In recent years the topic of policing has become a major national topic, with even greater attention since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last summer. The Rohnert Park City Council has made Police/Community Relations and Accountability one of its priority issues. They recently discussed this issue in depth at their May 11 council meeting. I’d like to let you know about the information shared at that meeting and the direction provided by the city council.
First, the state has passed several laws and is considering others to promote accountability. Some of these address police practices, such as expanding the range of records available to the public and limiting the use of lethal force to situations in which it is “necessary” instead of “reasonable.” Other laws seek to strengthen requirements that only those individuals appropriate to become police officers are eligible to do so.
Rohnert Park has already incorporated some of the new requirements. We have also posted all of our police policies on-line, and officers are required to wear body-worn cameras which capture many interactions with the public. Additionally, building stronger relationships with the community is imperative. To this end, I have required officers to spend at least thirty minutes per day on foot patrol to ensure that they are out of their cars and interacting with our residents. And as you are hopefully aware, twice a month I am hosting “Chat with the Chief” sessions on Zoom where you are welcome to ask questions and offer your thoughts on how we’re doing in Rohnert Park; details on how to participate are on our website.
At the city council meeting we also shared information on our use of force, such as showing or using a taser or gun. Of almost 39,000 contacts with the public between January 2020 and the end of March, 2021 we had 131 instances where officers showed or used force. This means that we were able to resolve 99.7 percent of situations without showing or using force. I’m proud of this result as it illustrates our commitment to resolving problems where everyone is safe.
As I told the city council, I expect that every member of the Rohnert Park Department of Public Safety understand and adhere to the principle that every person who lives, works, visits, or travels through Rohnert Park can be confident in that any interaction with the police will be fair and free from bias or discrimination.
For next steps, the city council directed staff to explore several potential additional measures. These include audits to promote accountability, increased training (perhaps with council participation as well), an advisory council, and regular updates. We are working on these now, and will return to the city council to continue the discussion. In the meantime, I invite you to join me for the next “Chat with the Chief,” which will be on June 15 and residents can always reach out to me or our team if you have concerns that you’d like to discuss.