- How does the Town provide police services to its residents?
Since the Town’s incorporation in 1982, the Town has contracted with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office to provide police services in Danville. This contract services model is used throughout the state. Here in Contra Costa County, the cities of Orinda and Lafayette also contract with the Sheriff for law enforcement.
- How does the Town select its Police Chief and Officers?
The individual serving as Danville’s Chief of Police must be either a Lieutenant or Captain in the Sheriff’s Office, ensuring that they have years of command experience in a variety of roles before assuming the role of Chief. Candidates are interviewed and the Town selects the best qualified candidate. Once a Chief is selected, they make a commitment to serve at least four years in that role, but they typically stay longer. During our 39 years as a Town, we have only had six Police Chiefs.
The Chief selects their command staff (an Administrative Lieutenant and sergeants) as well as all individual officers. Any Sheriff’s deputy selected to serve in Danville in any role has prior experience in that role with the Sheriff before coming to work in Danville. They are selected based not only on their prior experience (patrol, investigations, school resource officers, etc.) but also on their ability to provide service in a manner consistent with the Town’s values and mission statement. While all officers selected to serve Danville agree to a minimum two-year commitment to the Town, many stay much longer. In addition, officers who return to the Sheriff’s Office for a promotion, frequently return to the Town in their new, supervisory role, with the added benefit of additional experience at the county.
- What training do officers receive to address bias and use of deadly force?
All officers assigned to Danville, from the Chief to patrol officers, receive extensive, ongoing training through the Sheriff’s Office. In an effort to be transparent with the community, our Police Department has provided links for residents to documents on policy and training on our website.
While the links can be found on this page (https://www.danville.ca.gov/162/Police-Services), there is also more detailed information available on the Contra Costa Sheriff’s website. For instance, this page (https://www.cocosheriff.org/community-information/principled-policing) includes links to the course outlines of the mandatory training all officers receive on subjects such as de-escalation, diversity, crisis intervention and use of deadly force. The Town fully supports these efforts to provide the most effective training for all law enforcement officers, not just those assigned to Danville.
- How are citizen complaints about the police handled?
All complaints filed with the Town’s Police Department are reviewed by a Sergeant, the Administrative Lieutenant, or the Police Chief. Every effort is made to resolve complaints or questions at this level as quickly as possible. However, if the resident is not satisfied with the result of this process, the complaint will be referred to the Internal Affairs Unit of the Sheriff’s Office. All complaints going to Internal Affairs are investigated and the findings are reviewed and approved by the Sheriff. The citizen who filed the complaint is notified by the Sheriff upon completion of the process.
- What is the Town doing about the officer involved shootings here in Danville and what actions have been taken with regard to the individual officer?
In the last two and one-half years, there have been two officer involved shootings in Town, one on November 3, 2018 and one on March 11, 2021. Tragically, both shootings ended in fatalities. In both cases, the Town has fully supported transparent investigations by both the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney.
Immediately after the 2018 incident, Officer Hall was placed on administrative leave by the Sheriff and separate, independent investigations by the Sheriff’s Office and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Officer were begun. Both investigations were conducted pursuant to the Protocol for Law Enforcement Involved Fatal Incidents. This Protocol, first adopted in 1984 and updated several times since then, was developed with the support and assistance of the Sheriff’s Office, the District Attorney and all police departments in Contra Costa County and is used by all law enforcement agencies in Contra Costa. The Sheriff’s Office subsequently completed their investigation in 2019, concluding that Officer Hall had not violated departmental policies. Given that finding and the fact that there was no indication from the District Attorney’s Office that their investigation would reach a different result, Officer Hall was returned to working in traffic enforcement in Danville. The District Attorney’s Office did not complete their investigation of this incident until April 21, 2021, two and one-half years later, at which time they announced that Officer Hall would be charged with two felonies-voluntary manslaughter and assault with a semiautomatic firearm. The Town has issued a public statement respecting the decision of the District Attorney (https://www.danville.ca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/6760/Press-Release---Statement-from-Danville-Town-Council-PDF).
The March 11, 2021 incident, also involving Officer Hall, remains under investigation by both the Sheriff and the District Attorney. Immediately following the March 11, 2021 incident, Officer Hall was placed on administrative leave by the Sheriff and new investigations by the Sheriff and the District Attorney (both to be conducted pursuant to the Protocol) were begun. Officer Hall has been transferred from his assignment with Danville back to the Sheriff’s Office. Any subsequent actions regarding his employment fall within the discretion of the Sheriff’s Office.
As with the prior incident, the Town fully supports a transparent, thorough and independent investigation of the incident. Along those lines, the Sheriff released body cam and other video footage of the incident on April 21, 2021
(This video contains graphic content and language that may be disturbing and not appropriate for all viewers Critical Incident Video on Danville Officer Involved Shooting - YouTube).
- What has the Town’s Police Department done to strengthen relations and communication with our community?
Ever since the Town’s incorporation, our Police Department has embraced the concept of community policing and developing positive relationships with all members of the community. Before the pandemic, this included events as organized as Citizen Academies and as informal as meet and greets at local coffee shops. Once the restrictions of the pandemic are lifted, we will resume these activities. During the pandemic, the Chief has hosted a weekly 10-8 podcast that has covered a wide variety of police and public safety topics. The Chief and our officers are always open to suggestions on how to improve communication with all members of the community.
- What is the Town doing to address interactions between the police and individuals with mental health concerns?
In addition to the training provided to all officers on handling situations with those in a mental health crisis (https://www.cocosheriff.org/home/showpublisheddocument/200/637309449998470000 and https://www.cocosheriff.org/home/showpublisheddocument/198/637309449703770000 ), the Town is actively supporting more systematic means of addressing mental health issues.
Approximately one in five adults in Contra Costa County are struggling with behavioral health issues. The complex and decentralized system of intervention and mental health treatment programs in our county often means those experiencing a behavioral health crisis cannot access the care they need when they need it. All too often, calling 911 can feel like the only option a family or caregiver has when behavior escalates beyond what they can manage.
Working in partnership with cities across the county, Contra Costa Health Services has launched a comprehensive review of existing behavioral health crisis response services and is working to develop a vision for future improvements. For Danville, this could involve participating in a county-wide solution or looking for ways to partner with other agencies to address these issues more locally within the San Ramon Valley. The Town is also supporting AB 988, a bill drafted by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan which would create and fund a crisis hotline for those in need.
- Would the Town be better off with its own police department rather than contracting with the Sheriff?
In the aftermath of the recent officer involved shooting, some members of the community have suggested that the community would be better served by creating our own police department. While the Town has always valued and continues to value the relationship with the Sheriff’s Office and the service they provide, the Town did in fact study the possibility of creating its own department in 2010. The conclusion of the study was that the Sheriff’s Office provided a high level of service to the Town in a cost-effective manner.
Creating an in-house Police Department would require significantly increasing the size of the department. Officer staffing would need to be increased to cover vacation relief, special events, etc. and non-sworn staffing would need to be added for records management, human resources and legal services. Additional space would be required for evidence storage and the Town’s liability insurance costs would increase. Right now, all this is covered under the contract with the Sheriff’s Office. Additionally, the Town can draw upon the resources of the Sheriff’s Office for assistance covering special events, training and certain types of investigations. The Town has the lowest staffing ratio (based upon the number of officers per thousand of population) among all cities in Contra Costa yet is able to provide a very high level of service. Finally, as one of very few cities in the state that does not participate in a defined benefit pension system, Danville would be challenged to recruit and hire its own sworn staff, particularly with the level of experience and training already provided by the Sheriff’s Office.
Creating an in-house police department would not change the Town’s underlying philosophy of community policing, would not provide additional or different training to individual officers and would not guarantee different outcomes in high stress situations which officers, unfortunately, are placed in from time to time.