New Livermore council subcommittee to address policing, equity and inclusion | July 17, 2020 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - July 17, 2020

New Livermore council subcommittee to address policing, equity and inclusion

City group aims to reform through 'diverse community engagement'

by Emma Hall

The Livermore City Council on Monday discussed its new Equity and Inclusion Subcommittee, formed to "enable equity and inclusion in Livermore through diverse community engagement that will result in a welcoming city, exemplified by equity of opportunity and just treatment for all," according to city staff.

Since the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, by a white Minneapolis police officer on Memorial Day and months of civil unrest that have followed, cities around the nation have been reviewing policing and community engagement regarding race.

In Livermore, Councilwoman Trish Munro and Vice Mayor Bob Woerner, the subcommittee members, will review the city's police use-of-force policies and identify broader equity and inclusion issues through a community engagement process. They will report the findings to the full council and community, seek feedback and ultimately make recommendations on how to reform Livermore's police policies.

While the initial community survey was a small sample size, according to Munro, the subcommittee has had enough input to start the basis of its framework. Specifically, she noted that white residents were more concerned with policing, while Black residents were concerned about inclusion.

"When we opened up to what people had to say, this is what came out," Munro said. "This was not our predetermined assumptions, but what we were asked to do."

So in addition to the police policy reform, Munro and Woerner will engage with residents and work to address equity and inclusion topics as well.

The new subcommittee of the city council has several objectives that stretch from short term to middle term to long term.

The six-month, short-term objectives will include reviewing the police use-of-force policy and hiring practices to provide sufficient opportunities for people of color, increased transparency and accountability to increase trust within the community, and the creation of a communications plan to assist addressing "perceived issues arising from a lack of information."

For midterm goals, lasting from six to 18 months, the subcommittee will coordinate with other agencies such as the Livermore Unified School District and Livermore Area Recreation and Park District on community outreach, use the city's tools to increase diversity, like a loan program to be offered to city employees of color, and create robust communication and education plans.

The long-term objective, which will go beyond 18 months, consists of requiring coordination with City Council goals and priorities and other Livermore policies, more complex organizational changes, boosting themes beyond public safety, and establishing a dependency on statewide legislative solutions.

The objectives of the subcommittees were met with some community criticism, however.

"I appreciate the steps that you have taken to consider reform of policing, and I know you have the best of intentions. However, the objective of this subcommittee is disappointing," resident Andrew Barker wrote to the council for Monday's meeting. "The proposed language includes no specific goals, provides no metrics for success, and does not lend itself to any concrete action."

In response, Woerner said that the document is tentative and the subcommittee plans to engage more with the community to create more specific objectives as time goes on.

"The important thing that we're seeing here is we're not presuming we know the answer," the vice mayor said. "What we're saying is that this is complicated, there are many different perspectives, and just the conversations councilmen, Munro and I had with diverse people in our community are eye-openers."

Councilman Robert Carling voiced concern that police policy reform was being diluted by other objectives.

"The issue that has been loud and clear following George Floyd's death is to take a look at police departments and their practice in policies," Carling said. "We ought to be able to figure something out here in the next few months."

Mayor John Marchand added that the Livermore Police Department has adopted the "8 Can't Wait" policies, which is a campaign to bring immediate change to policing. Specifically, as noted by Marchand, the city has banned the use of chokeholds. He continued by saying that in early conversations with community members, people cited not feeling safe or welcomed, primarily around their peers. As a result, Marchand wants to see the subcommittee work toward community progress.

Councilman Bob Coomber asked if there would be a representative from the police department on the subcommittee because their input is important as well.

"When you hear a lot from the community, but you don't try to offset that from a response of some sort from the police department, then you're getting one side of the story," he said. "I can tell you, as a police officer, that is often a problem."

Woerner agreed, stating that the subcommittee will have a diverse set of perspectives.

"Many members of the community that engaged with us gave us tremendous improvements to the document," he said. "So this has to be all sides of the issue, it has to be practical and it has to work. It isn't going to be done fiat with one point of view."

The council voted unanimously in favor of a motion to move forward with the framework of the subcommittee.

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