Though the Zehm case has been settled, now is not the time for activists with our eyes on police accountability to settle in and get comfortable. The next year and a half is going to be critical. The landscape is shifting quickly as Mayor Condon brings in Frank Straub as new chief of police, among other changes current and on the horizon.
The Zehm settlement requires all patrol officers to complete Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to better meet the needs of people with mental illness. Community watchdogs will be key as it begins to be implemented.
The Police Guild and the city are negotiating their next contract. Mayor Condon is likely to propose a new Ordinance which will give the Ombudsman investigatory powers and create a community board to direct the Ombudsman’s work. In addition, it is absolutely necessary to change the Ombudsman selection process so that the police guild does not influence who makes the final cut from among Ombudsman candidates.
The Use of Force Commission is meeting to take expert and public testimony and will be giving its recommendations this fall. Community activists from PJALS, Center for Justice, and other groups have been both sharing information and listening to testimony as it’s given. We’re looking forward to seeing what the Commission addresses, and then supporting meaningful change to end brutal and unnecessary force.
It’s very clear that the only way our community will secure meaningful oversight is through a united and organized community, working from the grassroots in communication with elected officials. There is broad agreement among city officials that police reform is necessary, but that only sets the stage for regular folks to speak out, share their own experiences and expertise, and push for specific changes. We believe a broad and active coalition is the best way to get the kind of changes we need. More than twenty groups have agitated and mobilized for police accountability in the last three years in our community, and if we make an organized push together in the next eighteen months, I believe we will see significant steps forward.
Here are some ways that groups can get involved–tell me what sounds like a good fit for you:
- On Wednesday Oct 10 we’re planning a community meeting to talk about priorities for change. Will you invite and recruit members from your group to come? (Location TBA)
- Have a representative (or many) from your group come to the monthly general membership meetings, on the 2nd Wednesday of each month at 5:30, who can keep your membership up to date and get folks involved
- host one of the monthly meetings so we can meet in a variety of spaces and be more accessible (and invite your members to come)
- at your meeting, host a brief presentation and discussion, including ways to get involved
- at your meeting, ask your members for stories and experiences with the police that illustrate why we need change–stories are powerful!
- come to the Use of Force Commission meetings to listen or speak
- come to the City Council Public Safety meetings on the 2nd Monday of every month at 1:30 in City Hall