Davis police-oversight setback

For seven months, citizens of Davis have tried to establish a civilian review board for the Davis Police Department in the wake of alleged racial profiling and misconduct. On February 21, the city council chose instead to look into the option of an ombudsman to investigate complaints against the department.

Jann Murray-Garcia, a pediatrician and president of the Davis organization Blacks for Effective Community Action, is skeptical of how effective the ombudsman model would be.

“The strength is in how authentic the [person] is, and if they get someone who is co-opted by them and reports only to the city manager, then you’re back to where you started,” she said.

Police spokeswoman Lt. Colleen Turay said that police were not comfortable with the “degree of separateness” in a civilian review board and that they like the model the city decided to explore.

“The addition of looking into an ombudsman is fine with us. We are not opposed to an increase in oversight. Our concern is that it is done legally,” she said.

Murray-Garcia said the city-council decision is a setback not only to citizens’ efforts, but also to addressing the racial-profiling issue as a whole.

“I really don’t think the majority of council members appreciate what it’s like to live in a city where there’s this differential treatment by the police,” she said. “The legacy of our country is built on race. At some point, somebody has to say that this is an issue in our city.”

—Sonia K. Saini

Seizing the Days

The Days Market and the Washington Market, two of Oak Park’s 33 liquor-selling convenience stores, risk losing their licenses, and maybe even their businesses (see “This property condemned"; SN&R Cover Story; May 26, 2005).

Multiple forces are coming together to kick these two stores out of Oak Park. The Sacramento Police Department has accused each market owner of running a “disorderly house,” defined as “a licensed premises … maintained for purposes which are injurious to the public morals, health, convenience or safety.”

“The police are reactive when a neighborhood says, ‘We’ve had enough,'” explained Lt. Sylvia Moir of the Sacramento Police Department.

Sparking an investigation by the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the police are obligated to prove that the markets are the nexus of nuisance activities.

The Washington Market has responded to community outcry. Classical music floats into the street, floodlights keep the streets well-lit, and the store closes at a respectable 10 p.m., but neighbor Tom Sumpter claims the market continues to sell single beers, “preying on those that are most susceptible to alcoholism.”

Recent improvements failed to impress City Councilwoman Lauren Hammond. “I think they’ve shown that they want to keep their liquor license,” she said.

The city council is planning to vote March 7 on whether to use eminent domain to seize the two properties, both of which were grandfathered into residential neighborhoods. The city is also considering future changes to zoning and planning laws.

“This is probably our last chance to use eminent domain,” explained Tim Boyd, one of the Oak Park residents urging neighbors to attend the March 7 meeting to show their support.

—Chrisanne Beckner

Rewriting Hindu history

This week, Hindu organizations weighed in against the State Board of Education, demanding that changes be made to sixth-grade textbooks. Every six years, the board submits requests for content changes to book publishers. This year, the Vedic Foundation and the Hindu Education Foundation have proposed a multitude of revisions on everything from inconsistent spellings to clarifying the origins of the caste system. Bhagawandas Lathi, an adviser to the local Hindu Education Foundation, said that current textbooks “give the wrong impression to students” and that “Hinduism is only shown in a negative light.” Lathi said today’s textbooks depict Hinduism as the only faith whose history is steeped in class and gender inequities, while failing to inform students on the tenets of Hindu faith. The State Board of Education has said it will modify textbook portrayal of the Hindu faith only when those changes are improving factual accuracy.

—Rachel Gregg