An independent investigator retained by the University of California Office of the President to review wide-ranging allegations made anonymously last fall by UC Davis police officers has found no evidence that the police department's top administrators violated state or federal law or willfully failed to perform their duties.
Investigator Geoffrey A. Goodman, a partner with the Sacramento law firm Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld and a former state and federal prosecutor, found no support for allegations of intentional violation of the Clery Crime Reporting Act or for violations of state or federal employee harassment or discrimination laws.
Goodman did find, however, significant morale problems within the police department, stemming from management style difficulties, delayed administrative response to requests and problems in communication.
No budgetary wrongdoing
A companion audit of the department's financial practices, conducted by Internal Audit Services and overseen by the campus and the Office of the President, found no substantiation of alleged budgetary wrongdoing but advised greater delegation of financial authority to program managers in order to better monitor budgets.
The audit noted that inadequate management of a bicycle theft grant could result in partial or full repayment of the $148,024 grant; the granting agency, however, recently has indicated a willingness to extend the grant for six months so the work can be completed.
"Investigator Goodman's report is thorough and provides a credible assessment of the charges that have been made," said UC attorney Christopher Patti.
"We're pleased that he has found no breach of law. His observations and recommendations regarding the department's work environment offer the campus helpful insights for improving communications and rapport in order to strengthen the department's overall performance."
Said UC Davis Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Robert D. Grey: "Chancellor Vanderhoef and I are very pleased to learn that the most serious allegations were not substantiated.
"We understand that the reviews, necessitated by the allegations, have been difficult for the entire Davis campus police organization. But we agree that these events, although difficult and frustrating, represent an opportunity to build an even stronger police department. In this regard, we wish to declare our continued confidence in the Davis campus police department and its management and to pledge our support during this period of reassessment and renewal."
Management plan needed
Grey has directed UC Davis Vice Chancellor for Administration Janet Hamilton within a month to provide him with a management plan of actions that is responsive to the report's recommendations, followed by a progress report after six months.
Hamilton has approved an immediate allocation of funds to bring in an expert in police department team-building, organizational management and leadership to assist in implementing Goodman's recommendations.
More than 70 individuals, primarily current and former employees of the police department, were interviewed by Goodman between Oct. 25, 2000, and Jan. 31. Additionally, he reviewed documents, statistics and other relevant information and requested supporting materials from the two individuals identified as contacts in the allegation letters.
"It became clear that, to the extent there was support for any of the allegations, the evidence was primarily anecdotal and that many perceived support for the allegations in stories they had heard from colleagues about particular incidents," Goodman reported.
"Thus, many seemed to support an investigation, even though they had no independent or personal knowledge concerning many of the matters alleged."
Recommendations for department
Goodman recommended steps be taken to strengthen awareness of the medical center's crime reporting policy and to clarify protocols for coordinating investigations (a training program for police officers and hospital staff has already been initiated, according to medical center director Martha Marsh); to better inform the police department about the Misuse Committee's purpose and procedures; to provide additional training in personnel supervision and management; and to create opportunities for team building.
Additionally, he advised:
- Greater delegation of authority;
- the establishment of turnaround deadlines on employee requests;
- greater efficiency in hiring;
- a departmental workload assessment by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training
- the inclusion of an outside party in reviews of employee complaints against lieutenants or higher-ranking police managers, and;
- balance in the department's attention to internal matters and external relationships.
Handy has seen findings
Responding to Goodman's review, Hamilton said she and Police Chief Calvin Handy had "systematically worked through the findings, conclusions and recommendations" of the report.
"The chief, the captains and I take the allegations made in the anonymous whistleblower complaint very seriously," Hamilton said. "We are pleased, but not surprised, that the most serious allegations were not substantiated. The report highlights some communication issues within the department and, while we may have differences on the magnitude of these problems, the chief and I fully accept Mr. Goodman's recommendations and look forward to the opportunity to address the issues identified."
Hamilton said she and Handy were "committed to the prompt and constructive resolution of the communication problems" and that she had conveyed her "expectations on this matter to Chief Handy and he has pledged a personal special effort to improving morale within the police department."
"These past few months have been difficult for the entire police department," Handy said.
"But I'm confident that we can turn the corner together, working collaboratively and professionally to achieve our potential as the highest-performing of university police agencies. That's my personal pledge as chief and my unqualified commitment as leader of a unit that is working to become a stronger team."
Allegations and conclusions
- Allegation: The UC Davis Police Department intentionally violated the federal Clery Act by failing to disclose reports of sex crimes.
Conclusion: "The allegation is not substantiated."
While some officers "repeated a vague impression that more sex offenses have occurred than had been reported, each officer interviewed stated that he or she had never been pressured to refrain from filing a police report or to downgrade the offense level of the crime reported," Goodman wrote.
He said he verified that 11 specific cases "about which some officers harbored a suspicion that the offense had not been disclosed in Clery reports" had been handled appropriately and reasonably.
- Allegation: UCDPD assisted in the intentional concealment of crimes or other embarrassing events by "downplaying, ignoring or delaying investigations."
Conclusion: "The allegation is not substantiated. However, there has been some friction between UCDPD and the medical center in coordinating investigations that should be addressed."
Goodman noted an inappropriate referral of an alleged molestation of a UC Davis Medical Center patient by an emergency room technician to the sexual harassment office rather than the police department. Noting the case "appears to be an anomaly," Goodman indicated that med center staff had encouraged the victim to file a police report. He reported no evidence that hospital or risk management administrators obstructed criminal investigations, and noted the med center had adopted a policy clarifying procedures for reporting allegations of sexual assault or battery by an employee.
Goodman reported no evidence that the campus's Misuse of University Resources Coordinating Committee concealed offenses from the police department or that it delayed police investigations.
- Allegation: The Chief of Police creates a "hostile work environment" and manages by intimidation and threats of retaliation.
Conclusion: "...The evidence is not sufficient to establish a hostile work environment claim under state or federal law...."
- Allegation: Decisions by the Chief of Police are based on racism.
Conclusion: "The allegation is not substantiated."
- Allegation: UCDPD is grossly understaffed, suffers excessive turnover and fails to promptly fill vacancies.
Conclusion: "UCDPD has had difficulty in maintaining full staffing levels. This has caused the need for employees to work more overtime and has affected the quality of some administrative functions. However, management appears to be taking reasonable efforts to fill vacancies."
- Allegation: UCDPD fails to provide necessary equipment to staff in a timely manner.
Conclusion: "This allegation is partially supported in that the purchasing process appears unreasonably slow in some instances. However, the officers and staff are generally adequately equipped to safely and effectively perform their job duties."
- Allegation: UCDPD diverts police resources to non-law enforcement and low priority projects and has eliminated "specialty units" to the detriment of law enforcement functions.
Conclusion: "This allegation is not substantiated."
- Allegation: UCDPD treats employees with gross disrespect.
Conclusion: "The allegation is not substantiated. However, many employees doubt the fairness and credibility of management."
- Allegation: UCDPD's management actions have caused low morale.
Conclusion: "Morale at UCDPD is very low and certain management decisions and procedures have contributed to low morale."
"It appears that much of this morale problem is attributable to some unpopular management decisions, a lack of swift response to requests and problems in communication," Goodman wrote.
"Not all morale problems are caused by management. Many long-time employees reported that morale has never been very good in the department and others have reported that UCDPD has a long history of strained labor-management relations."
Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932, firstname.lastname@example.org