The Dublin City Council pledged to establish a citizen task force to review policing practices in the city at a special meeting last week.
Council members Jean Josey and Shawn Kumagai are set to discuss the parameters of the proposed task force and its stated purpose with City Manager Linda Smith and Police Chief Garrett Holmes. They will bring the recommended parameters back to the full council in September, when the task force is expected to be formed.
“I think we need to have a task force where we can engage more deeply with the community around the questions they have and have them put forward a recommendation,” Kumagai said during the council's online special meeting July 9.
The council was unanimous in its belief that the next step should be allowing community members the opportunity to keep asking questions and searching for solutions on police reform, particularly in the areas of police training, department transparency and budgeting, as these were areas in which Dublin residents had expressed significant interest in.
“If one of those (recommendations) is to establish a standing commission within Dublin, then we can consider that. I just don’t know what that looks like or if that’s what’s needed here,” Kumagai added.
Mayor David Haubert concurred, saying, "This is a first step that doesn’t go too far but gets us broad and useful information. They could discuss the frequency of data reports and (other community concerns).”
The special meeting included a presentation from Holmes and a two-hour discussion on the next steps that Dublin should take in light of recent calls across the nation for policing reform. The conversation was facilitated by Christine Sliz, an organizational development professional who has previously provided facilitation for citizen advisory panels engaged with law enforcement executives.
Holmes’ presentation gave an overview of crime statistics in Dublin, current crime prevention programs in place and insights into current police training, accreditation processes and use-of-force policies. The city contracts with the Alameda County Sheriff's Office to provide policing services in Dublin.
Significant areas of discussion included the Dublin Police Services (DPS) approach to substance abuse and mental health crises. Holmes noted that of 1,700 arrests made by DPS in 2019, 51 incidents involved the use of force.
Of these, “20% of the use of force incidents involved people under the influence of drugs or alcohol and another 20% were experiencing a mental health crisis," the police chief said.
Many policing reformists have called for mental health crises to be dealt with by social workers or unarmed officers. On July 20, Holmes described, the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency is launching a community assessment and transport (CAT) team to service people who are experiencing a mental health crisis, in lieu of relying on a traditional police response.
The CAT teams are slated to be rolled out in Oakland, San Leandro and Hayward at first. They will expand to Fremont and then the Tri-Valley later on. Holmes emphasized the importance of Tri-Valley officials pushing for these services to be available to cities like Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore sooner rather than later.
Holmes stated that the expansion of CAT teams to the Tri-Valley could be most helpful in dealing with involuntary psychiatric holds on juveniles (also known as "5150" calls) at Dublin schools. In 2019, a total of 34 such calls were requested at Dublin schools; since calls from school are relatively safe due to the low likelihood of weapons being present and the presence of school counselors with the students, Holmes pointed to these as cases that could be handled well by unarmed officers or social workers without requiring DPS involvement.
Other primary areas of reform being raised by the public include increased training for police officers, budget reform and increased transparency. Holmes revealed that DPS is working on releasing annual reports to the public that will detail the crime statistics, use-of-force statistics and other relevant information to the public.
While Haubert brought up the idea of potentially increasing the regularity with which data is released to the public in order to underscore transparency within the DPS, the council members decided that impaneling a community task force was the best option going forward.
The task force can then make recommendations on data transparency, training reform, budget reallocation, permanent citizen oversight and the like as they see fit.
Josey cautioned the council that impaneling a task force must include setting a clear purpose and defined parameters as to what the council can realistically implement.
Her colleagues agreed, especially considering that DPS contracts its employees from the sheriff's office. As such, there are areas where the city of Dublin has no authority over sheriff's office practices.
In light of the departmental restrictions, Josey and Kumagai will join with Smith and Holmes to outline the parameters for the task force’s purpose and scope to ensure that the task force is able to operate effectively and efficiently.
Josey also pointed out that while many community members expressed opinions about reform at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, the jail is operated by the sheriff's office and "we have, as a council, absolutely zero authority or oversight over the Santa Rita Jail."