Victims of Racial Profiling Reluctant to Step Forward

A year ago this past week, over 150 UC Davis students and Davis residents, most of them African American, marched from the Memorial Union on the UC Davis Campus to the Davis Police Station to protest against numerous incidents of racial profiling.

It was an event that was not even covered in the Davis Enterprise. I stood and watched the event for two hours as one by one student after student got up and talked about personal incidents involving the Davis Police. And no one from the City Council was there and the only paper that covered it was the California Aggie.

The Aggie quoted one of the organizers:

Devon Lee, another organizer of the event, said he feels the City Council has ignored students such as him.

“They weren’t listening to us,” Lee said. “They’d rather talk about a small business closing that affects people’s recreation than the problems and circumstances that we have to deal with being students of color in the community.”

“We protested for about two hours,” Lee said. “We had police officers sitting behind glass windows laughing at us.”

One of the reasons that I started this blog was the lack of coverage of events like this one and incidents such as those described at the rally. And yet, a year later I am still frustrated for a very different reason.

Each month I receive several emails from people in the community who have experienced or witnessed incidents involving the Davis Police Department. Sometimes the incidents happened too long ago for them to have filed a complaint–which in and of itself is frustrating. But more frustrating than that, is the unwillingness of people to go on the record, even as an anonymous source. People are afraid of retribution. People are afraid of getting involved. And people are afraid they will end up like the Buzayan family if they come forward.

One individual who I spoke with, is a respected member of this community who could bring a fresh new voice and face to this issue. The incident occurred at least two and maybe three years ago and he no longer will go to Davis as a result. He told me, “I believe there are some serious issues that need to be resolved in the Davis Police Department.” Of course, he’s not going to be the one to help resolve those issues because he won’t say a word about it.

Another prominent resident of this community, an employee for the school district, was harassed by police in the parking lot of one of the schools shortly after he arrived in this community. Has he gone on the record? No.

I got another email a few months ago, a Davis resident was taking a course at Sacramento City College, the Davis branch. She told me about her classmates who had been repeatedly followed, pulled over, and even arrested. One time they said he looked like a car jacker even though he had a different car and plate number. But once again, could not get them to talk on the record.

One of the most egregious stories I know of occurred in late 2005, where the owners of a business establishment in downtown Davis had walked from a bar toward their home after a night of drinking. They had to use the restroom so they stopped at their store to use the one there. At that point, they found themselves surrounded by the police and held on the ground at gunpoint for 45 minutes. This despite the fact that one of them owned the store and directed the police to notice his picture on the wall. The situation was resolved when a police officer called the man’s wife at home on the man’s cell phone to verify his identity (of course the police officer had no idea who the man was calling or anyway to verify it, however he used the call as a reason to let them all go). However, after initially contacting us (my wife Cecilia), he refused to follow through with a complaint.

Yesterday at Farmer’s Market, I told someone about this problem and they suggested that I write a special story categorizing the number and type of complaints and periodically update the numbers so that people can get a real sense for not only the number of emails I get but also encourage other people to come forward.

At this point, I have received around 13 emails or calls since January 15, 2007, none of them have gone on the record about their incidents.

I find myself frustrated at this point because without people willing to go and file complaints about these incidents, nothing is going to change. We will not find out if the oversight system works or needs to be altered. The community as a whole is unaware of such incidents, even though people within the community will tell you they have been going on for years.

Nothing is going to get resolved in this community unless people are willing to step forward and put themselves on the line. We all have reasons not to do it. Heck I cannot even blame people given what has happened to some, for not getting involved. In many ways it is like reporting a rape. The process is brutal. You go through the violation again and again. You are publicly scrutinized. But you do it because you know if you don’t, it will happen to someone else. No one else should have to go through these kinds of violations and indignities. Unless people are willing to step forward, however, history will repeat itself over and over again.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Civil Rights

60 comments

  1. Doug…. A permanent Vanguard link that outlines the process of getting the ombudsman involved could be a worthwhile resource. Confidentiality and public anonymity for the complaitant would not seriously compromise the ombudsman’s ability to investigate the incident and take it to Chief Black if warranted.

  2. Doug…. A permanent Vanguard link that outlines the process of getting the ombudsman involved could be a worthwhile resource. Confidentiality and public anonymity for the complaitant would not seriously compromise the ombudsman’s ability to investigate the incident and take it to Chief Black if warranted.

  3. Doug…. A permanent Vanguard link that outlines the process of getting the ombudsman involved could be a worthwhile resource. Confidentiality and public anonymity for the complaitant would not seriously compromise the ombudsman’s ability to investigate the incident and take it to Chief Black if warranted.

  4. Doug…. A permanent Vanguard link that outlines the process of getting the ombudsman involved could be a worthwhile resource. Confidentiality and public anonymity for the complaitant would not seriously compromise the ombudsman’s ability to investigate the incident and take it to Chief Black if warranted.

  5. I’m tired of reading this stuff frankly. If the Davis Enterprise covered everything here, they would never have time to cover all the important things that they cover. A couple of kids, who are probably hooligans getting followed or harassed by the cops, give me a break. They have it coming. We need to protect ourselves from crime and criminals and we need to let our police do their jobs to do that. If they think a kid is a likely person to commit a crime, who are we to question it. If you don’t like that, go to Oakland where they have real police abuse. Geesh.

  6. I’m tired of reading this stuff frankly. If the Davis Enterprise covered everything here, they would never have time to cover all the important things that they cover. A couple of kids, who are probably hooligans getting followed or harassed by the cops, give me a break. They have it coming. We need to protect ourselves from crime and criminals and we need to let our police do their jobs to do that. If they think a kid is a likely person to commit a crime, who are we to question it. If you don’t like that, go to Oakland where they have real police abuse. Geesh.

  7. I’m tired of reading this stuff frankly. If the Davis Enterprise covered everything here, they would never have time to cover all the important things that they cover. A couple of kids, who are probably hooligans getting followed or harassed by the cops, give me a break. They have it coming. We need to protect ourselves from crime and criminals and we need to let our police do their jobs to do that. If they think a kid is a likely person to commit a crime, who are we to question it. If you don’t like that, go to Oakland where they have real police abuse. Geesh.

  8. I’m tired of reading this stuff frankly. If the Davis Enterprise covered everything here, they would never have time to cover all the important things that they cover. A couple of kids, who are probably hooligans getting followed or harassed by the cops, give me a break. They have it coming. We need to protect ourselves from crime and criminals and we need to let our police do their jobs to do that. If they think a kid is a likely person to commit a crime, who are we to question it. If you don’t like that, go to Oakland where they have real police abuse. Geesh.

  9. “Anonymous” says, “a couple of kids, who are probably hooligans…” And you assume this because of what? Take your head out of your arse and join the police department. They need more officers like you who are willing to harrass others based on personal prejudice and unsupportable assumptions.

  10. “Anonymous” says, “a couple of kids, who are probably hooligans…” And you assume this because of what? Take your head out of your arse and join the police department. They need more officers like you who are willing to harrass others based on personal prejudice and unsupportable assumptions.

  11. “Anonymous” says, “a couple of kids, who are probably hooligans…” And you assume this because of what? Take your head out of your arse and join the police department. They need more officers like you who are willing to harrass others based on personal prejudice and unsupportable assumptions.

  12. “Anonymous” says, “a couple of kids, who are probably hooligans…” And you assume this because of what? Take your head out of your arse and join the police department. They need more officers like you who are willing to harrass others based on personal prejudice and unsupportable assumptions.

  13. Doug:

    The only way for the authorities to believe this stuff happens and then to begin to deal with it is for people to report it. We need to stand with them and support them reporting the incidents. Any one incident will never be enough to force change. Many, and varied reports from many, and varied people will start to move the situation. Maybe the ombudsan is worth a shot.

    “A couple of kids, who are probably hooligans getting followed or harassed by the cops, give me a break. They have it coming. We need to protect ourselves from crime and criminals and we need to let our police do their jobs to do that. ”

    My god. So to you, everyone who complains is a hooligan? Think about what you really ought to have said: We need to have our police do their jobs within the parameters of the law and by serving the community where they work and serving justice; not imposing illegal standards and practicing illegal tactics unchecked.

  14. Doug:

    The only way for the authorities to believe this stuff happens and then to begin to deal with it is for people to report it. We need to stand with them and support them reporting the incidents. Any one incident will never be enough to force change. Many, and varied reports from many, and varied people will start to move the situation. Maybe the ombudsan is worth a shot.

    “A couple of kids, who are probably hooligans getting followed or harassed by the cops, give me a break. They have it coming. We need to protect ourselves from crime and criminals and we need to let our police do their jobs to do that. ”

    My god. So to you, everyone who complains is a hooligan? Think about what you really ought to have said: We need to have our police do their jobs within the parameters of the law and by serving the community where they work and serving justice; not imposing illegal standards and practicing illegal tactics unchecked.

  15. Doug:

    The only way for the authorities to believe this stuff happens and then to begin to deal with it is for people to report it. We need to stand with them and support them reporting the incidents. Any one incident will never be enough to force change. Many, and varied reports from many, and varied people will start to move the situation. Maybe the ombudsan is worth a shot.

    “A couple of kids, who are probably hooligans getting followed or harassed by the cops, give me a break. They have it coming. We need to protect ourselves from crime and criminals and we need to let our police do their jobs to do that. ”

    My god. So to you, everyone who complains is a hooligan? Think about what you really ought to have said: We need to have our police do their jobs within the parameters of the law and by serving the community where they work and serving justice; not imposing illegal standards and practicing illegal tactics unchecked.

  16. Doug:

    The only way for the authorities to believe this stuff happens and then to begin to deal with it is for people to report it. We need to stand with them and support them reporting the incidents. Any one incident will never be enough to force change. Many, and varied reports from many, and varied people will start to move the situation. Maybe the ombudsan is worth a shot.

    “A couple of kids, who are probably hooligans getting followed or harassed by the cops, give me a break. They have it coming. We need to protect ourselves from crime and criminals and we need to let our police do their jobs to do that. ”

    My god. So to you, everyone who complains is a hooligan? Think about what you really ought to have said: We need to have our police do their jobs within the parameters of the law and by serving the community where they work and serving justice; not imposing illegal standards and practicing illegal tactics unchecked.

  17. “The only way for the authorities to believe this stuff happens and then to begin to deal with it is for people to report it. We need to stand with them and support them reporting the incidents. Any one incident will never be enough to force change. Many, and varied reports from many, and varied people will start to move the situation. Maybe the ombudsan is worth a shot.”

    Agree 100%. I just don’t know how to get people to come forward.

  18. “The only way for the authorities to believe this stuff happens and then to begin to deal with it is for people to report it. We need to stand with them and support them reporting the incidents. Any one incident will never be enough to force change. Many, and varied reports from many, and varied people will start to move the situation. Maybe the ombudsan is worth a shot.”

    Agree 100%. I just don’t know how to get people to come forward.

  19. “The only way for the authorities to believe this stuff happens and then to begin to deal with it is for people to report it. We need to stand with them and support them reporting the incidents. Any one incident will never be enough to force change. Many, and varied reports from many, and varied people will start to move the situation. Maybe the ombudsan is worth a shot.”

    Agree 100%. I just don’t know how to get people to come forward.

  20. “The only way for the authorities to believe this stuff happens and then to begin to deal with it is for people to report it. We need to stand with them and support them reporting the incidents. Any one incident will never be enough to force change. Many, and varied reports from many, and varied people will start to move the situation. Maybe the ombudsan is worth a shot.”

    Agree 100%. I just don’t know how to get people to come forward.

  21. How about having a “report your incident anonymously” form at your booth at farmer’s market? Take one home for a friend, mail it to Doug, it will be summarized.

    Date, officers involved, factual particulars that the police/ ombudsman would need to know if they were to investigate it, but no names for now. Maybe a stack of them would add up to enough info for some new folks to be encouraged enough to step forward offically and for our public officials to not deride them and dismiss their reports, but to handle it properly it.

  22. How about having a “report your incident anonymously” form at your booth at farmer’s market? Take one home for a friend, mail it to Doug, it will be summarized.

    Date, officers involved, factual particulars that the police/ ombudsman would need to know if they were to investigate it, but no names for now. Maybe a stack of them would add up to enough info for some new folks to be encouraged enough to step forward offically and for our public officials to not deride them and dismiss their reports, but to handle it properly it.

  23. How about having a “report your incident anonymously” form at your booth at farmer’s market? Take one home for a friend, mail it to Doug, it will be summarized.

    Date, officers involved, factual particulars that the police/ ombudsman would need to know if they were to investigate it, but no names for now. Maybe a stack of them would add up to enough info for some new folks to be encouraged enough to step forward offically and for our public officials to not deride them and dismiss their reports, but to handle it properly it.

  24. How about having a “report your incident anonymously” form at your booth at farmer’s market? Take one home for a friend, mail it to Doug, it will be summarized.

    Date, officers involved, factual particulars that the police/ ombudsman would need to know if they were to investigate it, but no names for now. Maybe a stack of them would add up to enough info for some new folks to be encouraged enough to step forward offically and for our public officials to not deride them and dismiss their reports, but to handle it properly it.

  25. If you don’t like that, go to Oakland where they have real police abuse.

    The only time I ever witnessed police brutality was in Oakland in the early ’90s. Drug dealers used to employ kids — 10-12 year olds on bikes — to be lookouts. Out of my rear window, once, I saw an OPD officer beating the crap out of a little kid, a lookout, with his baton. Another cop ran up and stopped the beating. I have no idea what led to the incident — but it was reported.

  26. If you don’t like that, go to Oakland where they have real police abuse.

    The only time I ever witnessed police brutality was in Oakland in the early ’90s. Drug dealers used to employ kids — 10-12 year olds on bikes — to be lookouts. Out of my rear window, once, I saw an OPD officer beating the crap out of a little kid, a lookout, with his baton. Another cop ran up and stopped the beating. I have no idea what led to the incident — but it was reported.

  27. If you don’t like that, go to Oakland where they have real police abuse.

    The only time I ever witnessed police brutality was in Oakland in the early ’90s. Drug dealers used to employ kids — 10-12 year olds on bikes — to be lookouts. Out of my rear window, once, I saw an OPD officer beating the crap out of a little kid, a lookout, with his baton. Another cop ran up and stopped the beating. I have no idea what led to the incident — but it was reported.

  28. If you don’t like that, go to Oakland where they have real police abuse.

    The only time I ever witnessed police brutality was in Oakland in the early ’90s. Drug dealers used to employ kids — 10-12 year olds on bikes — to be lookouts. Out of my rear window, once, I saw an OPD officer beating the crap out of a little kid, a lookout, with his baton. Another cop ran up and stopped the beating. I have no idea what led to the incident — but it was reported.

  29. It is very difficult to “complain” directly to those who one feels has made the error.

    It is the manner of the instant response one gets. It is first immediately dismissed and it takes some skill on the part of the complainer to persist past that.

    Sometimes it is the manner that the complaint is made. It is loud and uncomfortable to listen to and it is perceived that the person is not really willing to find a solution. They are just upset. Again, it takes some skill on the part of the listener to stay in the conversation to help seek a resolution.

    There are some very simple changes that could be made in police and probation process that could really help, but no one really is interested or have the experience to know, except for the people who are receiving their “services.” And you can guess how complaints from those particular people are received.

    Also, there is the risk of being highly visible to the police (and attracting their increased monitoring), risk of retaliation, risk of public humiliation, risk of job loss, risk of….

    For example, it has been reported by one mother in Davis that after she filed a complaint against the Davis Police Department over the accuracy of the police report, the charges against her child were increased and the DA’s office decided to prosecute her minor son as an adult. These actions may or may be connected, but any parent or person hearing this allegation will hesitate before speaking up in the future.

  30. It is very difficult to “complain” directly to those who one feels has made the error.

    It is the manner of the instant response one gets. It is first immediately dismissed and it takes some skill on the part of the complainer to persist past that.

    Sometimes it is the manner that the complaint is made. It is loud and uncomfortable to listen to and it is perceived that the person is not really willing to find a solution. They are just upset. Again, it takes some skill on the part of the listener to stay in the conversation to help seek a resolution.

    There are some very simple changes that could be made in police and probation process that could really help, but no one really is interested or have the experience to know, except for the people who are receiving their “services.” And you can guess how complaints from those particular people are received.

    Also, there is the risk of being highly visible to the police (and attracting their increased monitoring), risk of retaliation, risk of public humiliation, risk of job loss, risk of….

    For example, it has been reported by one mother in Davis that after she filed a complaint against the Davis Police Department over the accuracy of the police report, the charges against her child were increased and the DA’s office decided to prosecute her minor son as an adult. These actions may or may be connected, but any parent or person hearing this allegation will hesitate before speaking up in the future.

  31. It is very difficult to “complain” directly to those who one feels has made the error.

    It is the manner of the instant response one gets. It is first immediately dismissed and it takes some skill on the part of the complainer to persist past that.

    Sometimes it is the manner that the complaint is made. It is loud and uncomfortable to listen to and it is perceived that the person is not really willing to find a solution. They are just upset. Again, it takes some skill on the part of the listener to stay in the conversation to help seek a resolution.

    There are some very simple changes that could be made in police and probation process that could really help, but no one really is interested or have the experience to know, except for the people who are receiving their “services.” And you can guess how complaints from those particular people are received.

    Also, there is the risk of being highly visible to the police (and attracting their increased monitoring), risk of retaliation, risk of public humiliation, risk of job loss, risk of….

    For example, it has been reported by one mother in Davis that after she filed a complaint against the Davis Police Department over the accuracy of the police report, the charges against her child were increased and the DA’s office decided to prosecute her minor son as an adult. These actions may or may be connected, but any parent or person hearing this allegation will hesitate before speaking up in the future.

  32. It is very difficult to “complain” directly to those who one feels has made the error.

    It is the manner of the instant response one gets. It is first immediately dismissed and it takes some skill on the part of the complainer to persist past that.

    Sometimes it is the manner that the complaint is made. It is loud and uncomfortable to listen to and it is perceived that the person is not really willing to find a solution. They are just upset. Again, it takes some skill on the part of the listener to stay in the conversation to help seek a resolution.

    There are some very simple changes that could be made in police and probation process that could really help, but no one really is interested or have the experience to know, except for the people who are receiving their “services.” And you can guess how complaints from those particular people are received.

    Also, there is the risk of being highly visible to the police (and attracting their increased monitoring), risk of retaliation, risk of public humiliation, risk of job loss, risk of….

    For example, it has been reported by one mother in Davis that after she filed a complaint against the Davis Police Department over the accuracy of the police report, the charges against her child were increased and the DA’s office decided to prosecute her minor son as an adult. These actions may or may be connected, but any parent or person hearing this allegation will hesitate before speaking up in the future.

  33. I am the person taking classes at Sac City College, Davis Branch, who contacted Doug. My study partner in class was an African American UCD graduating senior. His stories were terrifying about racial abuse and profiling by both the Davis Police and the UCD Campus police. When I approached him about talking to someone about it, he was receptive at first but wanted to talk to his friend (another UCD student)who had actually been pulled over, cuffed, and arrested because he supposedly resembled a home invasion robbery suspect (although his car and plate numbers were not the same). He “resembled” the suspect simply because he was black. After I contacted Doug, the students told me that they were afraid that they wouldn’t be allowed to graduate if they were interviewed and complained about the UCD Police.

  34. I am the person taking classes at Sac City College, Davis Branch, who contacted Doug. My study partner in class was an African American UCD graduating senior. His stories were terrifying about racial abuse and profiling by both the Davis Police and the UCD Campus police. When I approached him about talking to someone about it, he was receptive at first but wanted to talk to his friend (another UCD student)who had actually been pulled over, cuffed, and arrested because he supposedly resembled a home invasion robbery suspect (although his car and plate numbers were not the same). He “resembled” the suspect simply because he was black. After I contacted Doug, the students told me that they were afraid that they wouldn’t be allowed to graduate if they were interviewed and complained about the UCD Police.