Decatur Police further explain invite-only focus group meeting

Posted by Dena Mellick June 2, 2015
Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur Police say an invite-only meeting of chosen focus groups is not an “effort to ‘cherry pick’ participants.”

Instead, the appointed focus groups are a “representative cross-section of the community, including citizens who have not been satisfied with their interactions with the police department.”

In a press release, Decatur Police Lt. Jennifer Ross said, “In March 2015 Chief Booker of the Decatur Police Department requested funding to conduct a strategic planning process for the department. Earlier multi-year strategic plans for the department were conducted in-house. Chief Booker felt an external information gathering process would result in a more beneficial result and would hopefully foster more and better community involvement in the operations and goals of the department. City commissioners approved and endorsed this proposal and a private consulting firm was hired to facilitate the process.”

On Monday, Decaturish reported reader Chris Billingsley wanted to know if a June 10 focus group meeting would be open to the public. Lt. Ross said the meeting was only for invitees.

Decaturish asked for more details, and the Decatur Police Department sent out the press release to multiple media outlets Tuesday.

The press release explained, “The initial phase of the process was to identify stakeholders who would be invited to participate in focus groups. The department desired a diverse representation to participate in the process and worked diligently with other city departments and groups to identify representatives from the community.”

Ross said there are seven focus groups, comprised of about 200 members of the Decatur community.

The press release goes on to say, “As this process is in its beginning stage, not all of the focus group participants have been finalized and invitations offered. At the conclusion of the initial information gathering phase, the proposed draft of the strategic plan will be presented for community review and comments. Revisions will be made at that time. It is hoped this process will strengthen the services the Decatur Police Department provides to the community and further engage the community in partnership with its police department.”

Here’s the entire press release:

In March 2015 Chief Booker of the Decatur Police Department requested funding to conduct a strategic planning process for the department. Earlier multi-year strategic plans for the department were conducted in-house. Chief Booker felt an external information gathering process would result in a more beneficial result and would hopefully foster more and better community involvement in the operations and goals of the department. City commissioners approved and endorsed this proposal and a private consulting firm was hired to facilitate the process.

The initial phase of the process was to identify stakeholders who would be invited to participate in focus groups. The department desired a diverse representation to participate in the process and worked diligently with other city departments and groups to identify representatives from the community. While the nature and purpose of focus groups is to identify small groups of citizens who are representative of the community, there has been no effort to “cherry pick” participants. The small size of the groups is merely a management tool to facilitate substantive dialog with all participants. The facilitators have attempted to identify a representative cross-section of the community, including citizens who have not been satisfied with their interactions with the police department.

There are currently seven focus groups, encompassing approximately 200 members of the Decatur Community. These focus groups are as follows:

1. Members of the Leadership Circle

2. Decatur Housing Authority residents

3. Graduates of the Citizen’s Police Academy

4. City residents (this group contains residents, some of who have previously filed citizen complaints against police personnel)

5. City Management Team

6. Members of CAPS (Citizens Assisting Public Safety)

7. Members of the Decatur Police Department

As this process is in its beginning stage, not all of the focus group participants have been finalized and invitations offered. At the conclusion of the initial information gathering phase, the proposed draft of the strategic plan will be presented for community review and comments. Revisions will be made at that time. It is hoped this process will strengthen the services the Decatur Police Department provides to the community and further engage the community in partnership with its police department.

About Dena Mellick

Dena Mellick is the Associate Editor of Decaturish.com.

View all posts by Dena Mellick

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