Almost four months ago, on June 25, 2020, Mayor Jodi Miller presided over her first meeting of the newly-formed Social Justice Committee. Though the committee was put together after the civil unrest surrounding the killing of George Floyd, the Mayor has stated on more than one occasion that she has wanted to do this for years. The official purpose of the committee, as it is stated in the agenda for the first meeting, reads as follows:
“To identify and examine the root issues contributing to the negative effects of systemic racism and injustice in our community through dialogue and task forces with action plans that bring the necessary framework that can move our community toward reconciliation, reformation, unity and healing.”
We obtained a copy of a document that Mayor Miller put together and read from at the last SJC meeting. Miller begins, “It has been said “What are we doing?”… I would like to address what the city is doing as a result of these meetings. A list of problems that we are hearing and the solutions that the city is/has worked out.”
Listed below are the actions that the Mayor says the city has taken or is taking to address each issue.
–Use of force/bodycam policies:
- Policies posted on the PD website and presented to the committee by Chief Summers, fully transparent by offering copies, all to national standards or better.
- Implementation of Lexipol
- Presented data- summary of traffic stops and code enforcement violations
- Complaint processes are being reviewed and there is a need for more education on the existing process
-Implicit bias training:
- Implicit bias training for all staff
- Sexual harassment training for all staff
-The community doesn’t “know us”:
- 2 staff on the street events
- To build trust, we will continue working on a plan to build relationships
- Created a flyer for “textmygov” as well as for “iWorqs”
- Reviewed and updated the chronic nuisance ordinance for better results for compliance
- Promote more the “drug take back” program, “gun take back”, as well as the civilian police and fire academie
-Need for more diversity within departments and boards/commissions:
- Evaluated boards to see if they are in line with demographics
- Hosting open house events at Fire Station
- Online free internship through fire department for area youth
- Engaged local churches for possible candidates
- Challenged committee members for names of candidates for boards as well as 3 names for fire and police to create a more diverse pool of applicants that are qualified, dedicated public servants
- Implementing suggestions from the recruitment committee
- Social worker needed on PD staff and will budget in the future for that
- Recent hires within fire and police – 1 African American and 2 females, and 2 new female department heads
-Greater resources for healthcare mental health:
- Had presenters from Health Dept., FHN, and VOICES
- Use of force/body cams
- Citizen review board
- Recruitment (See recruitment plan on thevoiceoffreeport.com)
- Civilian Police and Fire Academy
-Review of locally written “Justice Plan”:
- We are reviewing and implementing the US conference of Mayors report on Police reform and racial justice
Some may challenge the notion that implementing policies from Lexipol is a solution for progressive police policy reform. For those who are not familiar, Lexipol LLC is a private, for-profit, consulting firm based out of California, that provides policy manuals and consulting services to Police and Fire departments across the nation.
According to an analysis published in the Texas Law Review (TLA), “although there are other private, nonprofit, and government entities that draft police policies, Lexipol is now a dominant force in police policy making across the country.” Lexipol has been criticized by some for its lack of transparency, as well as for crafting policies that are geared more towards protecting the police from legal liabilities than what is best for the community. The TLA analysis also stated, “Based on the information we have been able to collect, we do not believe that Lexipol provides subscribing agencies with sufficient information for them to be able to understand what evidence Lexipol has consulted when crafting its policies and trainings, the rationale for its decisions, or whether there are diverging opinions about best practices in a given area”.
ACLU staff attorney Carl Takei said in an interview with HuffPost, “Lexipol comes to the task of drafting police manuals and policies with a specific mindset and political orientation. The way they market to small and medium size cities is that if you adopt our policies, our policies will protect you from liability”. We have reached out to both Mayor Miller and Police Chief Summers for comment, unfortunately as of press time we have not received statements from either.
After reading the above list to the 7 present committee members and folks from the community in attendance, Mayor Miller closed with the following statement;
“We acknowledge there is always room for improvement. This committee was never intended to be the be all end all in racial and social injustice but rather to give an honest evaluation to the city’s policies and procedures as well as look at the community’s needs that are affected such as health and education.”– Freeport Mayor Jodi Miller
Nick Nunez is the City Hall Correspondent for The Voice of Freeport and his porch light will be off on Halloween.