Mission City Council hears police department policies, practices during racial equity conversations

Police hiring, training, and accountability was the focus of the city of Mission's conversation this week during work on its five-step racial equity action plan. File photo.

The Mission City Council Wednesday evening heard an overview of police department policies and practices as part of the city’s conversation on racial justice, equity and inclusion. 

Following the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, the city of Mission became one of several northeast Johnson County cities discussing a racial equity resolution. Mission took their plan one step further than many neighboring communities and approved a statement and a five-step action plan to further conversations about racial injustice within the city, including a review of police policies. 

Investigations Capt. Dan Madden began the conversation, and said while George Floyd’s death sparked a call to action, the nation’s injustices have been happening for centuries. Madden said he believes Mission has a strong, well-balanced police department that sees and hears not only positive community contributions, but also the mistakes made. 

“When [police officers] do wrong, we hold them accountable — we must,” Madden said. “Tonight we sit proud, but not perfect, for police officers are too human beings.” 

Police Chief Ben Hadley was absent during the discussion due to a personal conflict, though he was involved in pulling together the presentation materials, City Administrator Laura Smith said. Madden and Patrol Capt. Kirk Lane presented the city council and the public with an overview of policies and procedures on the five following subjects, as outlined by city documents:

  • Overview of critical policies and Lexipol, a company that provides public safety policy and training for law enforcement and first responders. 
  • Use of force policy and practice, including an outline of the types of use of force such as intermediate weapons (pepper spray and tasers) and strikes (like punching). 
  • Mission’s use of force policy data, which shows an annual average of 23 use of force incidents from 2017 to 2020, year to date. These account for an annual average 0.13% of total calls. 
  • Other policies of interest or relevance, including the standards of conduct. 
  • Biased-based statistic, of which the last time a biased-based encounter occurred in the Mission Police Department was in 2015.

Police force diversity, approach to handling protests discussed

During the question and answer portion of the evening, one participant asked if the city had a planned response in the event that a police incident goes viral and sparks a violent demonstration. Smith said while there is no hard copy plan, city staff has had ongoing conversations around the topic. 

Mission resident Anne O’Leary said she hopes city staff is discussing what their attitude toward people exercising their right to assemble would look like, whether that be heavy handed or letting it unfold. Capt. Lane said in his 18 years in Mission, he hasn’t “witnessed anything that was ever a problem of people wanting to peacefully protest.” 

O’Leary also asked what the city has done and is currently doing to foster inclusivity in its police department. Smith said the city is exploring training opportunities such as implicit bias training for all employees throughout the organization, but there is some work to make up for. 

“We can all probably answer that question that we haven’t been as intentional as we need to be in that respect,” Smith said. “That’s one of the things we’re talking about, we have some grounds to make up.”    

Capt. Lane said in his 18 years in Mission, he hasn’t “witnessed anything that was ever a problem of people wanting to peacefully protest.”

Councilmember Ken Davis asked Lane and Madden to speak to the police department’s diversity as it currently stands. Lane said there are currently two Hisapnic males, one Black male and one white female out of the 28 total men and women on the force. 

Davis also asked the captains to discuss the impact the police department has seen in the last few months amid nationwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. Lane said for every person who is negative toward Mission police officers, there are two positive people trying to help out. 

“I think really, the communication that’s going on in our city the conversations they’re having in our city is boosting a little bit of the morale with our folks,” Lane said. “[They] know we’re going down the right road, we’re trying to do the right things, trying to be transparent all the way around.” 

Councilmember Hillary Thomas said something that needs to be addressed during these ongoing conversations is the police department’s history that Chief Hadley has worked to repair in the last five years. Previously, Thomas said people were known not to “drive through Mission, [or] you’ll get stopped and get a ticket.” 

The next related conversation, which is step three in the five-step plan, will take place during the finance and administration committee meeting on Sept. 2. The city will take a look at its systems and structures, including accountability and processes for hiring police officers.

The Sept. 2 meeting will begin immediately after the 6:30 p.m.community development committee meeting, and a link and agenda can be found here. A full use of force policy presentation can also be found in city documents here