The Vanguard has a new home, please update your bookmarks to

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inside the Numbers: A Further Examination of the DPD Turnover Rate

Yesterday's Sacramento Bee ran an article that found that Citrus Highets and the Davis police departments have the highest staff turnover rates among other law enforcement agencies in the region.

To add fuel to the fire, the Bee recessitates old charges that the climate in Davis involving complaints of racial profiling and the Halema Buzayan case were the prominent if not primary culprits for this turnover rate.

"High-ranking officials from the two departments blame a variety of factors ranging from a new department's normal break-in period to the way a racially charged incident was handled."

The Bee quotes Assistant Chief Steve Pierce discussing issues involving the arrest of Halema Buzayan, then 16 in 2005, along with accusations of racial profiling.

"Davis Assistant Chief Steve Pierce said his department changed its retirement calculation, making retirement more attractive for some officers. In addition, several officers left to work in newly formed departments in Citrus Heights and Elk Grove.

Pierce also said some employees felt uncomfortable working in the city following a 2005 incident involving a 16-year-old Davis High School student arrested for a misdemeanor hit-and-run. Her parents alleged racial bias because the girl is Muslim.

During exit interviews, some departing officers remarked that they "don't want a car stop done on a person of color blowing up in (their) face," Pierce said."

However, that paints at best an incomplete picture. The Vanguard spoke to Davis Police Chief Landy Black who provided context to both the initial interview as well as the data.

First he provided the actual breakdown of those who left from 2006 to the present.
Retirement: 5 (3 sworn)

Attained promotion not available with DPD: 4 (2 sworn)

Failed to complete academy/field training/probationary period (dismissed by DPD): 2 (both sworn)

Non-sworn personnel became sworn officers elsewhere: 3

Resigned to take comparable position elsewhere: 5 (4 sworn)
By his count that allows for at most four sworn officers who left the department under the conditions that were describe prominently in the Sacramento Bee article.

These data suggest a much more mundane explanation for a high turnover rate. Some simply retired, others were able to get promoted to positions unavailable to them in this department, a few failed their probation, and a few became sworn officers elsewhere.

Under those conditions, the turnover rate is neither alarming nor unusual.

Chief Black also suggested that the comments attributed to Assistant Chief Steve Pierce, while accurate were taken somewhat out of context. His comment regarding exit interviews was not unsolicited but rather reflected a direct question from the Bee reporter who asked him point blank what effect the Buzayan incident had on people leaving the department. There was no emphasis made by Assistant Chief Pierce, according to Chief Black, on the Buzayan factor.
"It is unfortunate that the Sacramento Bee article makes it look like he/we put an emphasis on it. He didn't and we don't."
Chief Black continues:
"I was hired after a period of some internal and external turmoil. There was an expectation placed on me to take steps to mend internal and community relations. While I will take credit for what I've done to meet that expectation, the officers and leaders of this department have taken great individual and professional initiative to rehabilitate an image that they and I believe was unnecessarily tarnished. There is always room for improvement, but the vitriol was over the top in many folks' estimation.

I cannot speak to the character of the officers who left in 2006 or early 2007, but the officers who remained and continue to work here have done so, in large part, due to their commitment to this department, their peers, the law enforcement profession, and the citizens & community of Davis."
Chief Black also took on the issue of racial profiling.
"Racial profiling continues to be a publicly debated issue. We are aware of that and the fact that the perception of racial profiling still exists. We continue to develop our department and train our personnel to conduct themselves in ways that minimize the perception of racial bias. Our recruitment and training focuses on finding and developing professionals who have the capacity and inclination to understand the dynamics of a multi-cultural society and are able to be resilient and welcome transparency as a means to improve trust."
Brief Commentary:

From my perspective, it is unfortunate if the Sacramento Bee believed it was important to stir the pot on this issue. I received a number of emails on this article and felt it was important to find out the rest of the story from the Davis Police Department.

This issue rekindled an issue that had arose back in 2006, when many accused community activists including my wife, the chair of the Human Relations Commission at the time of creating an atmosphere that had led a large number of police officers to leave the department culminating with the Police Chief at that time, Chief Jim Hyde who took a job in Antioch.

The truth is that while it appears there may have been some police officers who left for those reasons, it was not the huge number that was being represented in the media or at city council meetings by members of the community.

While the issue of racial profiling remains a sensitive issue in parts of this community, the overall tone of discussions have change drastically. The departure of the previous chief along with the arrival of Chief Black and Ombudsman Bob Aaronson have helped change some of this.

While many undoubtedly still blame my wife for fanning the flames, many of these incidents were taken to her from people within the community and to the best of her ability she followed the charge of the Human Relations Commission as the only place where people could go to air grievances of this nature at that time.

It is my hope that we have all learned from that incident and should an incident of this sort arise in the future, we can all handle it better and avoid a repeat of what occurred in the winter and spring of 2006.

---David M. Greenwald reporting