Ongoing talks – How to address racial profiling?
The organizers of a meeting to discuss alleged racial profiling by Decatur Police officers hope it will be the start of a longer conversation.
Ted Baumann, one of the organizers, said that the group intends for the discussions to be part of “an ongoing process.”
Baumann and other organizers haven’t invited representatives of the Decatur Police Department, but said they are welcome to attend as private citizens. The meeting will be held Sunday, March 30, at 4:30 pm at Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, 118 2nd Ave.
“One of the goals of the meeting is to create a forum for ongoing engagement with DPD,” Baumann said. “We will be proposing a citizen’s review board to work with the DPD on these issues, rather than ask them to continue to monitor themselves, as they do now.”
Decatur Police Chief Mike Booker said he wasn’t aware of the meeting until Decaturish contacted him about it. He said there would be no official police representative there.
One of the attendees will be Don Denard, a former school board member who recently made allegations that Decatur Police officers profiled him while he was walking down the street in his neighborhood.
Police officers conducted an internal investigation into the incident and determined that their officers acted appropriately. Denard spoke to commissioners in February, saying he disagreed with the report’s conclusions. He promised further action. At that meeting, other residents told City Commissioners that they had also had experiences with racial profiling by Decatur Police officers.
City officials haven’t been invited in their official capacity either.
“We welcome any and all Decatur residents and other interested parties in that capacity,” Baumann said. “We are not inviting City or DPD officials in their official capacity because this meeting is intend to create a ‘safe’ space for ordinary residents to speak and debate on their own terms, to identify their own preferences, rather than in response to an agenda or set of issues defined by the City. Of course out of that, we expect and hope for official engagement, but only once residents feel confident that they know what they want and how best to achieve it.”
Baumann said the meeting will give participants a safe space to talk about their experiences.
“Part of the problem in Decatur (and in the US more generally) is that there are limited avenues for people to engage as citizens outside the formal structures of democracy, or via the more professionalized, money-driven special-interest lobbies,” Baumann said. “At a local level, you can’t just vote, comment from the side-lines, then vote again, rinse and repeat. You have to have active community bodies that are seen to have weight, that can generate a broader consensus, or at least reflect a broader range of voices, on an ongoing basis.”