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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Interview with Former UC Davis Police Chief Calvin Handy

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Retired UC Davis Police Chief Calvin Handy. He currently sits on both the Community Advisory Board (CAB) and Police Advisory Committee (PAC). This interview primarily focused on the PAC which is one of the oversight bodies created by the City Council and the City Manager last year to help with overseeing the operations of the police.

(Due to my own limitations these answers are paraphrased for the most part rather than direct quotes).

Question: Describe for me what the PAC does

Answer: July of 2006 was the first meeting where the three members of the PAC, City Manager Bill Emlen, Interim Police Chief Steve Pierce, and Complaint Unit Officer Gina Anderson all met. The PAC conforms to a specific kind of professional review process. The city is undergoing a number of existing experiments involving a professional independent review process. They were looking at this as an experiment, but this may be the way for us to go. The PAC provides a review and evaluation of completely adjudicated complaints against any employee of the police department. We examine the complaint investigative process. We also have the ability to review and evaluate any department process. We can review training--in order to really look at process or actions--you need to understand process, guidelines, and training. The PAC makes very specific recommendations to the City Manager about a wide range of issue. However, we do not begin our own independent investigation. We can ask any question. It is beyond just a professional audit, review and evaluation. "Rather than auditing I call it an accountability process."

Question: How does the PAC's role compare with that of the CAB

Answer: It has less of a direct connection with the CAB. Ombudsman is going to be active, living, tangible point of access for people who have issues and concerns about the police department. It will be a point of interaction with the community. The PAC does not have an interactive role. It has not been decided how the two processes have come together. There is a mechanism that exists that the ombudsman has with complaints and complaint resolution, whereas we also look at and evaluate policy and training as it relates to complaints. This is an effective way to get the process off the ground. No real formal process existed to oversee aspects of the police department before. Seems like this starting process has the ombudsman and PAC working in tandem whereas the CAB was put together to serve as a feedback mechanism and a point of exchange of information about citizens and police department. The CAB and PAC are completely different and really have no overlap. The CAB works directly with the Police Chief or Interim Police Chief and the PAC is more independent.

Question: How closely have you’ve worked with the ombudsman

Answer: I met with him personally as part of his outreach. Meetings with the ombudsman are in the works. The first priority for ombudsman was meeting with the community while forming viewpoint about what his role would be. Communication role between the two at minimum see how this will work. All parties figuring out what the roles are.

Question: What do you think the strengths of the PAC are?

Answer: It is too early to say 100 percent what the strengths are. However, this process exists where it did not exist before. Many of these things ended up at the HRC prior to this. With the hiring of the ombudsman that may now shift. We provide critical and yet professional and intense evaluations of investigations. We communicate with the city manager. We look at process and any aspect of police operation. We have potentially a great deal of latitude to what can look at. We are independent and unbiased—not biased one way or the other. This process not very effective if predisposed to one group over another. Can this be improved on six months from now? Who knows.

Question: What do you think the weaknesses of the PAC are?

Answer: This is the initial establishment of that program and first public report on the PAC was February 20 at city council. There is not much out there in terms of the PAC and what it does. [Note: I told him that as much as I follow this process, I was largely unaware of what the PAC does]. Need to provide as much information as we can. We need to inform the public of the numbers of complaints and how often we meet, this can give people a better understanding about what the PAC is. There is a lot of confusion in the public about what this group is. We need to clarify the role and inform people as to who is a part of the PAC. One suggestion is that the protocols for PAC could be put online. The PAC is not meeting with community groups, rather the ombudsman is playing that role. I do not see the detriment with meeting people on the PAC and I think this will happen at some point

Question: What are your overall thoughts about the Davis police department and its operations

Answer: I am not an expert on the DPD at this point. I think that the DPD is in need of solid open community embracing leadership. If you look at the issues of the past 18 months and perhaps before, the DPD needs a good new police chief with good ideas and build ideas and build some trust, I’m not saying there is completely no trust, but there are areas where trust is lacking and this is where the new chief can made a bigger impact. The new chief needs to be open to community input. This is a good department but the number one need is a good leader who is open and accessible and approachable. Even when things are adversarial. The department could use more friends out there. Over last 13 years, my impression has been that they are trying to be more of a community department—community oriented policing. I think most officers do have a genuine intention of protecting all of the citizens of Davis. When you have communication breakdown, your motives and intentions won’t thrive. Everyone wants to feel safe—safe from crime, good safe environment. Hard to make progress without mending that particular bridge. I am very encouraged with discussions with the city manager that he wants to find a police chief who can run the department and heal the rifts in the community.

Question: Do you believe that there is racial profiling by the Davis Police Department?

Answer: My first act as [UC Davis] police chief here was to meet with large groups, students, staff, and faculty, and they had this consistent belief that racial profiling was happening in the city of Davis. It doesn’t matter what I believe. It matters what they believe. We worked hard to build bridges between students and uc Davis police department. Many think that it exists—regardless of what I think [he repeated himself for emphasis]. Problem is how it has been handled or not handled. We have allowed the issue of racial profiling to divide us and become adversarial. A huge percentage of folks in African American community think that this has happened to them. This requires a critical undertaking and inquiring into this problem. Perhaps police are thinking we are just doing our jobs—but there is a strong perception. When you have such a perception, it exists for them. It deserves more attention, more time, and I think it deserves more effort to get to the bottom of this. Really bringing forth some action. People think they are doing the right thing. I think that the police don’t think they are doing racial profiling, rather they think they are doing the right thing. This is why it is all the more important to interact, talk, and find out what happened. After 12 years it is kind of amazing given how much we engaged in the process that people are saying the same thing. This problem has just gone on for too long and too pervasive.

I thank Chief Calvin Handy for taking the time to sit down with an interview. I learned a tremendous amount by talking to him.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting