In early February 2015 a committee was formed to look at Gainesville Police policies and practices. This was on the heels of the increased concern over police misconduct which came to light in Ferguson, MO. After a year of meeting monthly, the Committee presented its report to the City Commission. Its recommendations were as follows; how seriously they are taken remains to be seen:
To support the work of the Mayor’s Community Response Council, the Committee was formed and open to all MCRA representatives to attend. Meeting monthly since the inception of the MCRC, with an average attendance of 4 – 8 members present, the Committee discussed current policies and practices, listened to presentations to gather information, requested and received supporting information from GPD Leadership and reviewed 3 key reports: President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, Department of Justice, and Campaign Zero Report.
Utilizing the Police Public Contact Survey (PPCS) and Pew Research, the Committee built a Community Survey to gauge community trust and understanding of our local law enforcement. Responses to the survey will serve as a foundation for the MCRC to build upon and guide us into the future.
Secondly, using the three reports listed above, the Committee developed the following recommendations by extracting information and issues we felt were pertinent in our community.
Proposed Mission Statement:
The mission of the Mayor’s Community Response Council is to advise City leadership and recommend policies and practices that will ensure the protection of civil rights, restore trust, foster positive relationships, while providing transparent public safety in our community.
The committee would like to present the following nine (9) recommendations:
1. Use of Force – Policies must restrict use of force and emphasize de-escalation. Written policies concerning use of force should be available to the public in multiple media formats.
2. Independent Investigations – Require independent investigations by an outside agency involved in all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilian(s).
3. Independent Prosecutors – An independent prosecutor’s office be required and authorized to prosecute all cases where police kill or seriously injure civilian(s) and in cases of in-custody deaths.
4. Transparency – Make all department policies available for public review. Require law enforcement officers to distribute business cards containing their name, rank, Commander, and contact information that would enable individuals to offer suggestions, make commendations, or to file complaints with the appropriate individual, office or board. Ensure that the City funds the use of body-worn cameras with the understanding that written policies must be in place.
5. Demilitarization – Establish local restrictions to limit the police department from purchasing or using military weaponry and to use the SWAT team only in cases of emergency. Educate the community on how and when the SWAT team and military equipment is used to help them gain a better understanding.
6. Department Diversification – Ensure the police department reflect and be responsive to the cultural, racial sexual and gender diversity of the community.
7. Implicit Bias Training – Ensure the City allocate appropriate funding for a comprehensive officer development training program to keep all officers aware of bias and cultural diversity.
8. Community Trust Survey – Require a periodic (2–3 years) survey to be fielded to the community to gauge their experiences with and perceptions of the police. Use the survey responses to inform law enforcement and the community.
9. Citizen Review Board – Ensure the City create an independent Citizen’s Review Board, appointed by the City Commission, to ensure adherence to policies, a voice for the community in response to citizen’s concerns, and a review of major incidents within law enforcement. D