UCLA Incident Demonstrates Need for Independent Review and Policy Changes

imageUC Davis

The recent ruling on last fall’s Tasering of a UCLA student gives us the unusual opportunity to review and scrutinize the police review system in addition to discuss policies on use of force by police departments.

In August of 2006, the fledgling Vanguard, took on a seven-part series of review of the Davis Police Oversight system–evaluating each part and making recommendations for changing it.

One of the key criticisms was the use of the Internal Affairs Department (IAD) as the agency with original jurisdiction over IAs. The chief problem that was cited at this time was a relatively low number of sustained complaints by the IAD in Davis. From 2003-2005 there were 74 complaints, only 5 of which were sustained.

These numbers were used by then Chief Jim Hyde and Davis Councilmember Don Saylor (among others) to demonstrate the lack of need for additional police oversight.

However, a 2002 report by the US Department of Justice warned that:

“[T]he meaning of a complaint rate is not entirely clear: a low force complaint rate could mean that police are performing well or that the complaint process is inaccessible; likewise, a high force complaint rate could mean that officers use force often or that the complaint process is more accessible.”

Further statistics suggest that the low sustained complaint rate in Davis is actually not atypical. For instance one year in Los Angeles, there were 561 complaints against the LAPD and none of them were sustained.

The UCLA case provides us with another example as to why we cannot merely rely on IADs to provide oversight of police departments.

The initial review of the UCLA case

“cleared Officer Terrence Duren and two colleagues of wrongdoing. Details of the review are confidential but it concluded officers did not violate campus policies, according to a statement released by Norman Abrams, former acting chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles.” (See Sacramento Bee, August 3, 2007).

Furthermore, as the Los Angeles Times reported, the officer involved has been involved in a number of other controversial incidents on the campus. This is a frequent problem in oversight, that you have officers often who are repeat offenders, who end up being involved in incidents over and over again. The people that these officers harm are not only the citizens, but their law abiding and dedicated colleagues.

Fortunately in this case, instead of settling for the IAD report, someone made a decision to bring in Merrick Bobb, a noted police accountability expert.

Bobb found that the officer’s decision to use a taser here was “unnecessary, avoidable and excessive.”

The student is by no means innocent here either and that should be noted and was noted by Mr. Bobb.

“This story has no heroes… While the student should have simply obeyed the order to produce the card … the police response was substantially out of proportion to the provocation.”

Citizens have the responsibility to cooperate with the police always. People ought to know their rights and when they can assert them, however, when push comes to shove, obey the police and dispute their conduct later. However, police are professionals and trained, and they need to respond to difficult situations appropriately, this was not a case where an officer was in danger and therefore the use of force here was clearly not justified.

This case also provides us with an opportunity to examine use of force. We have talked about it in the past as well, especially regarding an incident that did not escalate quite as far as the UCLA incident was, but that had to do with the actions against a UC Davis student involved in a bicycle stop sign incident which also grew out of hand. The key question is how should non-cooperative individuals be treated by the police.

In this case, Mr. Bobb makes specific recommendations for chaing policy on the use of Tasers on “passively or mildly resistant individuals.” The main question is, when should officers use force against an individual? It is obvious that if an individual is violent or represents a physical threat to the officers or the public, that use of force is justified.

But if the individual is simply being non-compliant why are you using a taser three times? There have to be other means by which to handle a situation.

Merrick Bobb makes some very strong recommendations to “forbid their use against passively or mildly resistant individuals.” Moreover he recommends:

“Restrict Taser use to violent, actively aggressive or imminently violent subjects — and only after a warning. Discourage repeated shocks. Prohibit shocking of handcuffed prisoners.”

Acting UCLA Chancellor Norman Abrams and UCLA Police Chief Karl Ross were both in agreement with the policy change. That is a good start.

But the secrecy of the internal investigation given state law protecting confidentiality of the police involved in citizen complaints led to the independent investigation by Merrick Bobb. The concern is that this was a very high profile case, how many other complaints have also been swept under the rug at UCLA and other UCs across California?

This is a very serious point in evaluating complaints against UC Davis police officers. We have heard of several in the last year and note that there is no Ombudsman or any sort of police oversight system on the UCLA campus.

The City of Davis does have an Ombudsman and they have a three member Police Advisory Committee (PAC) reviewing IAs. Some of my concerns about the Police Oversight system in Davis have been alleviated in the past year. However, a big one that remains is the lack of willingness of individuals to file IAs.

As the UCLA case attests however, a small minority of officers are repeat offenders in violations of the rights of citizens and it is those small number of officers who probably cause the majority of complaints. A system that can identify those officers, can protect the law abiding and dedicated majority of police officers from the type of adverse scrutiny that they do not deserve. Officers put their lives on the line every day and we need to put a system in place that protects them and the citizens.

—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:

Law Enforcement

52 comments

  1. Sorry, this is an unrelated comment, but I hope you will be following up on the Enterprise article yesterday on sources of funding for school board candidates.

    Did you see the list for Richard Harris? Developers, lobbyists, etc and many if not most were from out of town.

    One might wonder why exactly an out of town developer would want to contribute hundreds of dollars to a Davis school board race.

  2. Sorry, this is an unrelated comment, but I hope you will be following up on the Enterprise article yesterday on sources of funding for school board candidates.

    Did you see the list for Richard Harris? Developers, lobbyists, etc and many if not most were from out of town.

    One might wonder why exactly an out of town developer would want to contribute hundreds of dollars to a Davis school board race.

  3. Sorry, this is an unrelated comment, but I hope you will be following up on the Enterprise article yesterday on sources of funding for school board candidates.

    Did you see the list for Richard Harris? Developers, lobbyists, etc and many if not most were from out of town.

    One might wonder why exactly an out of town developer would want to contribute hundreds of dollars to a Davis school board race.

  4. Sorry, this is an unrelated comment, but I hope you will be following up on the Enterprise article yesterday on sources of funding for school board candidates.

    Did you see the list for Richard Harris? Developers, lobbyists, etc and many if not most were from out of town.

    One might wonder why exactly an out of town developer would want to contribute hundreds of dollars to a Davis school board race.

  5. According to a statement released by Norman Abrams, former acting chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles.

    How in the world does the carpenter from This Old House on PBS have time to also run the UCLA campus? No wonder there are such troubles down there.

  6. According to a statement released by Norman Abrams, former acting chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles.

    How in the world does the carpenter from This Old House on PBS have time to also run the UCLA campus? No wonder there are such troubles down there.

  7. According to a statement released by Norman Abrams, former acting chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles.

    How in the world does the carpenter from This Old House on PBS have time to also run the UCLA campus? No wonder there are such troubles down there.

  8. According to a statement released by Norman Abrams, former acting chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles.

    How in the world does the carpenter from This Old House on PBS have time to also run the UCLA campus? No wonder there are such troubles down there.

  9. Tasers are supposed to be used as an alternative to using guns or clubs. Unfortunately, some police officers seem to view them as new toys and abuse their use. Tasers are not toys and in fact have killed people – not many but some. Police agencies need strict policies and training on when to use the weapon.

    Davis had an incident several years ago where a DPD officer used his taser on a student. The student was having a party and actually called the police to help disperse some people at the party. When the police arrived the student was in the process of forcibly removing a person from the house. A police officer allegedly over reacted and shot the student with a taser – the same person who had called for police help.
    Since that time I have not heard of another taser incident – so I assume DPD has clamped down on their use.
    Both Davis Police agencies should be required to publish their guidelines for taser use.

  10. Tasers are supposed to be used as an alternative to using guns or clubs. Unfortunately, some police officers seem to view them as new toys and abuse their use. Tasers are not toys and in fact have killed people – not many but some. Police agencies need strict policies and training on when to use the weapon.

    Davis had an incident several years ago where a DPD officer used his taser on a student. The student was having a party and actually called the police to help disperse some people at the party. When the police arrived the student was in the process of forcibly removing a person from the house. A police officer allegedly over reacted and shot the student with a taser – the same person who had called for police help.
    Since that time I have not heard of another taser incident – so I assume DPD has clamped down on their use.
    Both Davis Police agencies should be required to publish their guidelines for taser use.

  11. Tasers are supposed to be used as an alternative to using guns or clubs. Unfortunately, some police officers seem to view them as new toys and abuse their use. Tasers are not toys and in fact have killed people – not many but some. Police agencies need strict policies and training on when to use the weapon.

    Davis had an incident several years ago where a DPD officer used his taser on a student. The student was having a party and actually called the police to help disperse some people at the party. When the police arrived the student was in the process of forcibly removing a person from the house. A police officer allegedly over reacted and shot the student with a taser – the same person who had called for police help.
    Since that time I have not heard of another taser incident – so I assume DPD has clamped down on their use.
    Both Davis Police agencies should be required to publish their guidelines for taser use.

  12. Tasers are supposed to be used as an alternative to using guns or clubs. Unfortunately, some police officers seem to view them as new toys and abuse their use. Tasers are not toys and in fact have killed people – not many but some. Police agencies need strict policies and training on when to use the weapon.

    Davis had an incident several years ago where a DPD officer used his taser on a student. The student was having a party and actually called the police to help disperse some people at the party. When the police arrived the student was in the process of forcibly removing a person from the house. A police officer allegedly over reacted and shot the student with a taser – the same person who had called for police help.
    Since that time I have not heard of another taser incident – so I assume DPD has clamped down on their use.
    Both Davis Police agencies should be required to publish their guidelines for taser use.

  13. I’m sure that our young eager police officers feel that adrenaline rush when engaged in a police chase and might want to whip out their tazers to bring the fugitive down but I haven’t heard of any instances of abuse.

    The most recent taser use in Davis that I’ve heard of was last week or so when a taser was used in an effort to get a man determined to kill himself to drop the knife he was using to slash his own neck and anyone around him, so that emergency personnel could get him into an ambulance and rush him to the hospital. Though the man ultimately died from his self-inflicted wounds, I thought it was a darn good use for that police tool.

    I don’t believe that UC Davis police used a tazer during the incident on campus with the man on a bike that refused to identify himself or sign the ticket he was given. Even with all of the guy’s defiant behavior and refusal to follow the orders of the officer, he ended up only receiving the ticket for not having a light on his bike. It sounded like the officer used great restraint.

  14. I’m sure that our young eager police officers feel that adrenaline rush when engaged in a police chase and might want to whip out their tazers to bring the fugitive down but I haven’t heard of any instances of abuse.

    The most recent taser use in Davis that I’ve heard of was last week or so when a taser was used in an effort to get a man determined to kill himself to drop the knife he was using to slash his own neck and anyone around him, so that emergency personnel could get him into an ambulance and rush him to the hospital. Though the man ultimately died from his self-inflicted wounds, I thought it was a darn good use for that police tool.

    I don’t believe that UC Davis police used a tazer during the incident on campus with the man on a bike that refused to identify himself or sign the ticket he was given. Even with all of the guy’s defiant behavior and refusal to follow the orders of the officer, he ended up only receiving the ticket for not having a light on his bike. It sounded like the officer used great restraint.

  15. I’m sure that our young eager police officers feel that adrenaline rush when engaged in a police chase and might want to whip out their tazers to bring the fugitive down but I haven’t heard of any instances of abuse.

    The most recent taser use in Davis that I’ve heard of was last week or so when a taser was used in an effort to get a man determined to kill himself to drop the knife he was using to slash his own neck and anyone around him, so that emergency personnel could get him into an ambulance and rush him to the hospital. Though the man ultimately died from his self-inflicted wounds, I thought it was a darn good use for that police tool.

    I don’t believe that UC Davis police used a tazer during the incident on campus with the man on a bike that refused to identify himself or sign the ticket he was given. Even with all of the guy’s defiant behavior and refusal to follow the orders of the officer, he ended up only receiving the ticket for not having a light on his bike. It sounded like the officer used great restraint.

  16. I’m sure that our young eager police officers feel that adrenaline rush when engaged in a police chase and might want to whip out their tazers to bring the fugitive down but I haven’t heard of any instances of abuse.

    The most recent taser use in Davis that I’ve heard of was last week or so when a taser was used in an effort to get a man determined to kill himself to drop the knife he was using to slash his own neck and anyone around him, so that emergency personnel could get him into an ambulance and rush him to the hospital. Though the man ultimately died from his self-inflicted wounds, I thought it was a darn good use for that police tool.

    I don’t believe that UC Davis police used a tazer during the incident on campus with the man on a bike that refused to identify himself or sign the ticket he was given. Even with all of the guy’s defiant behavior and refusal to follow the orders of the officer, he ended up only receiving the ticket for not having a light on his bike. It sounded like the officer used great restraint.

  17. Anonymous 1:55,

    The current or the new board will be making decisions about redevelopment of or disposal of more than one piece of District property (the downtown offices, the Grande property, possibly others). (Not to mention, anyone on the School Board may go on to other public positions.) The developers may like Harris and think he’d do a good job – I suspect they do, or they wouldn’t have given money, but out of town folks may have additional reasons for giving money to a Davis school board race.

  18. Anonymous 1:55,

    The current or the new board will be making decisions about redevelopment of or disposal of more than one piece of District property (the downtown offices, the Grande property, possibly others). (Not to mention, anyone on the School Board may go on to other public positions.) The developers may like Harris and think he’d do a good job – I suspect they do, or they wouldn’t have given money, but out of town folks may have additional reasons for giving money to a Davis school board race.

  19. Anonymous 1:55,

    The current or the new board will be making decisions about redevelopment of or disposal of more than one piece of District property (the downtown offices, the Grande property, possibly others). (Not to mention, anyone on the School Board may go on to other public positions.) The developers may like Harris and think he’d do a good job – I suspect they do, or they wouldn’t have given money, but out of town folks may have additional reasons for giving money to a Davis school board race.

  20. Anonymous 1:55,

    The current or the new board will be making decisions about redevelopment of or disposal of more than one piece of District property (the downtown offices, the Grande property, possibly others). (Not to mention, anyone on the School Board may go on to other public positions.) The developers may like Harris and think he’d do a good job – I suspect they do, or they wouldn’t have given money, but out of town folks may have additional reasons for giving money to a Davis school board race.

  21. I think that the out of town folks are people he’s connected to professionally and might have no other connection to Davis.

    It is wierd having this side discussion taking place.

  22. I think that the out of town folks are people he’s connected to professionally and might have no other connection to Davis.

    It is wierd having this side discussion taking place.

  23. I think that the out of town folks are people he’s connected to professionally and might have no other connection to Davis.

    It is wierd having this side discussion taking place.

  24. I think that the out of town folks are people he’s connected to professionally and might have no other connection to Davis.

    It is wierd having this side discussion taking place.

  25. “One might wonder why exactly an out of town developer would want to contribute hundreds of dollars to a Davis school board race.”

    Schools are a big part of the marketability/profitability of a development. This was in play with the decision to close down Valley Oak Elementary both to placate Mace Ranch parents and create the need for a brand new Elementary School on Davis’ periphery to serve the kids of the next upscale development. Harris’ developer patrons probably want to get in on the first rung of Harris’ political ladder…School Board is a stepping stone to the City Council.

  26. “One might wonder why exactly an out of town developer would want to contribute hundreds of dollars to a Davis school board race.”

    Schools are a big part of the marketability/profitability of a development. This was in play with the decision to close down Valley Oak Elementary both to placate Mace Ranch parents and create the need for a brand new Elementary School on Davis’ periphery to serve the kids of the next upscale development. Harris’ developer patrons probably want to get in on the first rung of Harris’ political ladder…School Board is a stepping stone to the City Council.

  27. “One might wonder why exactly an out of town developer would want to contribute hundreds of dollars to a Davis school board race.”

    Schools are a big part of the marketability/profitability of a development. This was in play with the decision to close down Valley Oak Elementary both to placate Mace Ranch parents and create the need for a brand new Elementary School on Davis’ periphery to serve the kids of the next upscale development. Harris’ developer patrons probably want to get in on the first rung of Harris’ political ladder…School Board is a stepping stone to the City Council.

  28. “One might wonder why exactly an out of town developer would want to contribute hundreds of dollars to a Davis school board race.”

    Schools are a big part of the marketability/profitability of a development. This was in play with the decision to close down Valley Oak Elementary both to placate Mace Ranch parents and create the need for a brand new Elementary School on Davis’ periphery to serve the kids of the next upscale development. Harris’ developer patrons probably want to get in on the first rung of Harris’ political ladder…School Board is a stepping stone to the City Council.

  29. I think that the out of town folks are people he’s connected to professionally and might have no other connection to Davis.”

    When Sacramento attorney Tim Taylor won his seat on the Davis school board, he too received numerous large donations from lawyers and legal groups in Sacramento and elsewhere. I suspect the same thing — these are friends and colleagues doing a favor for someone they know. None of them will have any actual business before the Davis school district.

  30. I think that the out of town folks are people he’s connected to professionally and might have no other connection to Davis.”

    When Sacramento attorney Tim Taylor won his seat on the Davis school board, he too received numerous large donations from lawyers and legal groups in Sacramento and elsewhere. I suspect the same thing — these are friends and colleagues doing a favor for someone they know. None of them will have any actual business before the Davis school district.

  31. I think that the out of town folks are people he’s connected to professionally and might have no other connection to Davis.”

    When Sacramento attorney Tim Taylor won his seat on the Davis school board, he too received numerous large donations from lawyers and legal groups in Sacramento and elsewhere. I suspect the same thing — these are friends and colleagues doing a favor for someone they know. None of them will have any actual business before the Davis school district.

  32. I think that the out of town folks are people he’s connected to professionally and might have no other connection to Davis.”

    When Sacramento attorney Tim Taylor won his seat on the Davis school board, he too received numerous large donations from lawyers and legal groups in Sacramento and elsewhere. I suspect the same thing — these are friends and colleagues doing a favor for someone they know. None of them will have any actual business before the Davis school district.

  33. They may not have any business that you are aware of at this time, but just wait until they come calling when they want a new school to be built.

    Developers, contractors, etc. There are always favors to be paid. Follow the money.

  34. They may not have any business that you are aware of at this time, but just wait until they come calling when they want a new school to be built.

    Developers, contractors, etc. There are always favors to be paid. Follow the money.

  35. They may not have any business that you are aware of at this time, but just wait until they come calling when they want a new school to be built.

    Developers, contractors, etc. There are always favors to be paid. Follow the money.

  36. They may not have any business that you are aware of at this time, but just wait until they come calling when they want a new school to be built.

    Developers, contractors, etc. There are always favors to be paid. Follow the money.

  37. Just wait until they come calling when they want a new school to be built.

    We have experience with this over 20 years of Sacramento lawyers and others serving on the Davis school board. Rather than making an empty and in this case unfounded boast that out-of-towners are giving money to their friends in Davis because they will make it back down the road off the Davis school district, show one case where this has ever happened in Davis.

    It’s probably easier to show where Davis people and groups who do current business with the Davis school district give money to candidates in order to win favor down the road. The worst offender in this is surely the teacher’s union.

  38. Just wait until they come calling when they want a new school to be built.

    We have experience with this over 20 years of Sacramento lawyers and others serving on the Davis school board. Rather than making an empty and in this case unfounded boast that out-of-towners are giving money to their friends in Davis because they will make it back down the road off the Davis school district, show one case where this has ever happened in Davis.

    It’s probably easier to show where Davis people and groups who do current business with the Davis school district give money to candidates in order to win favor down the road. The worst offender in this is surely the teacher’s union.

  39. Just wait until they come calling when they want a new school to be built.

    We have experience with this over 20 years of Sacramento lawyers and others serving on the Davis school board. Rather than making an empty and in this case unfounded boast that out-of-towners are giving money to their friends in Davis because they will make it back down the road off the Davis school district, show one case where this has ever happened in Davis.

    It’s probably easier to show where Davis people and groups who do current business with the Davis school district give money to candidates in order to win favor down the road. The worst offender in this is surely the teacher’s union.

  40. Just wait until they come calling when they want a new school to be built.

    We have experience with this over 20 years of Sacramento lawyers and others serving on the Davis school board. Rather than making an empty and in this case unfounded boast that out-of-towners are giving money to their friends in Davis because they will make it back down the road off the Davis school district, show one case where this has ever happened in Davis.

    It’s probably easier to show where Davis people and groups who do current business with the Davis school district give money to candidates in order to win favor down the road. The worst offender in this is surely the teacher’s union.