City considering reforms in wake of protests
In the days following the death of George Floyd while in the custody of a Minneapolis police officer and the ensuing protests, cities large and small around the country chose to reevaluate their practices and how they fund various agencies, including police departments.
The city of Newberg has been taking time since Floyd's death to listen to residents' concerns and is considering potential solutions.
The city set out in January to "better include diversity, equity and inclusion into the operating culture of the organization," according to City Manager Dan Weinheimer.
Other institutional changes could include police reforms, and a dialogue is ongoing between Weinheimer, the City Council and officials with the Newberg-Dundee Police Department.
"We continue to hear suggestions and comments from the public and other community partners, including at (the June 15) council meeting, and are working to determine what are the most important short- and long-term actions," Mayor Rick Rogers said.
Rogers released a video message on June 3 saying the city was "hurt, angry, pained, shocked and enraged" by Floyd's death and promised to do more to address bias and racism in Newberg at all levels. He proposed a seven-point list of actions the city should take right away.
That list included quarterly community listening sessions on the subject of race, diversity- and equity-based training for all city employees, including police officers, a review of city hiring practices and a welcoming of community feedback.
"Please know we see these steps as the first steps in a very long road," Rogers said in his June 3 statement. "Collectively, we need fewer words and more actions."
The city is no stranger to issues of race within its own departments. A successful lawsuit by Greg Patton, a black man, alleged discrimination on the city's part when he wasn't hired for a human resources position. Patton settled with the city for $275,000.
Weinheimer's primary goal as the new city manager is to change the culture at the city, and with that comes an acknowledgement of its past failures. He also addressed Floyd's death and nationwide protests at the June 15 council meeting, holding an 8-minute, 46-second moment of silence — which was how long the officer held his knee on Floyd's neck before he died.
After the moment of silence, Weinheimer said he and Interim Police Chief Jeff Kosmicki have spoken about potential reforms that could benefit the community and ways the NDPD can continue reaching out to communities of color. While nothing concrete has been enacted yet in the way of reform, Weinheimer said the discussion will continue.
"Every day we should be working toward further developing our culture and also looking for ways to understand one another and really seek ways to have that opportunity to meet people who are different than us and listen and truly try to understand," Weinheimer said. "As difficult as these conversations are, it needs to be something that we in our community start a conversation around and it's something that me and the Chief (Kosmicki) are committed to doing."
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