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Davis, California

Friday, April 12, 2024

On the Davis Police Department

By ERIKA “KIKI” GEDGAUDAS — emgedgaudas@ucdavis.edu


For nearly two years, my friends and I have joked about how safe Davis is, how walking and biking at night is a common, enjoyable occurrence, how the unlit streets of Davis aren’t a problem because clearly seeing the stars is a joy. Over the last five days, though, my friends and I were proven wrong three times over. I have never felt a thicker air of paranoia shared amongst so many people following the week’s tragedies.

What is the city and campus of Davis doing to quell our fears? For starters, a shelter-in-place order was implemented — for four hours. My classes were canceled — for one day, and by the discretion of professors, not administrators. The consensus among the powers of Davis seems to be that residents of Davis should “really” be more careful about their activity; Police chief Darren Pytel put it best, saying, “People have to make smart choices about where it is they go, what it is that they’re doing and whether they’re able to pay attention to their surroundings.”

Pytel choosing to shift the blame onto the victims, students and residents of Davis isn’t just a mistake, it’s what the department does best. The Davis Enterprise, reporting on the most recent stabbing, notes that the victim’s friends called the police two hours before she was stabbed, with no response. The group (yes, they were in a group, something the Davis Police Department (DPD) has repeatedly advised residents of Davis to do) correctly identified the suspect, but the local police incredulously chose to ignore the potentially life-saving tip.

In his press conference to the city of Davis, Pytel touted the number of resources that have been made available to the department, including, but not limited to, the Sacramento, West Sacramento, Yolo County and Elk Grove police departments, two K9 units and multiple crime labs, including one operated by the Department of Justice. Yet, their combined powers failed to apprehend the suspect who reportedly escaped on foot.

My qualm with the language directed toward the residents of Davis, therefore, lies in Pytel’s lack of explanation as to how the force dedicated to “protect and serve” our city is unquestionably failing to do so. He claims that in 40 years, the DPD has never seen incidents like these unfolding. How can we trust a police force that is so clearly incompetent at addressing crime? Were the victims of the stabbings simply forgetting to make “smart choices”? How are we, a majority population of students under the age of 27, meant to take care of ourselves when those whose job it is to keep us safe admit to not being able to do so?

It is difficult to put my outrage into words, and difficult to find a moment to grieve when enrolled at an institution that has barely taken a moment to pay respects to the lost life of a student. We, as a campus and as a community, suddenly find ourselves adjacent to tragedy yet unsure how to proceed. I am, of course, grateful that there have been some moments of closure among the community, through vigils, social media posts and email blasts, sentimental or hollow as they may be; I cannot continue living in fear without condemning the actions — or rather, the inaction — taken by those we are told to trust.


Written by: Erika “Kiki” Gedgaudas — emgedgaudas@ucdavis.edu


Kiki is a second-year English major at UC Davis.

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