Mission to enact five-step plan addressing racial justice, equity and inclusion

Demonstrators gathered in Shawnee to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this summer.

Following an emotional debate about a Black Lives Matter resolution in June, the Mission City Council intends to enact a five-step action plan addressing racial justice, equity and inclusion.

The city council moved the resolution discussion to the July finance and administration committee meeting, and rather than rework the draft as intended, City Administrator Laura Smith presented a plan “for education, review and action.” Smith said conversations about racial inequities and police policy reviews are not intended to condemn the city’s police department, but are integral for education.

City Administrator Laura Smith said despite the conversation from two weeks ago, the governing body was on the same page about the substance of the Black Lives Matter resolution. File photo.

“It is through these conversations that we really have a chance to educate ourselves more fully and understand where we have areas for improvement,” Smith said. “It’s a matter of accountability that we really owe to ourselves and our community. We can’t commit to any actions or changes until we undertake those first two opportunities to educate ourselves and understand.”

A comprehensive overview of the action plan can be found in city documents here, and a brief overview can be found below:

  • Step one is a joint statement from the governing body, mayor and police chief condemning the unnecessary death of George Floyd and stating that Black Lives Matter.
  • Step two is a city council conversation to be held in August about the current policies, practices and experiences of the city’s police department. Additional opportunities for further discussion will be scheduled as necessary, and changes will be implemented if necessary as well.
  • Step three will bring the city council a review of processes, systems and structures within the city, county and state in an effort “to promote accountability and transparency in law enforcement.” This review will be held at the Sept. 2 finance and administration committee meeting, and further meetings on this topic will be scheduled as deemed necessary.
  • Step four is an October community forum about attitudes and opinions of racial inequity issues throughout the city. The forum is an effort to engage Black, Indigenous and people of color in conversations. Smith said the forum is slated for October because city staff would like it to be in-person but still wants to adhere to COVID-19 safety precautions.
  • Step five will implement ongoing training and education for the governing body and all city employees regarding implicit bias, race and inequity. The training will begin as soon as possible, but no later than the first quarter of 2021.

The action plan was met with support from the governing body including Councilmember Arcie Rothrock — the sole person of color on the council who had concerns about the lack of people of color involved in the June resolution. Rothrock asked to include various methods of participation during the community forum for those who may not be comfortable speaking or reading questions aloud.

Councilmember Sollie Flora, one of the two who spearheaded the Black Lives Matter resolution, apologized to Rothrock for not reaching out to her during the drafting of the resolution. Flora then echoed Smith’s earlier sentiments that the action plan nor the resolution were attacks on the police department. Police Chief Ben Hadley said he and his command staff were excited for the opportunity to educate the community about the department’s policies.

“We’re excited to have the conversations and hear from everybody and to talk about what we do, and if changes need to be made or what the community wants,” Hadley said.

A date for the August meeting, in relation to the second step of the action plan, has yet to be determined. The city council will formally consider the statement aligned with the first step of the action plan at the July 15 city council meeting.