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Criminal Justice Conversations with David Onek: Ron Davis, East Palo Alto Police Chief

Ron Davis and David Onek

In Episode #18, East Palo Alto Police Chief Ron Davis discusses the need for police leadership in reentry, East Palo Alto's innovative reentry partnership with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), the importance of fair and impartial policing, and being a finalist for the Seattle Police Chief and New Orleans Police Chief positions.

Ron Davis Interview Highlights

Davis on Police Leadership in Reentry:

“What is the role of local police in reentry? I think historically, local police saw parole as primarily a tool of accountability. As we redefine the role of local police in reentry, then the relationship's going to have to be a more strategic. You have to engage with those that are coming out of prison, out of jails, because the recidivism rates say that they impact you. And to be able to affect those lives positively, reduce return to custody rates, and reduce crime and victimization, and do so in a manner that is really consistent with the core values of the community, and community policing, is why we're here. So to me, it seems a natural evolution that the next level of community policing has to be beyond simply taking people to jail, and it has to engage in changing peoples' behaviors.”

Davis on Fair and Impartial Policing:

“I think that fair and impartial policing is a critical part of community policing. If people think that you're engaging in racial profiling or some type of disparate enforcement activity, they will not have trust and confidence and won't work with you. So one of the first things I did was make discrimination one of my Five Deadly Sins. If you commit one of the Five Deadly Sins, then the immediate recommendation from me is termination: that you lose your job as a police officer.”

Davis on Legality versus Legitimacy in Policing:

“We’re big in East Palo Alto on the issue of legality versus legitimacy. Understanding that just because your actions are legal don't make them necessarily right in the eyes of the community, that you should seek for legitimacy without compromising, obviously, safety or the law. But seek to do those things that bring value to the community and not just to be seen as being oppressive.”


The Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast with David Onek features in-depth, thirty-minute interviews with a wide range of criminal justice leaders: law enforcement officials, policymakers, advocates, service providers, academics and others.

The Podcast gets behind the sound bites that far too often dominate the public dialogue about criminal justice, to have detailed, nuanced conversations about criminal justice policy.

Podcast host David Onek is a Senior Fellow at Berkeley Law School and a former Commissioner on the San Francisco Police Commission.

You can find more information on the Criminal Justice Conversations Podcast and listen to all past episodes on the Podcast web site.

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