Kelly Davis


San Diego

Kelly Davis

California-based investigative reporter and editor focusing on the criminal justice system and vulnerable populations



SDSU Researchers Watered Down the Police Racial-Profiling Study

• An early draft recommended the department stop making traffic stops for minor violations unrelated to public safety, and instead simply issue citations by mail — something, researchers noted, other departments are exploring. • Also cut from the final draft was the finding, via police survey, that the majority of officers felt they wouldn’t benefit from additional training in fair and impartial policing.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story

'A tableau of suffering': San Diego faces a dark homelessness crisis

A “tableau of squalor and suffering” isn’t what comes to mind when people think of San Diego, a town with the motto “America’s finest city” and a reputation for its craft-beer culture and miles of beautiful beaches. But that’s how Dan McSwain, a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune, described the city’s homelessness crisis in a piece last year, the first in a series pillorying city leaders for not doing more to address the issue.
The Guardian Link to Story

Two Men at Obvious Risk of Suicide, Two Deaths – and Investigators Just Cleared Both Cases

In his jail booking photo, there’s a bright-red ligature mark around Robert Lubsen’s neck. The 26-year-old, who was arrested in 2013 after being caught stealing laptops from a Cal State San Marcos dormitory, had tried to hang himself in a campus holding cell before being transferred to the Vista jail.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story

Internal Chaos Stymied Law Enforcement Review Board Investigations, Docs Show

One of the main goals of the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board is to ensure law enforcement officials who break the rules or abuse their power are held accountable. But over the last year, the group failed to hold its own leader accountable, according to documents and emails obtained by Voice of San Diego through a public records request.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story

SDPD Finds a Way Around State Law Limiting DNA Collection From Juveniles

When it comes to collecting DNA from criminal offenders, California law is especially protective of juveniles. While 2004’s Proposition 69 broadened police authority to collect DNA without a warrant, it put limits on when DNA can be collected from juveniles. Only if a youth has been found guilty of a felony or required to register as a sex offender can law enforcement obtain a DNA sample.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story

Police Oversight Group Is Drowning in Death Cases

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department conducted its own review of Hartsaw’s death, but such records are exempt from disclosure under state public records law. The public can’t access those records, but the Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board, an independent oversight body, can. CLERB investigates complaints against county law enforcement officers and any in-custody death that may have been the result of law enforcement misconduct.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story

Solitary Confinement—or ‘Room Confinement’?

Opposition to a bill outlawing juvenile solitary in California faded when legislators agreed to a slight language change. That could be a lesson for other reform efforts around the country.
The Crime Report Link to Story

SDPD Doubles Down on Decision to Leave Some Rape Kits Untested

It’s only been in the last several years that victim advocacy groups have started to get a handle on how many sexual assault kits are gathering dust on evidence room shelves. The kits hold the forensic evidence gathered through an invasive, lengthy exam of a victim after a sexual assault — hair, semen, saliva, blood — that crime lab technicians use to develop a DNA profile of the assailant.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story

County settles jail meth death for $2.3 million

The county has agreed to pay $2.3 million to the family of a man who died in San Diego’s central jail in 2012 from a drug overdose, the second time in less than two years that taxpayers have funded a multimillion-dollar settlement over an inmate’s death. The parents of Bernard Victorianne sued the sheriff’s department in 2014, claiming that jail staff knew the 28-year-old swallowed a baggie of methamphetamine and then failed to act on obvious signs of medical distress for days.
San Diego Union-Tribune Link to Story

San Diego’s Housing Ladder Is Losing Its Bottom Rung

According to a recent survey by the San Diego Housing Commission, as of October 2015, there were 3,872 single-room occupancy units within the city, down significantly from the 8,950 units counted in a 2003 survey. Those two studies looked at SROs citywide. A 1988 report on SRO creation and preservation, prepared for the City Council, counted more than 4,000 units in downtown alone, with another 1,800 units in the pipeline.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story

Law Intended to Address Dumpsters Increasingly Used on the Homeless

Tickets issued for encroachment violations – a lower-level version of the same offense – show a similar increase. In 2010, officers in Central Division, which includes downtown, issued 232 encroachment citations. By 2013, that number had increased more than five-fold to 1,234. Nearly 1,600 citations were issued in 2014.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story

What I Learned Helping My Sister Use California’s New Law to End Her Life

Last August, my sister Betsy asked if I knew anything about using Bitcoin, a form of virtual currency. It took me awhile to realize why she was asking: She wanted to buy a lethal amount of drugs and she didn’t want the purchase to be traceable. A beautiful, outgoing, talented artist, Betsy was diagnosed with ALS in July 2013.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story


Kelly Davis

I'm a freelance journalist based in San Diego who focuses on issues related to adult and juvenile incarceration, mental illness and homelessness. Until March 2015, I was the associate editor at San Diego CityBeat, an alternative newsweekly that I helped start in 2002.

My work's included investigations into the high rate of deaths in San Diego County jails and a spike in suicide attempts at county juvenile detention facilities. I've also written extensively about California’s sex offender laws and the city of San Diego's ongoing efforts to address its large homeless population. My reporting has been honored by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, the San Diego chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. I'm currently a USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism California fellow.