If the Compact’s primary goal is “relationship building,” then why are they involved in implementing a civilian review program, complaint process improvements, and other police accountability efforts?
At the May 1st, 2019 City Council meeting, At-Large Councilor Mark Gramling, who is the council’s liaison to the Geneva Community Compact, revealed the Compact’s plan to create a “Civilian Oversight and Community-Building Program” before the end of the year.
Gramling said this would consist of hiring a “third party coordinator” who would be responsible for “community outreach, complaint intake services, advocacy, mediation, complaint review, and policy and training recommendations.”
The comments were part of Gramling’s “Community Compact Update and Discussion” from the council meeting’s agenda.
Current Compact Efforts – More Clarity Or More Questions?
- One new initiative announced by Gramling was the Compact’s plan to create a series of “community dialogues.” The first planned event would provide a “safe experience” for the community to share personal experiences they have had with the police department. The next planned event would be a dialogue for police officers to “share their experiences.” The culmination of these two events would be a third event where both groups would “come together” for the purpose of helping both parties to “learn and build relationships with each other.”
However, Gramling did not provide any information on when and where the dialogues would take place, or whether they would be open to the public.
Gramling also had no estimate on how many more years the Geneva community will be asked to show up at public forums and speak about their experiences with the police before meaningful police reform happens in this city.
- The City of Geneva, the Geneva Police Department, and the Community Compact have been highly secretive in their creation of a body worn camera policy. The draft policy was first written in September 2018, and the Compact has refused to allow the public to view the draft policy or to be involved in the policy process. They have also refused suggestions to bring in civil rights experts to assist in the creation of the policy.
Gramling provided no new information on the body camera policy process or when it might be completed.
“We (the Compact) are giving input supporting the development of a body camera policy, which is currently in draft form.”
“Complaint Resource Assistants” Program Fails
Back in February 2018, Geneva Believer published a story about the city’s new “Complaint Resource Assistants” program. The city boasted that “these volunteer assistants are available to hear complaints against department personnel, educate the public on policies and procedures for the department, and navigate the complaint process to ensure that complaints are received, reported, and resolved in an effective manner.”
Those volunteers were also overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly upper-middle-class, and some did not even live in the City of Geneva.
So, after more than fifteen months, how has this “Complaint Resource Assistants” program worked out? Has it been effective? Has the complaint process been improved?
“We had the Complaint Resource Assistants that were community members, and nobody has utilized them yet.”
– City Manager Sage Gerling, May 1 2019
“Civilian Oversight and Community-Building Program”
The Community Compact is currently working on a civilian oversight and community-building program, with the goal of creating a cooperative, neutral and fair oversight system that facilitates community-building.
“Civilian oversight” should not be confused with “community oversight” or “public oversight.”
Gramling’s proposal calls for a third-party coordinator, paid by the City of Geneva taxpayers, to provide “civilian oversight.” There was no mention of a board of community representatives as part of the plan.
There was no mention of this “oversight program” having investigative or disciplinary powers, or the authority to simply recommend disciplinary action in cases of police misconduct.
– The people asked for a citizen review board.
– The policing expert hired by the City of Geneva stated that a citizen review board with investigative and disciplinary powers was the ‘best practice’ for improving police accountability.
– But rather than work towards implementing a meaningful citizen review board, the Compact came up with a “Civilian Review and Community Building Program” and offered it as a solution.
According to Gramling, feedback from the African-American community showed significant support for this “oversight” plan.
“As we are developing our recommendations, I have started to get feedback from our African-American community. Thus far, the support for a third-party coordinator and the community-building approach for oversight has been received very well. Currently, I have over a hundred, probably a hundred and fifty, signatures in support of this approach.”
“Community Building” Is Not Oversight, “Relationship Building” Is Not Reform
Building relationships by improving trust between the community and law enforcement is an important part of any effort to address policing issues.
The Community Compact’s goal, as noted by Councilor Gramling, is to focus on relationship-building.
So why, then, is the Compact engaged in police accountability and reform efforts, such as the police complaint process, the body camera policy and civilian oversight?
Issues like police misconduct, or the lack of transparency around the police department, or the broken police complaint process, cannot be addressed or solved by “building relationships” with the police department.
When the Community Compact veers away from their stated mission of “building relationships” and instead publicly supports weak and ineffective “reform” efforts, they are creating obstacles to meaningful police reform by misleading the public into thinking actual reforms are underway.
Councilor Gramling’s Full Statement
Watch Mark Gramling’s full Council update, followed by Council’s discussion of the update, in the video below.
Transcript: Councilor Gramling, “Community Compact Update” 5-1-19
First, I’d like to commend all the leaders of the African-American community who worked on the original Compact agreement. Your efforts towards the Compact’s original inception have contributed to the revitalization and the continued efforts being worked on.
Those and current leaders of the communities of color take very seriously the time and energy invested in healing and building the relationship between our communities and the Geneva Police Department.
To recap the makeup of the Community Compact: The Compact signatories are representatives from Geneva’s African-American community, representing various groups and organizations selected by these parties.
Though the Compact is not a board or commission, they operate in a democratic process amongst the pre-selected representatives. Sub-committees are formed for the purpose of research and development, to present results to the core group to further dialogue before we roll it out to the community.
The work the Compact is committed to is focused on community building relationships between parties, for the purpose of averting bias and racial inequalities per the Compact agreement.
With the help of the Department of Justice, this focus was agreed upon by all parties, with extensive dialogue throughout the community, that yielded a Memorandum of Understanding that was inclusive of various initiatives focused on relationship-building.
Each initiative is carefully deliberated upon for the best approach to yield results most effective for relationship building and outlined in our Memorandum of Understanding to keep the signatories focused.
The Compact’s completed work and current work, this is what we’re talking about tonight.
Thus far, the Community Compact has facilitated a community-wide forum and implemented the Fair and Impartial Policing training that is now a part of our training regimen. Promoted the Citizen’s Police Academy.
We are giving input supporting the development of a body camera policy, which is currently in draft form.
We are currently working on a series of community dialogues with the intent of creating a safe experience for voices to be heard, from the community, regarding experiences with the police department. And separately, for the police officers to share their experiences, and then for the two groups to come together. The creation of these circles is intended to engage with people that want to share their direct experience with the police department, for officers to share their experiences, and for all of us to learn and build relationships with each other. Details will be going out in the next few months for these.
Chief Passalacqua and the police department is working on a potential preparation course this summer, for taking the police Civil Service and physical fitness exam. The Community Compact will be recruiting for the potential preparation courses to see if there’s interest in the community.
And lastly, the Community Compact is currently working on a civilian oversight and community-building program, with the goal of creating a cooperative, neutral and fair oversight system that facilitates community building.
Some of the elements that the Community Compact is considering is a third-party coordinator that has an oversight certification from the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, or NACOLE, that would do community outreach, complaint intake services, advocacy, mediation, complaint review, and policy and training recommendations.
As we are developing our recommendations, I have started to get feedback from our African-American community. Thus far, the support for a third-party coordinator and the community-building approach for oversight has been received very well. Currently, I have over a hundred, probably a hundred and fifty, signatures in support of this approach.
We’re continually engaging these folks in our community so we understand the direction that the people want to go in.
Lastly, if we move forward in this direction, Council could anticipate a 2020 budget request to cover the third-party cost towards a civilian oversight and community-building program.