Kelly Davis


San Diego

Kelly Davis

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



City Attorney Challenges SDPD on Rape Kit Testing

Two of San Diego’s top law enforcement officials remain at odds over how police should handle DNA evidence collected from victims of sexual assault. During her 2016 run for city attorney, and now almost a year into her tenure, Mara Elliott has repeatedly called for the San Diego Police Department to send all sexual assault kits to the crime lab for analysis.
Voice of San Diego Link to Story

Deadliest outbreak of hepatitis A in decades kills 14 in San Diego

Fourteen people have died from an outbreak of hepatitis A in San Diego, and experts believe it to be the deadliest outbreak of the disease in the US in decades, the Guardian has learned. In large part, the victims were homeless people who have had to contend with a lack of 24-hour public restrooms, even though hand-washing is one of the best defenses against infection.
The Guardian Link to Story

Four years later, ex-mayor hasn't made court-ordered restitution to charity

In 2013, former San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Connor agreed to pay $2.1 million in restitution after she admitted to embezzling that amount from her late husband’s charity to feed a video poker habit. She was supposed to pay the money “when financially able to do so” under a deal with federal authorities that held off her prosecution for misappropriation of funds.
San Diego Union-Tribune Link to Story

Former mayor and twin sister helped seal affordable housing deal

The faces were familiar at the meetings that San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts held with San Diego Kind Corp., the company that has since become a pillar in the county’s new $25 million affordable housing development program. One was former San Diego Mayor Maureen O’Connor, Roberts’ longtime friend and one-time City Council colleague, who in February introduced the long-serving Republican supervisor to the small nonprofit senior housing provider founded four decades ago by her twin sister, Mavourneen O’Connor.
San Diego Union-Tribune Link to Story

SDSU Researchers Watered Down Racial-Profiling Study

When a long-awaited study on whether the San Diego Police Department engages in racial profiling finally dropped in late November, the results were unsurprising: It found that black and Hispanic drivers were more likely to be searched, though they were less likely to actually have contraband items, and that minority drivers were more likely to be subjected to field interviews.
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


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.