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Campus forums supportive of civilian oversight of Police Department


By Dave Jones


The Campus Community Survey closes today (March 15) with a response rate of at least 36.6 percent, as reported at midweek for the Davis and Sacramento campuses combined. The survey takes in all staff, faculty and students.

The survey is being administered systemwide, and UC Davis is in the last group of UC locations to participate. When it’s all done, the UC Office of the President will award a number of prizes in a random drawing — choosing the winners from among everyone who responded.

The systemwide prizes include two $5,000 faculty research grants and five $2,000 grants for staff professional development, and a pair of iPads for each UC location. See the entire list of prizes here.

The Davis campus awarded its own prizes, in four rounds, giving away four iPads and 140 gift cards. Here are the Week 4 winners.

The consensus of two campus forums this week backed the idea of establishing civilian oversight of the UC Davis Police Department and putting “some teeth” into the process.

More forums are due to be scheduled, probably next month, on the Davis and Sacramento campuses, with the dates and times to be announced.

“From a police perspective, (civilian oversight) is a good idea,” Chief Matt Carmichael said at the first of two forums held March 11 at the Student Community Center. In his department, he added, “There is no fear of civilian oversight.”

Few universities have it, making UC Davis’ effort “a big deal,” said Barbara Attard, who formerly worked in police oversight in San Francisco, San Jose and Berkeley. Now she is consulting in the oversight field and working with UC Davis to recommend an option.

She described three models of civilian oversight:

  • Investigative — An independent office of civilian investigators, responsible for the handling of complaints: intake, classification, investigations, findings and recommendations.
  • Commission — Appointed members of the community, tasked with reviewing the reports from investigations of complaints. A commission may determine findings, handle appeals, or review and make recommendations on policy issues.
  • Auditor-monitor — Audits and tracks investigations of complaints of police misconduct, and can weigh in on many aspects of police operations.

Attard said most communities have gone with a hybrid model — and UC Davis could do this, too, to ensure “a good fit.”

She added: “We want to create something unique here at UC Davis, but we need your help,” referring to the campus community.

Associate Executive Vice Chancellor Rahim Reed, who leads Campus Community Relations, said UC Davis would definitely tailor its civilian oversight “to meet our unique concerns.”

A UC Davis civilian oversight process, said Reed, relaying his take on the consensus opinion of the forums, “should be able to receive complaints directly, have investigative powers, make findings of fact and render decisions that have some ‘teeth,’ and recommend policy to the senior leadership of the campus.”

The campus Police Department has already made the complaint process easier, in the following ways:

  • The form — It is now titled “Civilian Complaint,” instead of “Citizen Complaint,” which may have been off-putting to noncitizens.
  • Anonymous complaints — Previously, the department did not accept them. Now it does.
  • Signature — Previously, the form required complainants to sign under the penalty of perjury, attesting to the statements made in the complaint. No more.

“We want the information,” Carmichael said. “We won’t retaliate. We’ll investigate.”

After that, the chief makes whatever personnel decisions he deems appropriate. Then, under the existing set-up, if there is an appeal, it comes back to him — which puts the chief in the odd position of ruling on his own decisions. A review board could handle the appeals instead: “This will help us," Carmichael said. "This will help me.”

Other forum participants emphasized the need to ensure that all campus constituencies are represented on a review board, and that whatever selection method is decided upon, that the members reflect a wide range of the campus community.

Mike Sweeney, senior campus counsel, said board members would need to be very well trained for their role.

Reed responded: “It surely means investing time and resources, and, if we go through that process, I think those results (the board’s decisions) ought to stand.

“Anything less is kind of half-doing it.”

More self-improvement

Strengthening Campus Community Forums — If you’re not too late, you can catch the second of three forums in this series from noon to 2 p.m. today (March 15) in MU II at the Memorial Union.

Everyone is invited to offer ideas on how to make the campus community stronger, more resilient, inclusive and vibrant.

Organizers said the forums include “conversations about our strengths as community assets and steps we can take to support one another, improve our deliberations and be more open to new ideas.”

The last forum is scheduled from noon to 2 p.m. in the multipurpose room at the Student Community Center.

Crucial Conversations workshops — Emotions run high, opinions vary and much is at stake. Sound familiar for your work, home or community? This three-hour workshop covers key concepts and vital tools from conflict resolution, neuroscience and organizational leadership to increase your capacity to have successful, difficult conversations. Open to faculty, other academics, staff, graduate and undergraduate students, the workshops cover such topics as why crucial conversations may veer into unproductive conflict, how to prepare for a crucial conversation, and tools to use in an effective difficult conversation. 

Two workshops have taken place, and one more is scheduled from 1 to 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 9 in MU II.

There is no charge, but space is limited — therefore, participants are asked to RSVP and commit to engage fully for the entire workshop. Reply to Loraine Hernandez-Covello, lcovello@ucdavis.edu.

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