Board