Bias charged in case against college chief

(DAVIS, Calif.) -- Community leaders from Yolo County religious and civil-rights organizations Friday said allegations of mismanagement against the UC Davis police chief are racially motivated and questioned the legitimacy of a no-confidence vote against him by department officers and employees.

Further, they pointed to what they said was a troubling pattern emerging in no-confidence votes against area police chiefs: UC Davis Chief Calvin Handy, who is African American and Davis Police Chief Jerry Gonzales, who is Latino. Sacramento Chief Arturo Venegas, a Latino, was the subject of a survey about officer confidence.

"Handy is competent and well-respected," said the Rev. Timothy T. Malone, a UC Davis minister, at a news conference attended by 15 people. "This is a form of ethnic cleansing of men of color in positions of power."

Handy, who was not present, said in a written statement that there was nothing to indicate the complaints against him were racially motivated.

"I have full confidence in the professionalism of all members of the Police Department," he said.

Last month, in a letter to the university's chancellor, UC Davis police officers and employees cited the no-confidence vote and called for Handy's dismissal and a department audit.

They said the "grossly mismanaged" force was chronically understaffed and under-equipped, that morale was low and that they were told to ignore crimes that put the university in a negative light.

The letter caused the university to launch an internal investigation by an outside law firm.

But Friday, community leaders questioned the legitimacy of the no-confidence vote. And they criticized newspapers' use of unnamed sources, saying the allegations were without merit.

John Jones, president of the campus police officer association, said Friday the employees took the no-confidence vote and made its results public only after years of unsuccessfully trying to rectify problems internally.

"This has absolutely nothing to do with the race of the chief," Jones said, adding that the vote involved 90 percent of department personnel, from office clerks to active officers.

Since the critical letter was sent, several employees have come forward with information to support the allegations.

The department has had a chronic vacancy problem - up to 20 percent understaffed for sworn police officers, they said. Short staffing, which officers blamed on Handy, forced them to work long and unsafe shifts of as many as 18 hours.

In late October, UC Davis officials said the department had 47 officers and six vacancies. And, although the university has not formally responded to the officers' allegations, records show that department overtime costs in 1999-2000 were more than $428,000.

Officers also said they had gone without the most basic of equipment, such as flashlights and tape recorders. Police cars are replaced too infrequently, and in the case of one vehicle, the shotgun bracket was broken for an extended period, requiring officers to keep the weapon in the trunk, Jones said.

The officers' letter also supports a series of stories in The Bee, which reported that most schools in the University of California system, including UC Davis, had not fully complied with federal law regarding crime statistics.

At the Friday news conference, community members said they did not dispute campus crimes had been under-reported. But they said it was the university - not Handy - who was responsible for reporting that information properly.

Melvin Trujillo, a former administrative law judge and member of the executive board of the Mexican American Concilio of Yolo County, said he and other community members had met with UC Davis administrators and discussed the allegations against Handy.

"Concilio has reviewed all of the information concerning Chief Handy's performance as chief," Trujillo said. "We found that he is deeply respected by all. Further, he is competent, fair, and his integrity is above reproach."

Although a flier promoting the news conference said former Chief Gonzales, who has resigned from the city force, would attend, he was not present. Malone said Gonzales had a scheduling conflict.

Gonzales' father and Consilio member Rick Gonzales did attend and said the no-confidence votes were the result of "a group of rednecks out to destroy the authority of anybody who isn't white."

Carl Jorgensen, associate professor of sociology at UC Davis, said he had known and worked with Handy for several years and deeply respects him.

"These are false charges," Jorgensen said.

(iSyndicate; Sacramento Bee Nov. 18, 2000). Terms and Conditions: Copyright(c) 2000 LEXIS-NEXIS, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights Reserved.

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