Campus Safety Task Force Calls for Transparency, Ongoing Review

Student sits on bench at Lake Spafford.
The Task Force on Next Generation Reforms to Advance Campus Safety delivered its final report last week with eight recommendations to improve policing at UC Davis. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Quick Summary

  • Chancellor May accepts all eight recommendations from the group
  • Workgroups will focus on issues of mental health crises and uniforms
  • Office of the President still seeking feedback on systemwide review

Future changes to policing at UC Davis should include increased transparency, restorative justice, new approaches to mental health crises, regular review of the arming of police, and ongoing review and dialogue to ensure the campus Police Department is meeting the community’s needs, a 32-person task force convened by Chancellor Gary S. May said in its final report last week.

The group, the Task Force on Next Generation Reforms to Advance Campus Safety, convened a year ago as discussions of police reform swept the nation in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. It delivered its preliminary report to the chancellor in December and followed up with the full report and eight recommendations on June 15.

“I’m grateful to the members of the task force for their thorough, comprehensive and superb efforts in conducting the review and producing this report,” May said. “As I accept these recommendations, I want to be clear that this report itself is not an endpoint. Instead, we will continue to operate in a mode of continuous improvement.”

The group was co-chaired by Kevin Johnson, dean of the School of Law, and Renetta Garrison Tull, vice chancellor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and included faculty, staff and students from the Davis and Sacramento campuses, and alumni, too. The task force was given six months more than originally planned to complete its report so it could seek additional input from the university community, and did so through 11 public town hall meetings and its website.

“A task force report cannot ‘solve’ all of the public safety issues in the nation, or even more modestly, at UC Davis,” the group said in its final report. “An institutionalized system of checks must be created for regular review of public safety needs, policies and practices. Community input, dialogue, review and change is essential to ensure that the public safety function is responsive to community needs, responsible in its implementation and all members of the community feel safe. Throughout the process of dialogue and engagement, we must all strive to ensure that we meet the ideals of the UC Davis Principles of Community and the greater good.”

Broad process

Plainclothes officer talks to student.
Jena Du is UC Davis’ first core officer, an unarmed and plainclothed officer who focuses on answering questions and building relationships. (Anjie Cook/UC Davis)

The group discussed a wide range of issues, and heard from people whose views on the Police Department ranged from the idea that it should be maintained to calls for it to be abolished. The task force report concludes abolishing the department would do more harm than good.

“If the UCDPD did not exist, the local police departments or county sheriff offices would be called on to respond to emergency calls on the campuses,” the report said, adding that members of the group “did not believe the campus communities would benefit from external policing because those officers would be unfamiliar with the unique needs of the campus communities and UC policies.”

Two days after the group’s final report, a five-person Associated Students of UC Davis task force issued its own recommendations on public safety at UC Davis; many of the ideas from the two groups overlap, and the larger task force, in its final report, voiced support for some of the ASUCD recommendations.

“I appreciate receiving the ASUCD’s recommendations and those will inform our campus safety planning as we move forward,” May said. “One of my goals was to make sure that students were well represented on the Next Generation Reforms to Advance Campus Safety Task Force. I thank the task force for making sure all students, faculty and staff had multiple opportunities throughout the last year to participate in providing feedback and ideas to the task force.”


The UC Office of the President is separately examining policing across the UC system, and is soliciting feedback on the draft Presidential Campus Safety Plan. The plan, based on input from faculty, staff and students as well as the work of campus-specific task forces like the one at UC Davis and a two-part UC Campus Safety Symposium, has four guidelines that are generally aligned with the recommendations from the UC Davis group. The UC-wide plan calls for diversity and inclusion, cooperation between police and experts in mental health and basic needs, transparency, and independent oversight. Comments on that draft plan are being accepted through June 30.

The task force recommendations

The eight recommendations in the final report from the UC Davis Task Force on Next Generation Reforms to Advance Campus Safety are:

  • Joe Farrow
    Joe Farrow
    Create an Institutional Structure Allowing a Continuing Dialogue and Review of the Public Safety Function — A lot has changed within the UC Davis Police Department since Joe Farrow became chief in 2017, including a 33 percent reduction in the number of sworn officers assigned to patrol the Davis campus, the addition of a community outreach and engagement program, the creation of a student liaison position with the Division of Student Affairs, training on implicit bias and de-escalation, and more. Those kinds of changes — and the ones recommended in the report — should continue, with their progress monitored through a process developed by Kelly Ratliff, vice chancellor of Finance, Operations and Administration, the report said.
  • Increase Communication, Transparency and Training — The Police Department should do more to tell the community about its goals and methods, including publishing more detailed data and performing more outreach about specialized crisis-response teams and recent reforms, the task force said. At least two outreach activities should be held each year, the group said. It agreed with an ASUCD task force recommendation to publish information online about the kinds of situations that merit sending an armed police officer instead of an unarmed officer. “UC Davis leadership should define ‘public safety’ to include diversity, equity, inclusion and justice for all community members,” the report said.
  • Implement Alternative Approaches to Public Safety and Policing — UC Davis police already participate in Yolo County’s restorative justice-based Neighborhood Court program, but the university should form its own restorative justice program, the task force said. It also recommended a specialized mental health response team and an annual evaluation of the use of weapons and formal police uniforms for routine patrols. Those uniforms should be modified, although the specifics of doing so should be handled by a new working group, according to the report.
  • Implement Regular Evaluation of Police Use of Arms and Bar UC Davis Police Department Participation in the Law Enforcement Support Program — Members of the task force generally supported the expansion of positions like the core officer program, in which an unarmed and plainclothed officer helps answer questions and resolve conflicts, but they could not come to a consensus on the broad disarmament of police officers, the report said. The way police officers use and carry weapons should be reviewed periodically, it said, adding that the university should forbid the department from receiving any surplus military equipment from the federal government through what is called the Law Enforcement Support Program — a policy the department adopted on its own in 2017. The ASUCD task force echoed that recommendation.
  • Improve Responses to Mental Health Calls — UC Davis should form a workgroup to review how the Police Department handles mental health crises and “implement new approaches that reflect best practices in the field by fall 2022,” the report said, noting that those approaches could mirror departments that send a paramedic and an unarmed mental health professional to such calls. The task force supported the ASUCD group’s recommendations in this area, which included ideas like a 24/7 mental health team that could work throughout the area or training campus paramedics to be the first ones to respond to mental health calls instead of police. Whatever changes are made in this area, they should reflect the university’s needs and its diversity, the report said.
  • Review the Role and Scope of the Police Accountability Board —  The task force said UC Davis should hire an outside consultant every other year to review the role and scope of the Police Accountability Board, or PAB, which was formed in 2014 to review complaints about police conduct, review policies and procedures, and identify possible areas for improvement. The task force questioned whether the PAB was receiving enough information about complaints about police conduct, whether the body should have final authority about accepting or rejecting the findings of the Office of Compliance and Policy, which investigates complaints, and whether the PAB should be able to recommend specific discipline when misconduct is substantiated.
  • Address Issues Unique to the Sacramento Campus — The Police Department and UC Davis Medical Center should increase the availability of public safety escorts for people who feel unsafe walking to their cars late at night, the task force said. More flexible parking permit options for people who work on the Sacramento campus could also help, the group said in its report.
  • Acknowledge the Legacy of the Pepper Spray Incident — The actions of police officers who used pepper spray on peaceful protestors on campus in November 2011 continue to undermine community trust of the department, the task force said. It recommended working with experts in restorative justice to use the upcoming 10th anniversary of that incident to find “the healing that is needed in order for the community to move forward.” The report also recommended a plaque or some other public acknowledgement of the student activism that preceded the incident.

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