More conversations needed on body cams and substations

By Edi Birsan on February 19, 2018

People often hear me say two sayings: “Government is either listening to you or to someone else; so talk up” and “Local government is where you can put your hand on the face of democracy. You may want to slap it around or kiss it, and it can be as ugly or beautiful as you make of it.”

Changes are occurring in Concord that are the result of a determined long-term effort involving both residents and a national movement, as well as a recent very localized handful of people.

Police body/car cameras

Having championed it for years, I saw this effort come to fruition this month with the City Council authorizing the use of a bulk of Asset Forfeiture Funds to outfit all sworn police officers and cars with cameras. The equipment will be installed through the fall.

In the meantime, there will be outreach to develop the policy and protocols that go along with it. Policy-wise, some of the questions include:

  • In cases of police-involved violence, when does the video get reviewed by the officer involved?
  • How do we handle privacy issues within the confines of the open records access rules?
  • How long and where is the information kept?
  • What are the costs to make information available and under what conditions will any raw costs be waived? For example, a divorce lawyer wants a report on a traffic stop or the defense wants details for an excessive force case.
  • What is the redacting policy?
  • What about drone video and its relation to privacy?

Polystyrene ban

In Concord, one concerned resident started a polystyrene ban by writing a few letters echoing some regional and national concerns. This gathered attention and, after going through the Policy Standing Committee review with a staff recommendation, the ban was sent to the council. We gave the go-ahead to draft an ordinance sometime in the fall.

Some people misinterpreted a joke by me urging businesses to start now and not wait until the regulation hits. It’s a reminder that sense of humor, like common sense, is sometimes not common or humorous.

Police substations/local service center

With complaints about issues downtown, the police chief brought a proposal to initiate an adjacent station to help existing personnel deal with safety. This opened the door to a discussion on a return of the police substations in The Monument and North Concord/Hillcrest areas, where the last two stations closed in 2010.

This is an issue close to my heart. The closure of the Monument Station to save $38,000 and a concurrent multiple times expenditure being made to a single staff member brought me into the political realm. I could not accept the answer from the other side of the podium that “we do not want to pinch pennies for a good guy.”

As the City Council passed the new effort downtown, we reached a compromise to have the issue of reopening the stations elsewhere sent to the Policy Committee for full public discussion and a recommendation to the council.

There is a difference between the station downtown and the details around renewing the outer substations, but this is a simple example of how sometimes local democracy works. The issue was never put on an agenda in the last eight years, and now it finally is.

So there you go: three examples of things to come and some background on them.

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