Hyattsville reflects on Ferguson events

by Rebecca Bennett

In the wake of the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, the City of Hyattsville is working locally to address possible shortcomings.

“Hyattsville residents–like everyone around the country–have been watching the situation in Ferguson unfold and wondering could this happen here?  It’s a scary question for all of us, but one that should be a starting point for self-reflection and constructive engagement,” said Hyattsville City Councilmember Shani Warner (Ward 2).

After reflecting on the Council’s decision to accept an almost-free Humvee, which debuted at National Night Out on August 5, Warner responded to a dialog with the community about the situation in Ferguson on the H.O.P.E listserv and on her Facebook page.

“City employees are working behind-the-scenes to learn from what’s happening and to incorporate these lessons into our own procedures,” she said.  Warner wanted community members to know that the “local government is taking the events in Ferguson seriously.”

Here are some of the steps and ideas Warner says the City government and police department are exploring:

The police leadership and City staff have met and will continue meeting to discuss proactive approaches to prevent incidents similar to what happened in Ferguson from occurring in Hyattsville.

We are analyzing our collected data for gender bias and racial disparity concerns and will use the data for training and teaching opportunities.

We are taking advantage of the lessons learned in Ferguson by scheduling reinforcement training in several areas.

We review “Use of Force” incidents immediately upon occurrence, and conduct annual reviews to identify trends. We are also discussing additional “Use of Force Training” opportunities.

We are looking into having one or more of our officers attend the Rhode Island International Nonviolence Institute where they focus on skills necessary to promote peace, nonviolence, civil resistance, and social change.
We are conducting Equal Opportunity and Sexual Harassment Training at our next “All Hands” meeting in September.

We will hold more community meetings with members of the police department.

We will reach out to leaders of Hyattsville’s African-American and Latino communities, and actively soliciting feedback from our minority residents.

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