In both cases, the mistreatment of residents stemmed from Davis police officers assuming crimes had taken place and they knew who was guilty — before conducting investigations.
They failed to treat residents of our community with respect. They acted aggressively, intemperately and without regard for justice.
The first took place May 23, 2012, outside the Glacier Point Apartments in West Davis. It has received widespread media attention. It includes an allegation that the officers involved were racially biased.
According to press reports, the police received a 911 call about a domestic dispute involving two African-Americans, Jerome Wren and Tatiana Bush. The caller said the couple was arguing and told the dispatcher there had been “a physical encounter.”
Moments later, four patrol cars raced to the scene. Four!
The cops claimed Wren disobeyed their commands, so they handcuffed him and stuffed him into a squad car. While detained, the officers say Wren removed his handcuffs, kicked open the door, jumped out and punched an officer in the face and that forced them to Taser him.
A June 5 California Aggie story reports a different version of events: “Bush said, while the male subject was in the car, he asked about where his phone was. Then three officers grabbed him, throwing him to the ground outside of the car. She said he tried to stand up and four officers tackled him to the ground near the Glacier Point sign, where he was then Tasered.”
The cops dealt with Wren as if he was a dangerous criminal. Yet he wasn’t.
Bush told the Davis Vanguard she had been under emotional stress due to her mother’s health and “her living status.” She visited Wren, that day, to talk about these matters. Due to her emotional state, she said she was loud.
“(Wren) was trying to hug me to calm me down, but I wouldn’t let him,” she told the Aggie. That was the “physical encounter.”
On Feb. 13, the Davis Police Department concluded, “…the interactions with Ms. Bush and Mr. Wren did not meet the highest expectations of professional conduct and service that are expected of members of the Davis Police Department.”
While sustaining the charge that the officers acted improperly, the department’s investigation added, “There was no evidence that bias or the race of any involved person played a part in the handling of this incident.”
After reading The Enterprise’s account of the Bush and Wren case, a white resident, Steven Hanson, 61, whose family has been in Davis since 1919, told me his story. Up to now it has received no media attention.
It was Aug. 24, 2011, a Saturday afternoon. Hanson was at his home in East Davis. Officer Andrew Penrose banged on his door. Hanson had no idea why.
Penrose ordered Hanson to step outside. He demanded that the resident, then recuperating from surgery, follow him past his driveway, across the sidewalk and into the street.
“Now you’re on my territory!” Penrose yelled.
Next door, Hanson’s neighbors were holding a yard sale.
Rather than politely asking this lifelong Davis citizen questions about an allegation which had been made against him, Officer Penrose launched into a tirade, accusing Hanson of stalking a woman, also a Davis resident, with whom Hanson had had a falling out over a professional relationship.
Penrose decided before he got to Hanson’s home that the tale the woman told was true. Penrose did not wait to hear Hanson’s side of the story.
The allegations she leveled, Hanson says, were false. He never stalked her. The DA did not charge him. He was never even issued a ticket.
If any crime had been committed, Hanson believes, it was by this woman, filing a false police report. Her anger stemmed from the fact that Hanson had reported her to the state board that oversees her profession, and that board upheld his allegations against her.
But Penrose never asked Hanson what was going on. Instead, he got inches from Hanson’s face and harangued Hanson to stop harassing her, stop calling her, stop going her to home.
Penrose behaved as if he were judge, jury and executioner of justice.
Hanson knew he had done nothing wrong. But in front of his neighbors, an unprofessional cop was berating him. Two other officers stood behind Hanson, apparently waiting to tackle the 61-year-old man, fresh from surgery, in case he reacted to Penrose’s diatribe.
A department investigation upheld Hanson’s accusation. “Officer Penrose conducted himself in an unprofessional manner, which is a violation of department rules. He did not need to approach you in the manner in which he did and it would have been more appropriate to ask you questions, in a non-accusatory manner, so that he could have concluded his investigation. Therefore the complaint has been classified as sustained.”
Although Hanson told me that Officer Penrose is not white, he did not claim the cop acted out of racial bias.
There’s no way to know if Bush and Wren were mistreated because of their skin color. However, it’s not the case that most black residents of Davis are being abused by the police. And it is not the case that most police misconduct in Davis involves black victims.
Last June, Bush told The Aggie, “It’s disgusting how (Davis police) treat African-American students, and I won’t stand for such things.”
I agree with Tatiana Bush that it is disgusting how she and Wren were treated. But if cases like Hanson’s received equal publicity, it would become clear that victims of police misconduct come in all colors.
— Rich Rifkin is a Davis resident; his column is published every other week. Reach him at [email protected]