East Palo Alto police chief to leave

Ronald Davis to take post in the U.S. Department of Justice

Ronald Davis, East Palo Alto's police chief for the past eight years, will leave his post to take a new job in Washington, D.C., the city announced today, Oct. 25.

Davis, who steered the city out of one of the worst murder crises in its history, will become director of the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). It is a role for which he has prepared for years, having focused on community-policing practices that built greater trust with residents and strengthened the department through partnerships with outside agencies.

The city expects to appoint an interim police chief next week and will then work toward finding a new chief, City Manager Magda Gonzalez said in a statement.

"It's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to serve in the administration," Davis said by phone of his decision.

He plans to keep working with East Palo Alto as part of his overall job in Washington, where he will be developing community-policing programs throughout the nation, he said. The city is already a COPS-grant recipient and received technical training, he said.

In his new role, Davis will advance Attorney General Eric Holder's Smart on Crime initiative, he said. The initiative changes sentencing policy for non-violent crime and low-level drug sentences, which disproportionately have affected African-American defendants.

Davis served with the Oakland Police Department for 20 years before coming to East Palo Alto.

During his tenure, he focused on improving the department after a 2003-2004 San Mateo County Grand Jury report found the force was poorly trained and managers and officers were not being held accountable or evenly disciplined. He said he leaves with a well-trained department that he believes will continue after he is gone.

He developed video programs to encourage residents to tip police on cold cases and a prisoner re-entry program to reduce repeat offenses. With church leaders and social services providers, he instituted programs that called in gang members to sign on to giving up criminal activities in exchange for job and drug counseling and medical care -- services that got to the root causes of crime, he said.

"Chief Davis has accomplished so much for East Palo Alto during his time here, and he'll be greatly missed. His leadership, innovation and genuine affection for this community have made the East Palo Alto Police Department one of the most progressive police agencies in the United States," Gonzalez said.

Mayor Ruben Abrica said the council received the news last night and today. Davis arrived at a sensitive time when the police department faced serious troubles after the grand jury report, Abrica said.

"He was the right person for the time. He has done a tremendous job of strengthening the department to be more professional. He leaves the department very well run and much more appreciated by the community. I certainly wish him the best. We'll miss him, but we congratulate him," he said by phone.

Davis said he does leave with two things he wanted to have accomplished.

"I wished to go one year without a murder in East Palo Alto. That would have been my greatest honor," he said.

He also wanted to see the department get a new police building. Currently, the offices on Demeter Street are in portable buildings. The department desperately needs a professional environment, he said.

The move to Washington is bittersweet, he added.

"Leaving East Palo Alto is like leaving a family," he said.


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Posted by East Palo Alto Resident
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2013 at 7:19 am

Don't understand how Chief Ron David got elected for that position.....he hasn't solved one murder.....since he was elected chief 8 yrs ago.....It must give him more air time to be on TV.....Glad he is leaving.....maybe we can get someone on the solve some of these cold case murders!!!!!

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Posted by PA Native
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2013 at 10:13 am

Wow, seems like murders have increased this last year, not decreased. Seems like I am reading about a death in EPA almost every week. Was it worse at one time?

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Posted by Jaap
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 26, 2013 at 5:33 pm

@PANative — You're kidding about "was it worse at one time," aren't you? It was MUCH worse. In 1992, there were 42 murders. In 2012, there were 7. That's 7 too many, but it's nothing like it used to be.

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Posted by Tired of the BS
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 27, 2013 at 12:46 pm

East Palo Alto Resident,

The Chief of Police is not elected, he is hired like any other city employee. Murders have been solved since Davis has been Chief, but not a lot. I'm not on his bandwagon, but lets be real, the reason most homicides are not solved in our city is that few people are willing to be witnesses or cooperate with the police department. I do not see the fault being with the police department, Davis did make an effort to build relationships within the community.

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Posted by PA Native
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2013 at 10:19 am

@Jaap: How can you use data from 1992? This police chief was not here in 1992. How many years has he served? Five? Anyway, I have realized that all the shootings I read about (about 3 per month) don't all result in murder, such as the PA resident being shot while driving through EPA. So I guess it doesn't "count" if a person is shot, but not killed. If there are "only 7" murders, the city should be proud?

Davis tried and has given up. [Portion removed.]

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Posted by Raymon
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2013 at 10:50 am

@ Tired of the BS; why would anyone agree to be a witness to a murder, when Police can not protect them?

Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Hmmm is a registered user.

PA Native - so you're an expert? The chief didn't try and give up. He's ambitious. He's been looking to leave the dept for a long time, while at the same time currying favor w/the media and trying to get the dept in shape. One endeavor doesn't cancel out the other. Most of the murders are thug related, with few civilians involved. That's why the rest of us can go about our lives quite safe.

It's pretty easy to glean a few facts from the article, such as Davis has been there for 8 years, not 5.

It's not a matter of proud vs. not proud for the lower number of homicides. The lower number is indicative of a continuing problem that has been decreased due to various reasons. BTW, the majority of the thugs don't live in rentals. If they did, all that would have to be done would be evictions, but that's not the case, unfortunately. Most of the violent crimes happen east of 101, where there are far fewer rental properties.

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Posted by member
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2013 at 3:30 pm

glad to see him leave. all he did was use up funds that were intended for small non-profits to help at-risk kids.

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Posted by Tired of the BS
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2013 at 9:03 pm

Raymon, why should anyone be a witness? Because it is the right thing to do. Because we need to take responsibility for our community. I have lived in EPA on and off for over thirty years. I have friends and family who have been here longer. I know that most people in East Palo Alto are good, hard working, productive members of society, who want to live in a safe neighborhood. We allow ourselves to be held hostage to the criminal minority. We out number them, we do not need to tolerate their bad behavior, but we have to take action, the police department is only part of our community and they cannot be everywhere at once.

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Posted by Sharon
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm

[Post removed.]

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Posted by EPAMom
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 28, 2013 at 11:43 pm

He's an expert in Community Policing? Hardly! This is a small enough city where real community policing could be done, but it's not. That would mean that the officers and supervisors (and Chief) actually knew the citizens. And if that is really done more citizens are willing to work with them as witnesses. It's just an occupying force here.

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Posted by All94303
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2013 at 8:58 am

I am very sad to see Chief Davis go. Having lived thru the worst of violence here in EPA, our lives have decidedly gotten better since he arrived. Police morale has soared, neighborhood involvement has increased, and crime has plummeted. He is incredibly talented and was recruited by Seattle, New Orleans and other cities to head their departments. Thankfully he stayed with us as long as he did...we needed him. If we have to let him go, then I am happy to still benefit from his work on behalf of the entire country. I am praying for our next Chief to continue with the creative, ethical, tireless and excellent leadership Chief Davis has demonstrated. He is an inspiring man, well respected by most of the community (despite the naysayers' comments above), and will succeed at whatever he sets his mind to. We are so blessed to have had him this long.

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Posted by Mark Dinan
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 29, 2013 at 1:20 pm

I live in East Palo Alto, and have found the police to be responsive, professional, and available. My only thought for the next chief would be to emphasize Spanish language skills for all police in EPA - the community is predominantly latino at this point, and there are many residents who do not speak English. Community outreach is great, but it is even better if it is in a language that is understood.

Best of luck to Chief Davis in his next position. Being chief in a place like EPA is not an easy job.

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Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I just wanted to take a moment to distance myself from the user whose post name is almost identical to mine. I use dots in my user name. I know about 1992. I don't agree with many of the posts "PA Native" puts up.

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Posted by Elizabeth Harrison
a resident of another community
on Oct 29, 2013 at 4:15 pm

I haven't been following the Chief's career, so I'm not at liberty to write on IT.

But of course my best wishes are with Chief Ron Davis and his family, in their overall True Happiness, and in his endeavors to bring his best skills to the federal level for community-policing, as we'll be needing his S.T.R.I.V.E. principles more than ever to be exercised when he's working at THAT level, especially - with THOSE politicians.

My prayers are that the chief (chief, do you hear me? ;c) I pray that Ron Davis take a closer and ongoing look while he's in his new position, at the dumbing-down of SOME street cops these days and careful selection of minions, and, also the lowering of the age of those who are allowed in' to have positions of 'community police-persons' - be they volunteers, or, paid, contract, etc. persons.

Both of these two aspects of community-policing concern me, gravely, and so I'll be keeping an eye on Ron Davis and hold him in my prayers, too!

Good luck, Chief! L.U.C.K. = 'Laboring Under Correct Knowledge'

Like this comment
Posted by EPA residence
a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2013 at 8:59 pm

The cops in EPA are dirt bags! Especially the one samoan cop. He is dirty!! I don't know how he got hired on with his work he does for our city and beats pedestrians and steal from them. It starts from the top! These cops are eating our tax money and don't protect us.

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