Weighing options: Leaders look for recommendations from city staff about moving forward after after-action report
Nevada City officials say they intend to examine a recently released after-action report about the violent Aug. 9 protest, saying updated police training and funding are on the table.
A counter-protest to the Aug. 9 Black Lives Matter rally led to violence and charges against three men, one of whom has pleaded guilty. An after-action report states that no officer violated a rule or law at the event, but that instead they “were insufficiently trained and equipped to handle the protest.”
Councilman Gary Petersen said top city officials will now assess the report and form possible solutions for the as yet unpicked new city manager and police chief.
“With the departure of the city manager and chief of police, who were in positions of responsibility during this incident, we have backfilled the city manager and (chief of police) positions with interims,” said Petersen. “Both interims appointed by the council are highly skilled in analyzing the current situation and making recommendations for the next permanent city manager and chief to follow.”
It is the council’s role to consider these recommendations as well, and take appropriate supportive action. It will also be the council’s role to hire a new city manager. The new city manager will then hire a new chief of police, Petersen pointed out.
“These are significant efforts in redirecting our city to a positive, productive future,” he added. “We, city staff, council members, and citizens need to decide what kind of policing we want for our city and what kind of department.”
Budgets, staffing, and community input are some of the important items that officials must carefully consider before the next phase of action. Meanwhile, opportunity for citizen input will be made available.
“Many options are being discussed, but we must be as thoughtful and wise as possible in determining the future of policing for Nevada City,” Petersen stressed.
Regarding improving the police’s crowd control, he noted the after-action report cited a need for updated police training. Peterson said he expects the interim chief and new permanent chief will cooperate on recommendations for the City Council to consider.
The report also raised a concern about new safety equipment to assure the protection of officers who must confront dangerous situations. One of the key questions is what kind of policing the city can afford, noted Petersen. The current city manager, Joan Phillipe, is working on what effect COVID-19 will have on city finances. And the city needs to understand exactly where it stands financially before making any further decisions on policing.
“Public safety has always been a priority for funding, to the point it now comprises one half of the budget,” said Petersen. “With likely reduction in tourism dollars in the last year, it looks difficult to imagine increases anywhere in the city, including public safety.”
He added that the council is developing information to make these decisions, but it needs to take the time to make the correct ones.
As soon as the report was released internally, the city hired an interim police chief, who will conduct a thorough assessment of the police department’s needs, strengths and capabilities. The results of that work will inform the training, resources and change that can be implemented, said Councilman Doug Fleming.
“Crowd control and riot training is provided for all sworn NCPD personnel and we require permits for all protest marches, so that the city can allocate sufficient resources to better ensure our community’s safety and that no rights are violated,” Fleming said.
The after-action report stated that it appeared the city didn’t consistently enforce its permit rule.
Fleming also noted that training is a priority and the city can seek grant funding to purchase equipment that ensures the safety of officers.
“I believe they need the community’s support as we work toward needed reform,” he emphasized.
But the violence that occurred at the August BLM march and counter-protest can never happen again, explained Fleming.
“The City Council, city and NCPD will work hard to provide the needed training and systems-wide reform needed to ensure that our community feels safe and secure when expressing their right to assemble and speak freely. I think that we would all like to see more community-based policing and partnerships with mental health workers to better support our most vulnerable and mentally ill community members.”
He also pointed out the city will weigh reforms carefully to avoid further trauma to the community.
William Roller is a staff writer for The Union. He can be reached at email@example.com
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