Malone Center speaks policing one year after creation of Hold Cops Accountable agreement

Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 5:34 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - It’s been one year since a video of Lincoln Police Officers dancing with community members at the Malone Center went viral, ending up on national news outlets. It was a moment of togetherness after the murder of George Floyd and the protests that followed.

We checked in with the Malone Center a year later to see what changes came after the music stopped, because the officers didn’t just dance that day. They signed an agreement with the Malone Center to Hold Cops Accountable by holding town hall meetings between officers and community members and reviewing department policy.

Ishma Valenti, with the Malone Center said so far, the police department has held up their end of the agreement.

“We have a good situation in Lincoln because we have a police department from the top down, the people at the very top, want to see changes be made,” said Ishma Valenti, Director of Teen Programming at the Malone Center.

The agreement, called the TRACE initiative, has six goals. To increase Trust, Respect, Accountability, Collaboration and Equity. One of the actions it mandated was to have “Hold Cops Accountable” meetings. There have been six such meetings so far and will be held quarterly from here on out.

“In those meetings, we bring up just whatever the community wants to talk about and we have trends or themes when it comes to training and community involvement and over-policing.”

Valenti said the meetings aren’t all talk. They’ve lead to real policy changes.

“Our policy committee reviewed the Use of Force policies, they worked hard and put a lot of hours into it and then met with the captain and chief who took recommendations and actions on policies as far as chokeholds and shooting into moving cars,” Valenti said.

We wanted to talk to the Lincoln Police Department about these changes and requested an interview earlier this week. The department declined an interview but sent a document listing how policies have changed.

The list shows ten changes in use of force, including officers being required to de-escalate situations before using lethal force, officers being required to intervene if they see a policy violation and banning chokeholds unless lethal force is appropriate.

Valenti said these changes are a sign the department is moving in the right direction.

“It’s been a long time that has brought about these problems in policing in our country; it’s not going to be overnight but that’s what we’re able to do is to keep working toward solving these problems to make policing better for everybody.”

Their next goal is to start working with the police union.

Here is a full list of changes the Lincoln Police Department told 10/11 NOW they’ve implemented:

The Lincoln Police Department is an agency that seeks continuous improvement and follows a Community Policing/Problem Solving approach. These practices have allowed us to work with various community groups and identify best practices in our policing efforts. Following the murder of George Floyd, many people voiced their concerns about ideas regarding police reform. Since then, the Lincoln Police Department has continued to enhance its decades-long community policing philosophy by enacting the following changes.

I. Community Engagement and Partnerships

A. In 2019 (prior to the pandemic and social distancing), LPD conducted 554 community presentations to 36,616 Lincoln residents for a total of 41,792 minutes. These presentations include a wide variety of topics, including drug and alcohol education, neighborhood watch, personal safety, internet safety, and many, many more. These do not include the dozens of additional community engagements officers attended, such as neighborhood block parties, Pop with a Cop, and other events where officers and residents could interact with each other in a non-law enforcement setting.

1. In 2021, one year after the murder of George Floyd and the end of pandemic restrictions, LPD officers are resuming their community engagement efforts.

B. TRACE Initiative (Trust, Respect, Accountability, Collaboration, and Equity)-in the days following the In the days the following the riots, LPD reached out to the leadership of the Clyde Malone Community Center, a landmark organization in Lincoln that started as a community center during the civil rights era and emerged as an African American platform for creating racial and socioeconomic equality.

1. LPD explained we wanted to bridge the divide between the police and people of color in Lincoln, and we asked how the police department could improve its communication, outreach, and services. LPD helped facilitate a series of meetings between the Malone Center and LPD.

3. After meeting with community members, listening to the Malone Center, and compiling the ideas, LPD and the Malone Center proposed the creation of the TRACE Initiative (Trust, Respect, Accountability, Collaboration, and Equity). The motto of TRACE is, “Do not waste time or energy trying to erase or re-draw the past-instead, honor the past by tracing the future.” TRACE became a joint venture between LPD and the Malone Center, a project that was also endorsed by the Lincoln Mayor’s Office.

4. The TRACE Initiative has six specific goals:

a. Identify various needs of the residents living in the greater Lincoln community

b. Build open lines of communication with the Lincoln Police Department c. Develop mutual trust and respect between LPD and Lincoln residents

d. Enhance accountability of police officers and improve police services for all Lincoln residents

e. Collaborate with LPD on community projects

f. Improve equity among Lincoln residents.

C. Together with the Malone Center, LPD proposed that the TRACE Initiative create six subcommittees: Language, Policy, Investigations, Community Engagement, Structural Disparity, and Hold Cops Accountable. Each subcommittee is responsible for generating ideas which are then passed on to the police department or other appropriate city organizations. The following is an overview of the six subcommittees:

1. The Language Subcommittee identifies, defines, and recommends changes to subjective language in the police code of conduct and use of control policies. This committee uses resources in the community and from law enforcement agencies to find alternative, more appropriate terms for subjective language.

2. The Policy Subcommittee analyzes policies within the police department by evaluating the methods used to contact, apprehend, and/or control citizens. This subcommittee also develops and presents potential alternatives that would enhance current methods and improve safety for citizens and officers. Finally, the Policy Subcommittee recommends potential trainings that would allow officers to view the populations they serve through a different lens.

3. The Investigations Subcommittee review complaints or commendations brought to their attention by community members. This subcommittee helps ensure that LPD’s internal investigations are happening in a fair and just manner, as well as helps residents obtain updates about the status of internal investigations. Notably, the members of this subcommittee educate and advocate for community members who wish to make a complaint.

4. The Community Engagement Subcommittee works closely with community organizations and the police department to forge collaborative partnerships, mutual respect, and trust. This subcommittee hosts ongoing events to facilitate interactions that change the present narrative and bring the community closer together by allowing the police and the public to view each other in a positive setting.

a. Participated in tree planting events to bring the community and police together. This was done at the Malone Center as well as private residences. (10-4 & 10-11)

5. The Structural Disparity Subcommittee analyzes the components surrounding socioeconomic status and poverty within the community, paying close attention to factors such as housing, food scarcity, and childcare alternatives. This subcommittee collaborates with community agencies and law enforcement to compile an ongoing list of community resources and qualifications for resources, as well as host community events that allow for community engagement.

6. Finally, the Hold Cops Accountable (HCA) Subcommittee is responsible for facilitating a monthly town hall meeting (now quarterly) where any Lincoln resident can speak to the HCA subcommittee about a police matter. At these meetings, HCA members will provide information about how to file a complaint or commendation with the Lincoln Police Department or the Citizen Police Advisory Board. The HCA also records the stories of those who speak before the committee, and these narratives help develop and enhance academy and annual training for LPD.

C. Community conversations with organizations and groups representing people of color, such as the Black Ministers Group Of Lincoln.

II. Recruitment and Retention-LPD has long recognized that we need a police department that reflects our community. Following the murder of George Floyd, LPD implemented changes to improve its recruitment and retention of underrepresented populations.

A. Creation of dedicated recruitment officer-this specialized position is responsible for improving the quantity and diversity of LPD applicants. The recruitment officer will improve our messaging and recruitment strategies, especially towards underrepresented populations.

B. LPD was among the first and currently only one of 78 law enforcement agencies in the country to sign the 30x30 pledge, an ambitious initiative seeking to improve the representation and experience of women in policing. The goal of the 30x30 pledge is for women to make up 30% of police recruits by 2030.

C. The General Order relating to Dress Code was updated to allow for accommodations related to religious, cultural or personal health reasons. The change was made to be more inclusive of the community we serve. (This is still in-progress today).

III. Changes to LPD’s Use of Control Policy-many residents voiced their concerns about LPD’s use of control policies. However, LPD had already implemented many changes being called for following the murder of George Floyd.

A. Community feedback:

1. The Citizen Police Advisory Board reviewed LPD’s Use of Control policy and recommended changes.

2. The TRACE Policy subcommittee made recommendations to LPD’s Use of Control policy.

3. LPD listen to Lincoln residents, community leaders, elected officials, and community organizations about their thoughts and ideas regarding our Use of Control Policy.

B. Changes to LPD’s Use of Control General Order:

1. Articulates that force shall not be used in a punitive manner.

2. Articulates that officers shall identify themselves and give a verbal warning before using deadly force when doing so would not increase the danger to others or the officer.

3. Articulates that officers should de-escalate the situation first, whenever, possible, with the goal of preserving human life.

4. Directs officers to de-escalate the control as the subject is brought under control and the threat is no longer imminent.

5. Directs officer to promptly provide care and first-aid when subjects are injured and it is safe to do so.

6. Directs officers to place subjects in an upright position and in a manner that does not restrict their breathing soon as safely possible.

7. Directs officers to complete a use of control report if they point a firearm at any person.

8. Ban on chokeholds (“Any technique restricting the intake of oxygen for the purpose of gaining control of a subject”) except in cases where lethal force would be considered reasonable.

9. Duty to intervene-when in a position to do so, employees must intervene when they know that another employee of any agency is clearly using illegal or excessive force or control. Employees must promptly report any excessive force or control, and the efforts to intervene, to a supervisor.

10. Officer Relief - Calls for the replacement of officers who have been in a physical struggle with a subject by other arriving officers to deescalate the situation.

C. Additional General Order changes:

1. DUS Tow Policy was changed to minimize the reason for towing of vehicles when a driver has a suspended or revoked license and lower the number of days the vehicle can be impounded. (We have not yet approved this change but will soon).

IV. Improved Response to Mental Health Calls for Service

A. The REAL Program (Respond, Empower, Advocate, and Listen) became part of LPD’s budget. This program uses peer support to respond to subjects experiencing a mental health crisis following police contact. The goal is to connect the person to resources and develop a long-term mental health plan.

B. Expanded use of CenterPointe to assist officers with both adults and juveniles on mental health calls for service.

C. Expanded use of non-enforcement options, including the development of MHA’s The Living Room.

D. Creation of a Mental Health Coordinator, who is responsible for following up on mental health cases, helping connecting people to resources, collaborating with community mental health partners to assist those in crisis, and training LPD officers to respond to mental health calls for service.

E. Continued effort to research other best practices to include site visits to successful programs across the country as well as inviting the CAHOOTS Program to Lincoln to examine our current efforts.

F. Through the Mayor’s Office and support of Council added $150,000 to our budget that has been designed to increase training, provide an assessment of our mental health practices, allow for site visits of communities using best practices, and enhanced the outreach of MHA professionals to follow up with individuals experiencing mental health crisis.

V. Analysis of Response to Public Demonstrations

A. Evolved our response to demonstrations as events dictated & implemented changes to improve safety of demonstrators, residents, and officers

B. To improve transparency, provided presentations about LPD’s response to the riots to community leaders and media

C. Sought to build open lines of communication between leaders of various protest groups to help ensure a safe environment.

D. Provided protection for those protesting or marching in the streets

VI. CPAB training (Citizen’s Police Advisory Board)

A. CPAB members attended training at the LPD range to learn about use of control scenarios, including participating in practical exercises

B. Mayoral change the CPAB ordinance to add two additional members, expand the amount of time you can report and make it easier to make a complaint by allowing on-line reporting.

VII. Training

A. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion training conducted by Lincoln Commission on Human Rights at December 2020 LPD in-service

B. Additional monthly training (Traliant) to further all aspects covered at in-service, in particular, workplace diversity and equity.

C. Peer Support and Resiliency Training designed to improve the mental and emotional health of officers, who are then better able to serve our community members.

VIII. Transparency Hub

A. Creation of online resource for public to access information about arrest and use of control, community engagement efforts, hiring, training, investigations, body-worn cameras, complaints, and many other topics.

IX. Quality Service Audits

A. We continue to reach out to those we serve to identify how our services are perceived. The QSA identifies the performance of the officer and the outlook of individuals contacted by the police as to their general feeling of safety.

B. Intercultural Development Inventory (Cultural Competency) - Dr. Helen Fagan engaged our Command Staff and provided IDI examinations for those participating with a follow-up in July.

X. Miscellaneous

A. Examined and made changes to our dispatch processes (SOP) regarding the response to suspicious individuals to reduce unwarranted contacts.

B. Added additional tracking selections on our traffic stop reporting (above and beyond the requirement set by the State) to further examine reasons for our stops.

C. Began examining our DUS-tow and hold practices to identify disproportionalities and how to impact them.

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