DAVIS — Former Sacramento County sheriff and current radio host John McGinness is leaving an internal Picnic Day brawl investigation at the Davis Police Department after comments he made on air stirred backlash.
“I was shocked by the level of insensitivity to the plight of African-Americans that was being revealed in that segment,” Davis City Councilmember Will Arnold told FOX40.
During his Friday show on KFBK, McGinness said African-Americans were better off prior to the the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
“Prior to the mid 1960s, when the Civil Rights Act came into play and there were efforts specifically undertaken to theoretically prop up one race of people, African-Americans were doing much, much better,” McGinness said on his show.
McGinness says he was citing statistics from the US Census Bureau to back up his claim.
“In 1960, the number of teenage pregnancy in America had been decreasing, both poverty and dependency were declining,” he said during his segment. “So those are big for a better life. There was prosperity and growth.”
McGinness was asked to be a non-biased third party in an internal investigation of a Picnic Day brawl that involved on-duty police officers and three black men. The men accused the officers of racially profiling them when they were arrested.
Since Friday’s segment aired, Arnold says he lost confidence in McGinness and asked him to recuse himself.
“A century that included segregation, the KKK, lynching, Jim Crow, the idea that African-Americans were better off back then, again, is baffling why someone would think that,” Arnold said. “And in my opinion, it went to the heart of independence and lack of prejudice that is required to properly conduct this investigation.”
McGinness says his investigation was not a racial one.
“I never saw this as a racial investigation. But rather a decision-making investigation,” he said. “Was the conduct engaged by the Davis Police Department appropriate or not? That’s what they were seeking to find out.”
Still, the former sheriff said he could understand how his comments could be taken out of context which is why he chose to leave the investigation. However, he still stands by his comments.
“If you ask me without looking at the data, I would have probably said the same thing. And maybe it’s still true. Maybe there is other nuances that isn’t reflected on the data,” McGinness told FOX40. “I firmly believe the Civil Rights Act was undertaken with an abundance of good will. The reality is, there is pretty hard evidence that says there is still work to be done. And how that can be in any inference that that’s a racist commentary, that baffles me.”
The Davis Police Department released a statement about McGinness’ decision to recuse himself.
“McGinness does not wish for this matter to become about him as opposed to about the substantive issues being investigated.”
Davis police and city staff are now looking for a replacement for McGinness as their non-biased third party.