Community Engagement Process on Policing: Letters

Tara Warne-Griggs' letter to 4th Ward Councilman Ian Thomas
July 12, 2017

Ian,

Thank you for meeting with Traci, Carol, and me. I appreciated the opportunity to share our concerns about the community engagement process as it is currently structured. I want to reiterate a few points.

The priorities as currently aligned place the equity concerns at the heart of the MTFCV report at the bottom of the priority list rather than at the top where they belong. The current proposal, instead, places the interests of the already well cared for business community and the CPD above the most and chronically neglected members of our Columbia community.

We have been advocating in a very consistent way for community oriented policing for two years and we were so pleased when you introduced your council resolution and the Council agreed to support it. But equity can no longer be sacrificed on the altar of neo-liberalism. Throwing money at a dysfunctional police department will not bring about community policing.

More officers and improved morale/compensation do not automatically lead to organizational and cultural transformation. Doing the work of organizational and cultural transformation does. Community oriented policing as outlined in the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing provides the scaffolding for change and transformation.

We do NOT need a community driven process to improve morale and officer safety. We need improved management and leadership accountability to improve those things not more money thrown at them. The Council has the responsibility and authority to hold the City Manager accountable for managing the Chief of Police. I understand that you included the staffing and morale pieces in the Council Resolution but those things must follow from the model of policing we adopt and from improved internal management.

Staff needs should be determined by the model of community policing developed through a community engagement process. The values, principles, and community developed model lead us to the staffing model that must be funded. NOT the other way round.

You seemed to agree with us that equity needs to form the foundation of the process work--how will you accomplish that with the consultants you have selected? I'll admit your response to Grace last night appeared show a hardening of your commitment to the process as it stands rather than indicating that you believe that equity must provide the foundation for this work as it goes forward.

Sincerely,

Tara Warne-Griggs

PS: I could not find an email address for Angela Hooper-Menifield. I checked her website, fb page, and the proposal. Please forward this email to her as well.

 

RMF Comments on the Community Engagement Proposal by Peggy Placier
July 17, 2017

Last evening two of us from Race Matters, Friends (Tara Warne-Griggs and I) met with the three consultants who submitted the proposal under consideration this evening, for a community engagement process on policing in Columbia. We wanted them to know more about RMF and how much we have invested in community policing aimed at dismantling racial injustice and disparities. And we wanted to know more about the thinking behind their proposal. We wanted to open a dialogue based on mutual, respectful understanding.

After the meeting the two of us considered whether we could support the proposal as written. We do not want to be seen as obstructionist. We want a genuine community engagement process more than anything. However, we do have some concerns.

In general, this proposal appears to be a first draft based on a generic template that needs much more detail specific to this particular process. As someone who has reviewed a lot of proposals, I give it a “revise and resubmit.” Council could ask the consultants to go back to the drawing board, or pass the proposal contingent on certain conditions. What would we want in a revised or amended version?

1. Recognition of the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence as a foundational document developed as a result of extensive work by community members that provides a road map for moving forward.

2. A clear centering on community policing, as the consultants say is their intention. If the participants reach consensus on community policing, an estimated need for resources would follow. Our position, presented to you in previous council meetings, is that community policing per se is a philosophy that requires officer professional development and accountability, not necessarily more funding. The staffing issue seems more related to population growth and salaries. Handling morale issues through this process has the potential to become a can of worms. This would be better handled internally through CPD.

3. A preliminary process of building trust and support through grassroots outreach, so that the people most affected by the lack of community policing and current law enforcement practices (traffic stops, harassment, etc.) are likely to participate. We cannot have another meeting with the usual “city fathers and mothers” (executives from public and private sectors) in the majority. They are always included and come to expect it. Carolyn Sullivan says she could identify many residents who highly value the community outreach unit posted in their neighborhood. That is great, as those units could provide at least a partial model for future action, but we also need people who are alienated from CPD.

4. More detail on how the process will handle power imbalances and communication among the participants, if we have the broad representation envisioned.

5. A clear recognition that this would be the beginning of a long-term process, not the whole process. The timeline seems rushed and inadequate to the task.