This week the Indivisible Yolo Podcast featured Arvind Reddy, a member of People Power’s UC Davis Immigration and Policing Task Team. People power was created by the ACLU after the election of Donald Trump, as a way to increase grassroots organizing, and to engage community members both on local and national levels. Arvind got involved with People Power shortly after the election by attending a meeting for the Davis chapter.
The issue of police violence has been thrust into a national spotlight through the efforts of people like Colin Kaepernick, DeRay McKesson, and women who founded Black Lives Matter – Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors. On the other hand, we have a president who advocates “roughing up” criminals, and groups that espouse All Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter rhetoric as a way of perpetuating status quo. People Power in Davis follows the ACLU model of condemning violence against civilians, and supports the goals of Black Lives Matter, although they do not always work directly with the group. Generally, People Power’s goals vary state by state, community by community, depending on the needs and beliefs of residents. The ACLU and People Power strive to protect those who are peacefully protesting, who are exercising their first amendment rights, and to condemn violent actions against peaceful protesting. It also supports police reform, although again, the degree of reform depends on the community.
The Davis People Power group is advocating for better relations between the UCD Police Department and its community, the Davis Police Department and its community, and is working on immigration issues pertaining to ICE activity in Yolo, as well as the release of the Picnic Day 5 (tune in to podast 32 with Stephanie Parriera to learn more).
Legislatively, SB54 has been signed into law by the governor, making California the first Sanctuary State, which is something the ACLU and People Power have both supported. The bill reduces and condemns cooperation between state police forces and ICE, but the original version of the bill was weakened prior to passing in the Senate, at the behest of police unions and lobbying groups. There have been exceptions carved out for ICE’s ability to enter correctional facilities and county jails, and to cooperate with correctional officers. The bill does designate sanctuary areas where ICE cannot operate, like hospitals and schools.
Both UCD PD and Davis PD are required to comply with SB54, but since UC Davis campus is open – unlike a hospital or elementary school – the lines are blurred, and there are possible cases where UCDPD can cooperate with ICE. The bill does not outline the consequences for failure to comply, so it remains to be seen what kind of effect this will have on state policing.
UCD Police Department has a fairly new Police Accountability Board that is open to the public and meets once a quarter. However, its meeting times are during the middle of the day (noon to 1pm), and it is held at the Memorial Union. The meetings are not well advertised, and there is very little transparency. There is a public record of the meetings, but many topics are deemed unavailable for confidentiality reasons, as Arvind found out when he requested a copy of the document.
In addition, Police Accountability Board reports to the Chief of Police, who has veto power on their decisions, effectively making them powerless to enforce any judgements. There has only been one case where an officer was found at fault, and the Chief was able to override the decision of the PAB.
Anonymous complaints are often ignored, or downplayed, as well, as the board cites “lack of information.” This sounds reasonable, but with no enforcement power, complaintants have much to lose by coming forward, so anonymous complaints are a safer way to report misconduct. However, this decreases the likelihood of any action by the PAB. So far, the PAB seems to be ineffective, as there have been no disciplinary actions taken against police for misconduct, despite cases continually being brought before the board.
When submitting a complaint, using the online form, complaintants must give a reason for their complaint, yet there are no boxes for sexual misconduct, or immigration related issues. These are cases where anonymous complaints would be particularly helpful, since harassment complaints are often ignored to the detriment of the complainant, and retaliation by the abuser is often the result.
Many who are calling for police oversight and accountability are merely calling for the same kind of workplace accountability that exists in every job. If someone behaves badly at work, or bungles a project, they are reprimanded in a manner that is appropriate for the size of the mistake (or they should be, anyway). This kind of workplace accountability does not exist for police officers. Asking for police oversight and accountability is merely asking that police officers do their job – serving and protecting the citizens in their communities – appropriately and correctly.
To get involved with a People Power in your area, check out the ACLU People Power website, or contact us at indivisibleyolopodcast at gmail dot com, and we can get you in touch with People Power in Davis. The next UCD PD oversight meeting is October 18th from 12-1pm in the Fielder Room of the Memorial Union on the UC Davis campus. If you’d like to let UCD PAB know that they should change their meeting times to accommodate more community input, you can contact them at email@example.com. You can request their meeting minutes through that email or on the police accountability board website, as well.