My Brother’s Keeper Alliance pledge assigned to Finance, Administration and Police Subcommittee
The Cloverdale City Council expressed unanimous support to affirm its pledge to the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance to address police use of force policies during its meeting Wednesday night, June 24.
The pledge outlines four main actions for cities to take when looking at its use of force policies: review the police use of force policies; engage in the community by including a diverse range of input, experiences and stories for review; report findings of the review for community feedback; and reform the community’s use of force policies.
Cloverdale is joining cities throughout the county in the pledge, and intends to have its monthly Finance, Administration and Police subcommittee tackle the actions outlined in the pledge.
“I plan to recommend an engagement process that includes a public listening session or facilitated workshop or both over the coming months to enable the community to share their stories and experiences about city policies and practices (not limited to just the police department) that they consider to be inequitable or unfair,” City Manager David Kelley told the Reveille in a June 17 email. “While the formal engagement process will likely follow the review of existing policies, subcommittee meetings are public meetings open to the public and routinely serve as a starting point for soliciting and receiving community input on how city policies and practices may be considered unfair in our community and/or contribute to inequality.
“The community is welcome and encouraged to plug in and attend subcommittee meetings and be part of the democratic process. I want to acknowledge that there may be some challenges fully engaging with our community while members of our community continue to shelter in place due to COVID-19 but staff will make every effort to do so through virtual meetings, print materials, the city’s website and social media platforms.”
In the council’s initial discussion of the pledge, the council members expressed concern that they may lose sight of the goals outlined for cities to address.
“It’s more than just a pledge — we’re going to have to commit resources to this,” Vice Mayor Jason Turner said. “With a facilitator and really just making sure that we do everything we can to influence a productive conversation and positive outcomes. I don’t want to look back on this six months from now, three months from now and say, ‘Yeah it was really cool that we came out with this very powerful message, but we just weren’t able to back it up.’”
Turner voiced support for having the Finance, Administration and Police Subcommittee take the lead on addressing the pledge.
Both Councilmember Marta Cruz and Mayor Gus Wolter said that they’re hoping one of the first tasks the subcommittee will do is come up with a timetable of how the city plans to address the use of force review, as well as how it intends to engage with the community.
“It cannot just stay in a plan, it has to be implemented. The conversation is necessary because some members of the community see it as a divide and it needs to be an opportunity to come together and collaborate, to really understand the other point of view,” Cruz said.
“I do not want this can kicked down the road,” Wolter said. “I want to have our teeth well sunk into it by the end of July.”
While nobody on the council expressed the desire to pull funding away from the police department, there was group support for creating a plan of what the city expects from its police department — including the line between what duties should be handled by police officers and which would be better handled by other professionals, such as social workers.
“What I think we have to be really clear on is what do we expect as a community from the police department — right now we’ve got very little mental health services, we’ve got very little homeless services, we’ve got all of these things that always get dumped on the police department and I think it’s really not fair when you expect a policeman to be a social worker. It’s just too much. We should be really clear on where we put our resources,” Councilmember Mary Ann Brigham said.
Brigham said that she’s not suggesting cutting the police department budget, but also wondered if the city could possibly devote additional funds for social workers.
“We expect a whole lot from them because we’re way up on this northern border and way away from services. Personally, I think we ask almost too much from them,” she said.
Wolter echoed her thoughts, adding that more work needs to be done in terms of outlining what additional resources the city needs when it comes to how to best respond to various types of police calls.
Cloverdale Police Chief Jason Ferguson said that he wouldn’t be in favor of the city diverting funds from or taking away part of the police department’s budget.
“We really need the staffing levels that we have to continue providing the level of service that we do,” Ferguson said. “I am, however, very much in support of any kind of programs that will help educate or create jobs for whatever needs to be done. I think the challenge for that is going to be the funding mechanism to make that happen.”
Ferguson added that the department is devoted to community policing, and that it’s willing to try and engage more with community policing policies.
“I’m certainly encouraging opening dialogue to community members under whatever platform that needs to be, so that we can address our use of force policies and reassure the community that we’re open to working with them to provide professional services to every single community member. That’s our goal here. We do not, under any circumstances, tolerate racism at all.”
When it comes time to hold city-organized community conversations surrounding city policies and practices, Kelley suggested that the council reach out to community groups and stakeholders to voice their thoughts. Specifically, Kelley mentioned reaching out to the Cloverdale Unified School District.
The district is also currently in the process of working with the city to create a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for a school resource officer position. While the district’s goal was to have the MOU finalized by the end of Superintendent Jeremy Decker’s tenure with the district (the district’s new superintendent begins July 1), the council said that they’ve put the MOU process on hold while they review it again.
“We need to discuss what is the objective of an SRO … the more clarity that we have, the better understanding that we’ll have in the community,” Cruz said.
Both Bagby and Wolter said that the council wants to review the MOU further before it gets adopted by both the city and the school district, especially given the current countrywide discussions surrounding where and when to involve police in the community.
“This (community discussion) may be an opportunity to really look at all city policies relative to their impact on social equity and fairness and (do) more of a comprehensive review, but ultimately starting with use of force policies,” Kelley said.
Bagby added that when it comes time for the subcommittee to review the police department’s budget, she wants to look at what areas are state-mandated spending and what’s discretionary funding.
“I think what that’s going to do is really outline for the public why 53% of our budget goes to the police,” she said. “You need that information if you’re going to discuss defunding the police. The fact is, we already know what defunding looks like. We defunded mental health services, we defunded homeless services, we’ve defunded schools — we know what that looks like. We set our priorities as a society on the war on drugs and on criminalizing drug use and what we’re doing right now is reaping the fruits of that misaligned public policy.
“It’s really important for folks to understand that we’re going to do everything we can do at a local level and what we can influence, but also it needs to go to the state and federal level. The city of Cloverdale, we don’t provide mental health services, we don’t provide homeless services, the county does,” Bagby concluded.
“We’re not demonizing our police force here,” Turner said. “We’re looking at the fact that us as elected officials and the people that came before us, not necessarily just Cloverdale but the state, we have become a hindrance to their ability to do their job effectively by setting their priorities and sometimes not relooking at those for decades.”
The next Finance, Administration and Police Subcommittee meeting will be held on July 7.