The Day – Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Releases Guide for Cities to Better Respond to Racial Tensions

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The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities has released a guide that municipal leaders and departments can use to respond to racial tensions in communities.

The book contains several checklists that leaders can refer to, including comprehensive municipal crisis response, communications with the public and media, communication with community stakeholders, and six separate checklists related to police response.

“Connecticut cities have a key role to play in renewed efforts across the country to advance racial equity,” CCM Executive Director and CEO Joe DeLong said in a press release. “A lot of attention has been paid to policies and practices at national and state levels, and rightly so. But meaningful change is within reach at the local level.

“CCM…is in a unique position to advance racial equity at the local level through a longstanding and supportive working relationship with Connecticut municipal leaders,” he added.

The guidelines issued by the CCM are the result of recommendations made by the Community Relations Department of the United States Department of Justice and the National League of Cities.

CCM promoted its Communities Advancing Racial Equity program, or CARES in action, “which provided a guided process to help city leaders work toward real progress on racial equity in their cities and towns,” according to the guide. “This has included a series of workshops, roundtables, technical assistance and sharing of best practices, all designed to help municipalities implement… actions that can lead to greater equity in their local governments.”

The guide, while not mandatory for municipalities, is a tool the CCM recommends “to prepare for possible racial tensions and to act quickly when an event triggers heightened tension in your community.” . The DOJ and NLC documents that feed into the guide recommend “strategies that include partnership and collaboration with all parts of the community and municipal government – especially the police, and promote transparency, authenticity, consistency and empathy”.

For its crisis response checklist, the CCM advises calling in all cabinet/executive staff, consulting with city legal counsel to “verify any municipal liability issues”, identify options for investigation independent, establish a line of communication with the chief of police to “articulate a balanced approach”. message to law enforcement officials,” prioritize outreach to victims and families of victims, engage community stakeholders, review crowd management policy with police, and continue communication with county, state, and federal authorities, among other duties.

The CCM said that in “times of racial tension”, city leaders should “provide recognition and appreciation for their work, but also emphasize the need for a thorough investigation” of incidents to police.

In its communications checklist, the guide says municipalities should designate a spokesperson, gather information and be fully briefed before making statements. Municipalities must also consider the different needs of different audiences, including language barriers, “establish a regular schedule of updates”, “stick to the facts”, respond to requests for information from the media and community and “remain calm and composed even when they are asked difficult questions”. ”, among other recommendations.

The CCM also advises elected municipal officials and spokespersons to avoid saying “no comment”. Instead: “Provide factual answers about why you may not have an answer at the moment and be transparent to the extent the law requires.”

Another checklist from the NLC “provides a framework for identifying and engaging a wide range of stakeholders who can bring knowledge, skills, abilities and assets to crisis response management and response efforts. post-crisis”.

According to the CCM, these stakeholders include local government law enforcement, county, state and federal government officials, non-profit and community organizations such as neighborhood groups and the religious community. , health services, education officials, the business community, national organizations and philanthropic organizations.

The longest section of the guide is its “Critical Police Incident Checklist,” which aims to prepare police officers as well as civic leaders “to respond to a critical incident that could lead to controversy or conflict involving the police and a community. .” A “critical incident” may involve a police shooting or other violent incident directed or perpetrated by the police.

“This checklist is not meant to be a complete list of steps or a rigid timeline for a police response, but rather is intended to serve as a guide to many issues that police should consider before, during and after a resulting critical incident. in community tension,” the guide read. “A police executive’s immediate response can determine how the community will react to an incident and can set the tone for the service’s ongoing relationship with the community over the long term. This checklist focuses on actions that can help ease tensions and demonstrate good faith to the community.

The DOJ recommends that police executives liaise with city officials, community leaders, and police union leaders. The guide advises considering “forming an advisory board that reflects the diversity of the community. For example, the advisory board could include one or more representatives from each policing domain…The advisory board should meet regularly and can help determine the best ways to engage the community and defuse tensions in the event of an incident. .

Within two hours of any “critical police incident,” the guide says city leaders, working with their public information officers, should begin disseminating information.

“Social media, especially Twitter, is increasingly being used by police to share information directly with the public and news media minute by minute during a critical incident,” the guide says. “Deal directly with misinformation. If new information contradicts previous departmental reports. »

City leaders are advised to avoid “dueling” press conferences and “engage all interested parties in sharing podium time so that the community can see the unity among their local leaders.”

Within 24 hours of an incident, municipal leaders must “notify community leaders and request their assistance in defusing community tensions.” The guide says all leaders should agree “on the need to keep the peace”. He also advocates conducting an investigation “if necessary”.

In the week following an incident, city leaders should continue to engage with the community, those involved and members of the police department.

In the long term, city leaders should work with community groups, consider an “after action review” of the incident to highlight “lessons and promising practices” and should “survey different community groups to find out their concerns about the police or service operations”. Other steps could include a review of policies, accountability or training related to the incident, a task force to address specific concerns, and “an assessment of your department’s community policing practices.”

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