Community coalition sends open letter to Davis leaders pushing for new public safety department

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DAVIS, Calif. (KTXL) – A coalition of community organizations is formally asking the Davis City Council to reform its approach to police responses.

The effort comes in the wake of last summer’s George Floyd protests and a re-examination of police practices.

The Davis Public Safety Coalition delivered an open letter Monday to Davis Mayor Gloria Partida. They are asking for a new department of public safety to be created apart from the police department to respond to calls that currently go to the police. 

“Creating this new department would benefit our Davis police officers and be decreasing the long list of jobs the police department is responsible for and are not trained to handle,” said Morgan Poindexter, member of Davis Public Safety Coalition.

She said the list includes homelessness, mental health, domestic disputes and code enforcement. 

“I have never had a positive experience from the police in Davis,” said Sule Anibaba, a mental health professional.

Anibaba said he has firsthand encounters with police that led him to believe police training causes them to escalate use-of-force situations. 

He said instead of feeling safe with the police, he feels the opposite. 

“It feels like, oh, I might die today, that’s what I sometimes feel. Actually, all the time,” Anibaba said.

Davis police said they are already complying with many of the recommendations being made to the city council in delegating police calls to non-sworn officers and specialists, as well as looking into how race is related to arrests, police stops and training. 

“In the areas of de-escalation, unconscious bias, we’ve actually done a lot more than what’s required of us,” said Davis Police Deputy Chief Paul Doroshov.

He said the police department acting too quickly on reform could hurt efforts to keep citizens safe. 

“Detrimental to not only policing but detrimental to the outcome of some of these calls,” Doroshov said.

The letter was signed by over 600 people and includes nearly 30 community organizations, including businesses and church groups. 

“I’ve had some positive and not so positive experiences with police,” said Mayor Partida.

Partida said given the events of last summer, some changes are necessary. 

“The direction that the Davis community is asking to move in the right direction to be moving in,” Partida said.

Although sympathetic, the mayor would not predict what the city council will do about the proposals, even though the signatories to the open letter believe that reform is long overdue.

The Davis City Council will take up the recommended police reforms at its Tuesday night meeting.

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