Decatur Police Department hosting invite-only focus group meeting

Posted by Dan Whisenhunt June 1, 2015
Decatur Police Officers compare notes in the parking lot of Decatur High. File photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur Police Officers compare notes in the parking lot of Decatur High. File photo by Dan Whisenhunt

The Decatur Police Department is gathering public input via a focus group “to inform our strategic planning efforts as we plan for the future of the Police Department.”

The focus group will meet on June 10 at the city Recreation Center. A copy of the invitation was forwarded to Decaturish by reader Chris Billingsley who wanted to know if it would be a public meeting.

“The City of Decatur Police Department invites you to a special focus group session just for residents of the City of Decatur,” the invite from the city says. “Through your views and ideas, the Decatur Police Department hopes to better understand how to add even greater value to the City of Decatur community.”

We asked police Lt. Jennifer Ross if this focus group meeting would be open to the public.

“Just the invitees,” Ross said.

The invitation does not specify what the focus group will discuss.

Billingsley has been a vocal critic of how the city has handled a community discussion about alleged racial profiling by city police officers. During a May 4 City Commission meeting, Billingsley asked why meetings of a “Leadership Circle” made up of residents and employees have not been open to the public. The circle is s developing recommendations for the City Commission about how to move forward with a community-wide conversation about diversity. That includes a discussion about the racial profiling allegations.

He concedes that while he’s a critic of the premise of the Leadership Circle, he’s even more concerned about what he feels is a lack of public input in its decisions.

“I opposed the idea from the beginning and still do but always assumed the meetings would be open to anyone from the City of Decatur. I looked forward to attending but now I see that the decisions of the LC will be made in secret and fear that most or all of the recommendations will be approved by a majority of the board,” he told Decaturish. “In my opinion, the board is setting themselves up for another tree ordinance debacle.”

City Commissioners first started looking at the tree ordinance in October of 2013 and enacted a 90 day moratorium on tree removal. The moratorium ended Jan. 24, 2014 three days after city commissioners scrapped the first version of the ordinance after a public outcry. It ultimately passed in May of last year.

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Dan Whisenhunt is editor and publisher of

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