Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Chief promises changes from UCD police

Interim UC Davis Police Chief Matt Carmichael outlines changes under way at the department following the release of investigations into last fall's pepper-spraying of nonviolent Occupy UC Davis protesters. Sue Cockrell/Enterprise photo

Just over a month has passed since Matt Carmichael became interim chief of the UC Davis Police Department, vowing to repair the damage caused by last fall’s pepper-spray controversy.

Since then, Carmichael has hired a consultant to revamp a department policy that hadn’t been updated in eight years. The consultant, Paul Harman, is a retired lieutenant from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who also served 14 years with the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, the accrediting agency for California law enforcement.

Carmichael also has signed on with Lexipol, a public safety risk-management company that, at a cost of $6,000 per year, will keep that revised policy in sync with changes in state and federal law, as well as law-enforcement best practices. It also provides daily, interactive training bulletins for the agency’s employees once the policy update is complete.

A “top-to-bottom” audit by the POST commission, which will include thorough reviews of the Police Department’s policies, training records, organizational structure and list of authorized weapons and tools, is scheduled to begin in the next few weeks.

Then there are the dozens of recommendations — stemming from a series of investigations into the Nov. 18 clash between campus police officers and Occupy UC Davis protesters — which Carmichael is incorporating into his vision of a community-oriented police department.

“I take it all very seriously,” the interim chief said in an interview this week. “We’re taking all that information and going forward. Does that mean we’re going to change? Absolutely.”

In fact, changes have been in the works since Carmichael was named acting police chief on Nov. 20, when then-Chief Annette Spicuzza and two officers were placed on paid administrative leave. Spicuzza resigned and retired from the department last month, and the officers remain on paid leave pending conclusion of an internal affairs probe.

“Matt has been wonderful to work with over the past month. He has really started rolling out changes that will make this campus a stronger community,” said Katheryn Kolesar, chair of UCD’s Graduate Student Association. “Most important in all of these changes is his desire for community input. He truly has the welfare of the campus at the forefront of his agenda.”

A town-hall meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 29, at the Memorial Union, where Carmichael and Harman plan to introduce the department’s draft policy and seek feedback from the campus community.

Once the fully revised policy manual goes “live” — which Carmichael said should happen in six months, if not sooner — Lexipol will document any subsequent changes, all of which will be accessible to the public.

“It’s very transparent,” Carmichael said.

At his April 18 swearing-in ceremony, Carmichael said his priority would be to rebuild the fractured relationship between his officers and the campus community. One of his first steps was to expand the department’s bike-patrol program, opening up the position of bike officer to all who wanted to apply.

Today, more than 20 officers are qualified to patrol the campus by bike, the result being a police force that’s more approachable and engaged with the people it serves.

“It creates interaction between me and them,” said Stephen Blomstedt, a four-year officer who has been on bike patrol for about a month now.

Recently, while passing through the Tercero student housing complex, Blomstedt played a short game of football with students who likely wouldn’t have reached out to him had he been driving his patrol car.

Future outreach efforts may include regular police office hours in the Memorial Union and a program in which officers regularly check in with campus departments and offices as part of their beats.

Meanwhile, Carmichael is also developing a strategy for members of the campus community — including undergraduates, graduate students, Academic Senate members and representatives of other campus groups — to participate in the officer hiring process, perhaps as soon as this summer.

The plan stems from a recommendation from the GSA ad hoc police committee that the Police Department engages in community-based hiring practices, “which I agree with 10,000 percent,” Carmichael said. “It’s an excellent recommendation.”

Carmichael’s long-range visions for the department include the development of an independent oversight commission for handling police-related complaints and appeals. He has arranged for Barbara Attard, the former president of the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, who spoke at a joint legislative oversight hearing in December, to advise him on how to proceed.

He also plans to expand the department’s volunteer program to supplement the services already provided by Aggie Hosts, and perhaps morph it into a student police program similar to one already in place at the UCD Fire Department.

“I’m encouraged,” Carmichael said. “I feel like I have the support of the department, without a doubt, and they have my support as well.”

But Carmichael is also quick to point out that while he bears the title of police chief, the agency is not all about him.

“I’ve said this since Nov. 20,” he said. “You can’t love the title. You have to really love what you do, and community is No. 1.”

— Reach Lauren Keene at lkeene@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8408. Follow her on Twitter @laurenkeene

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