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September 17, 2021
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Community meetings on Police Accountability continue

By: Cassandra May Albaugh
September 3, 2021

A Police Accountability and Community Relations meeting was conducted on Monday night August 30. Held at the Wedgewood Wedding and Banquet Center located at the Foxtail Golf Club, it started at 6 p.m. and lasted 90 minutes. This was the third in a series of meetings. Sponsored by the Department of Public Safety and the City of Rohnert Park, these meetings were part of nine recommendations approved by the city council in August. This topic is one of ten priorities for 2021 set by the council last January.

Attendance continues to grow. The first meeting was attended by about a half-dozen residents. The second meeting grew to just over a dozen. Tonight’s meeting had approximately two dozen residents. Director of Public Safety Tim Mattos and City Manager Darrin Jenkins were the primary speakers. Councilmember Pam Stafford, Assistant City Manager Don Schwartz, and five members of the Public Safety Department were also present.

Jenkins opened the meeting by describing his role and giving the audience background on how these meetings came about. He said “tonight we’re talking about one of our council’s priorities” referring to this topic. He talked about the importance of community feedback over his almost eight years as City Manager through community surveys and other outreach efforts. He then commenced to outline the recommendations adopted by the city council. He paused after each recommendation to take and answer questions. 

The first recommendation discussed was the retention of an Independent Police Auditor to review public safety investigations into civilian complaints. Estimating an annual cost of $25,000 per year, this auditor would be an additional level of review. Jenkins anticipated audits would be done twice a year with reports presented to the city council at a public meeting and posted on the city’s website. Mattos stressed these audits were separate from his own internal investigations or those handled by other government agencies such as the Sheriff’s Office or County District Attorney. The primary focus would be on whether the department’s investigations of civilian complaints “were adequate and followed department policies.” Recommendations for improvement would be included.

Jenkins introduced the next recommendation, which is a Public Safety Presentation Calendar. He explained this meant presenting to the city council and public, probably quarterly, public safety data on relevant topics such as traffic stops, an annual crime report, the status of party houses, or fireworks around the 4th of July. 

The third recommendation discussed was creating a community roundtable “to obtain feedback from a diverse group of stakeholders representing underrepresented minority groups.” Asked “do you need to be a minority to be at the table?” Jenkins explained these would be public meetings and any resident could observe. However, sitting at the table with Mattos listening, would be community members with a range of diversity factors such as gender, age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Exact membership criteria are still being worked out, but he did say that appointments to the roundtable would not be made by the city council.

Mattos then took over facilitating discussions on the other recommendations. First, he discussed implementing an “alternative response model to enhance crisis intervention.” Providing the background of this model which originated in the late 70s in Oregon, this program would be called the SAFE Team. This stands for Specialized Assistance for Everyone. His dispatchers are starting training on September 10 to be able to discern when a police response, a Safe Team response, or both would be appropriate. He hopes to be up and running by October 1 starting with 12-hour coverage seven days a week. 

Next, Mattos hopes to restart the Civilian Police Academy as soon as the pandemic allows. In addition, he discussed bringing back the “Ride Along Program” which was also stopped because of COVID-19. Mattos then talked about internal recommendations to include expanded sensitivity training, supporting officer’s own resiliency and department stewardship/mentoring efforts. The final recommendation – was these meetings. Also discussed in response to audience questions were the homeless issues and starting neighborhood watch programs. 

When asked what these meetings meant to him, Mattos responded, “I am excited by the community engagement” thus far. He continued “Each meeting has had a larger number of residents attending and participating which has prompted an increasing amount of conversation.” In closing he said “We truly are trying to take our lead from our residents. I look forward to getting continuing community feedback on the nine recommendations.” For the strongest possible recommendations on the city council’s goal of Police Accountability and Community Relations, obtaining the residents’ input at meetings like this one tonight is essential. More meetings are scheduled at various locations which can be found on the city’s website and in this paper. 

 

RP police accountability and community relations meetings

The Rohnert Park Police Department will hold police and community relations meetings at 6-7:30 p.m. at the following:

September 7-Monte Vista School, 1400 Magnolia Ave., Rohnert Park for the M, R, and W sections of the city.

September 13- Western Station #3, 6020 Labath Ave., Rohnert Park for Rancho Feliz and Verde Mobile Home Park.

Make up meetings are as follows:

September 20-Performing Arts Center (studio theatre), 5409 Snyder Lane, Rohnert Park.

Sept 24-Burton Center, 7421 Burton Ave., Rohnert Park

September 27- Virtual meeting.

Check on the RP City page for more information.