To succeed as a prosperous, healthy, and equitable community, it is essential that our City embrace and model diversity, equity, and inclusion in our policies, programs, and services. Over the last six months, the City of Petaluma has taken many steps, and continues to make progress, in preparation to achieve that goal:
We committed to the steps outlined in the Obama Foundation’s “My Brother’s Keeper Mayor’s Pledge,” which includes:
Step 1 – Review our police use of force policies.
Step 2 – Engage our communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in our review.
Step 3 – Report the findings of our review to your community and seek feedback.
Step 4 – Reform our community’s police use of force policies.
On June 16, we publicly-reviewed our use-of-force policies at a virtual town hall, responded to all community questions and posted those answers online, and created an opportunity to submit additional questions online. We began seeking community input on how best to move forward with future community engagement (Step 2). City leadership reached out to and met with community leaders in our black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities to seek input on how best to move forward. Those meetings and efforts included Petaluma Blacks for Community Development, NAACP Sonoma County Chapter, 100 Black Men of Sonoma County, Petaluma Community Relations Council (PCRC), Petaluma People Services Center, Team for Inclusivity, Diversity, and Equity (TIDE), and other community members of color.
On July 6, the City Council was slated to consider a proposed City engagement plan (Step 2), but paused that effort so that a community-led listening session could occur first. The session, hosted by the North Bay Organizing Project, Petaluma Blacks for Community Development, PCRC, Indivisible Petaluma, and TIDE, was held on July 18. City Council and City leadership attended and participated in that effort, and a report compiling a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories collected as well as recommendations was distributed to the City and the community on September 9. That report was also shared with every member of the Petaluma Police Department (PPD)
As we awaited the results of the community-led listening session, we continued our outreach efforts. The City secured the services of Tracey Elizabeth Webb Associates to assist us in facilitating our efforts to engage the community as we worked through the Mayor’s Pledge and our commitment to improve race relations in Petaluma.
As a person of color who is committed to facilitating authentic dialogue and meaningful change, Tracey has been in continuing dialogue with members of our BIPOC communities on how best to move forward with this important process. In addition to receiving the input from the first listening session and subsequent correspondence from the groups and individuals involved in that effort, we want to ensure that we provided additional opportunities for BIPOC voices to be heard as we developed an engagement process. We specifically sought out advice and input of those in our community, especially the BIPOC members, that were already involved in the community led listening session effort—and referrals from those individuals on other community members we should engage.
The PPD participated in “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho, as they saw an opportunity to better understand those we serve. That episode is now used to help train our newest recruits as well as other police departments across the country. Additionally, we have also been actively engaged in additional training for our police officers in areas of bias-based policing and de-escalation and our City staff in implicit bias.
On December 11, 2020, the City sent out a survey to gather more input on the experiences of our BIPOC communities and ways to improve and address areas where we are not meeting the needs of those communities.
To share and together discuss the information we have gathered in the past six months, which includes the report from the community-led session, please join us for a virtual community workshop at a special City Council meeting on Thursday, January 21 at 6 p.m. This will be an initial step in a series of efforts by the City to embrace and model diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Please join us to learn about this initial effort and to share your thoughts about how the City can improve its policies, programs, and services. This meeting will bring together the people and concerns that have been shared over the last year and shape future work.
If you would like to participate in the survey informing this work, visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/petalumasurvey. The survey will be open through January 8, 2021.