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Davis hires auditor to review investigation into police officers’ Picnic Day skirmish

Dash cam video: Davis police officers injured in Picnic Day scuffle

Three men were arrested following an attack on Davis police officers who encountered a group of people blocking traffic on a busy roadway during Picnic Day at UC Davis.
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Three men were arrested following an attack on Davis police officers who encountered a group of people blocking traffic on a busy roadway during Picnic Day at UC Davis.

The city of Davis has hired an interim auditor to review the Police Department’s internal investigations, including officers’ conduct during a brawl that soured Picnic Day weekend last year.

Michael Gennaco will focus on the methods and means attorney McGregor Scott used in his analysis of the fight, the city announced in a news release. Scott’s report was turned over to the Davis Police Department in November, the Davis Enterprise reported, but hasn’t been released because it contains personnel information about officers involved in the altercation.

Gennaco serves as the part-time police auditor for Anaheim and Palo Alto and is the principal of OIR Group, a Los Angeles-based independent auditing firm. He previously served as chief attorney for the Los Angeles County’s Office of Independent Review.

As a longtime federal prosecutor, Gennaco won several cases of civil rights abuses against the Los Angeles Police Department, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and immigration detention officers. His review is expected to take a month to complete.

“I am pleased that there is now an interim auditor in place,” police Chief Darren Pytel said in the release. “We have been without an independent auditor for many months. This interim step resolves that and provides a bridge while our police oversight consultant team continues to engage the community on this critical topic. I look forward to working with Mr. Gennaco on ensuring the department meets only the highest standards.”

Antwoine Perry, Elijah Williams, Alexander Reide Craver, Angelica Monique Reyes and Iszir Daquan Price were part of a large group walking near UC Davis’ campus in April 2017 when three plainclothes officers jumped out of an unmarked van. What began as a verbal altercation soon turned physical.

Photos and videos presented in court showed the young adults – dubbed the “Picnic Day Five” – punching and kicking the officers, though they later claimed not to know the men were law enforcement agents. One police officer suffered injuries to his eye and face, while another was treated for a head wound after being struck with a bottle.

Witnesses accused police of handling the situation poorly in several regards, including detaining Reyes with unnecessary force, using the van to clear a crowd gathered in the middle of Russell Boulevard and an officer wearing a pest control work shirt because his job was to “exterminate pests.” Meanwhile, prosecutors alleged Perry had reached in his waistband as if to pull out a handgun. No gun was recovered, but police found several loose bullets in Perry’s backpack.

All members of the “Picnic Day Five,” none of whom were UC Davis students, eventually pleaded no contest to felony resisting and misdemeanor assault on a police officer in exchange for one year’s probation and enrollment in a restorative justice program.

Palo Alto attorney Bob Aaronson served as Davis’ police auditor since the position’s genesis in 2006 until his contract ran out last June. The Davis City Council directed City Manager Dirk Brazil to hire an interim auditor in November after four months with no one in the role.

Davis residents demanding additional police oversight after the melee got their wish when the city hired consultants Kathryn Olson and Barbara Attard to make recommendations on how to monitor the department. Olson and Attard are scheduled to present their findings to the council by the end of April, at which time Gennaco may be relieved of his duties.

Former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness stepped away from a Picnic Day investigation in Davis amid controversy over comments he made on his radio show about blacks. He elaborated on his position in an interview with The Sacramento Bee.

Benjy Egel: 916-321-1052, @BenjyEgel

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