More Dialogue On Safety And Justice

Twenty-nine people, including two police officers, joined us at Battle on May 4, and you can review the notes of the discussion here. As with our prior dialogue, the National Issue Forum guide on Safety and Justice was used to spark conversation, and the dialogue was one of the ones reported for this year’s national “A Public Voice” initiative.  Although there were divergent views on strategies and how to best proceed, some clear and common themes emerged throughout the discussion.  These included the importance of building a sense of community; the need for mutual respect, empathy and compassion; and the importance of clear, ongoing education and dialogue. In the closing portion of the session one of the youth expressed appreciation for the officers sharing their perspective and stated next time he saw an officer in the coffee shop or at a gas station he was going to try saying hi. Several of the adults who were present expressed appreciation for the leadership showed by the youth in arranging for these dialogues. At the end of the evening two of the youth raised with one of the officers the possibility of a joint youth-officer training session on Youth Mental Health First Aid, using a curriculum supported by MU Extension. Winter break was identified as a time that might be possible. We are recording that idea here so it can be picked up and planned for next semester, and not lost over the summer!

Safety And Justice: Join The Dialogue

Next dialogue online:  April 24 from 5 to 6 pm. Link to join will be posted Monday on the Trib’s website.

We continued our dialogue  on April 18, using the “Safety and Justice” dialogue guide created by the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forum for this year’s “A Public Voice” effort. We were joined by a very thoughtful group of students from Battle High, who will be leading their own dialogue on May 4 from 4:30 to 7 pm.  The public is welcome.

Several areas of agreement emerged from our inter-generational, economically and racially diverse group.  The primary theme was that everyone wants to feel safe in their own neighborhood. With regard to the “working together” option in the dialogue guide, the key sentiment was that police and citizens need to first come together as fellow human-beings and get to know each other. Besides future dialogues, ideas for “coming together” included barbecues, sports, ride-a-longs, and mentoring opportunities. Another emphasis was the need to build bridges between poorer and wealthier neighborhoods.

To address inequities in the system, another option in the guide, the observation was made that in order to do that people need to first know what is going on and that means having citizens who are willing to ask the hard questions and knowing where to report.  It also means having leaders who are willing to answer those questions as the Supreme Court is now trying to do with municipal court reform.  We generated several ideas – including simply posting an 800 number for comments and concerns on courtroom doors — that might help in this effort.  As with the prior on-line discussion, there was also support within the group for focusing police resources on serious and violent crime rather than minor drug or traffic offenses.

The third option,  providing training in de-escalating violence to police and citizens, was supported by the group, which also wondered how to establish a community culture that rewards de-escalation.  A final theme was mutual respect, both in the sharing of experiences and being willing to listen and accept another’s perspective on their own experience.

This dialogue will continue on-line on April 24th from 5 to 6 pm – the link for joining will be posted Monday on the Trib website.  You can review the “Safety and Justice” dialogue guide or watch this video or simply join in.

Your voice matters!  Join us on-line on April 24th from 5 to 6 pm or on May 4 at Battle High from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Safety and Justice; Inequities and Bridges

This month you can join in both a local and national conversation on public safety beginning with our monthly Community Commons. We will use the recently released “Safety & Justice” guide produced for this year’s “A Public Voice” effort to focus our dialogue. A Public Voice is a collaboration between the Kettering Foundation and National Issues Forums to engage citizens from across the country in deliberative forums on a current issue. It occurs annually, and insights from the forums are presented to policymakers in Washington, D.C.

In addition to our monthly Community Commons on April 18 from 7 to 9 pm, there will be an on-line dialogue on April 24 from 5 to 6 pm, and another in person dialogue using the “World Cafe” format at Battle High School on May 4 from 4 to 7 pm. Details of how to join those will appear in the Trib and on this blog. After each forum you also will have an opportunity to send your thoughts to the Foundation through an on-line survey.

This last Monday we had a diverse, inter-generational group participate in an on-line pilot dialogue using the Common Ground platform.  Of the 15 actions listed in the guide, the group initially gravitated towards community policing as their top option. As the discussion unfolded, however, although community policing remained in the top 5, this  group identified 4 other options where ultimately there was an even stronger consensus to act.  These were

  • limiting the use of traffic stops and “stop and frisk” by police officers and review other practices where racial profiling might come into play;
  • increasing investment in mental health programs;
  • reducing rates of arrest for minor drug and other nonviolent crimes, and address disparities in sentencing for people of color; and
  • requiring implicit bias training for police and court officers.

These actions align with the themes of Addressing Inequities and Building Bridges identified in our community dialogue guide “Are We An Us?”.

How do we build a stronger community with safety and justice for all?  Join us in one of the upcoming dialogues and share your views.

Join us!

Community Commons
Tuesday, April 18, 7-9 pm
Enter the Tribune Training Room on Walnut Street, between 5th and Providence.

Sponsored by The Columbia Daily Tribune.

Driving While Black: Addressing Inequities

Whether you call it profiling or disparate impact, the data shows that in both Columbia and Boone County, black drivers are more likely than white drivers to be stopped by police. Sunday’s article “Driving While Black”  reviews the data, the questions, and the consequences related to this fact.  Readers have observed that this pattern relates to poverty and other inequities identified in past forums.

What questions do you have? What experiences would you like to share? What changes would you like to make in our community? Why and how?

Come join other citizens on September 20 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the offices of the Tribune (enter on Walnut Street) for another citizen-led dialogue. Share what’s on your mind and listen to others.

Real people, real dialogue.  Join in a conversation that matters. We hope to see you on September 20.

What’s In A Word?

A lot can be in a single word, including fear, distrust and misunderstanding. Sometimes identity – the question of “are you with me or against me” is embedded in that single word.

The emotions and unspoken questions that underlie our words can easily flare into conflict when we don’t stop to check our definitions.

Let’s consider the word “profiling.”  Recently members of our community stated their belief that profiling happens, the police chief questioned that belief, and emotions flared. Yet it’s not clear, reading the published reports and comments, that all those involved are using the same definition of the word.

Some would define profiling as disparate impact.  With this definition, the statistical disparities in the reported data on traffic stops are conclusive evidence of disparate impact, and thus of “profiling.”  The police chief admits that implicit bias is present in some officers, yet said that his department does not profile.  His comments in context suggest he might be using a different definition than disparate impact. When he says there is no profiling, he might mean that there is no departmental policy or formal intent to encourage the targeting of minorities.

Is there evidence of disparate impact in traffic stops? Yes there is. Are there reports of personal experiences that show bias and fear?  Yes there are. Is there a systematic policy and intentional targeting across the department of minority citizens? That is not so clear. Can we separate out the issues of statistics, experience, and policy, then examine those and see how they inform each other? Yes we can. Can we try to listen to each other as different perspectives are shared, and better translate the underlying fears and concerns? Yes we can.

What if we looked past the word “profiling” and talked instead about the specifics of what we know, what other information we might begin to gather, how we would like it be, what progress would look like, how it might be monitored, and how we might work together to make that progress? Could we make progress? Maybe we could.

Share your own thoughts and experiences in the comment section below or send an email to editor@columbiatribune.com with “Trib Talks forum” in the subject line.

Dialogue Opportunity in the First Ward

There will be a Central Neighborhood Meeting and BBQ – Thursday, June 23 at St. Luke Church, 204 E. Ash Street.

BBQ will be provided by Big Daddy’s BBQ, between 4 and 6 p.m. at St. Luke. The meal is first come, first served to the first 200 people.

The Central Neighborhood Meeting will follow from 6 to 8 pm.   The meeting is open to all residents in the central neighborhood.

During the meeting residents will discuss economic development and job creation, law and criminal justice, youth leadership and development, health and human services as well as housing and infrastructure.  Leading the discussions is Carl Kenney. Carl is a Columbia native with deep experience in working with neighborhoods to facilitate discussions to bring about meaningful change.  If you are a central neighborhood resident please attend!  This kind of dialogue can  help to ensure that your neighborhood has a voice that is heard!