The Mayor and City Council were glad to welcome nearly one hundred people in-person and online to attend the June 25 Listening Session. There were both encouraging stories and difficult stories that took a lot of courage to share. Thank you for engaging in your community.
Participants at the microphone at the Urbandale High School Performing Arts Center and on Facebook addressed a wide range of concerns, observations, comments and questions. While it would be impossible to address every issue or question raised, we have responded to the main themes and questions raised below.
Funding for the Police Department
Some participants suggested that the Police Department be defunded to allow for more funding for mental health and social workers. While there is no proposed plan to defund the Police Department, the City Council has approved the creation and funding of a health and social services function in the fiscal year that begins on July 1, 2020. The budgeted amount is $300,000 with $55,000 dedicated to Urbandale Community Action Network, $35,000 to the Urbandale Food Pantry, and $210,000 for community service projects that could be identified by the City Council with community and staff input.
Outreach to Diverse Communities to Attend the Listening Session
Numerous participants asked about the City’s efforts to reach diverse communities to let people know about the Listening Session. News stories notifying the community ran in the Des Moines Register, Business Record, UrbandaleTimes, NewsBreak, and KCCI. The event was also promoted on the front page of the City website and social media channels including Facebook, LinkedIn, Nextdoor, Twitter, and YouTube. Staff also notified the Des Moines chapter of the NAACP about this event and reached out to the Des Moines chapter of LULAC.
All that said, we will work to expand our outreach, especially by partnering with nonprofits, faith communities, and the school districts that serve Urbandale. We truly value making connections with our community and will always work to better our efforts.
Urbandale Police Department Response to Police Reform in the U.S.
Update to Use of Force Policy implementing the following:
- More emphasis on de-escalation throughout the policy
- Ban use of choke holds unless life or death situation and no other alternatives
- Requirement for officer intervention and reporting to a supervisor if witnessing another officer using excessive force
- Additional restrictions added to shooting at a moving vehicle which require an officer to move from the path of the vehicle unless preventing the death or likely death of a victim.
- Updated use of force reporting form to gather additional details about the encounter to include specific information in the following areas:
- Actions/threats that necessitated use of force
- Attempts at de-escalation
- Verbal commands or warnings given
- In person after action review of each use of force for the purpose of learning from the incident and recognizing de-escalation opportunities.
Update to Bias Based Profiling Policy to include specific language in the following areas:
- Employees must be able to articulate what constituted their reasonable suspicion or probable cause in order to support any police action.
- Employees shall not use any terms, language or remarks that are derogatory, tend to belittle, show contempt for or defame any individual demographic, except when necessary to include such terms, language or remarks used by another for the preparation of official reports or testimony.
- Employees shall not take any law-enforcement action based on information from members of the public or other employees they know, or reasonably should know, under all circumstances present is the product of, or motivated by, bias based on race, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age, disability, political affiliation, national origin, or cultural group unless the circumstances indicate that harm is imminent or a crime has been committed.
- Discriminatory pretextual stops are prohibited under state and federal law and are also prohibited by this policy. Discriminatory pretextual stops are any detention of a person or a motor vehicle and its occupants for a minor violation of the law based solely on race, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age, disability, political affiliation, national origin or cultural group of the person(s).
- Any person claiming to be aggrieved or to have witnessed biased based profiling or racial profiling may file a complaint. No person shall be discouraged, intimidated, or coerced from filing such a complaint, nor shall any person be discriminated or retaliated against because he or she has filed a complaint of this nature.
- Any employee who stops and/or reports any practice occurring in violation of this policy shall not be discriminated against in any manner for opposing such conduct, testifying, assisting or participating in any investigation, proceeding or hearing arising out of a violation of this policy.
- All sworn officers shall receive annual training on prevention of bias based profiling while conducting law enforcement services which may include but will not be limited to:
- Motor vehicle and Terry stops
- Citizen contacts
- Probable cause and reasonable suspicion
- Implicit bias
- Racial profiling
- The Department shall develop diversity/bias based profiling instructor position(s) within the Department. The instructors shall receive sufficient training to establish expertise in the area of bias based profiling and be utilized along with appropriate outside training and instruction to develop and maintain a proactive training curriculum within the Department on the topics related to preventing bias based profiling.
Body cameras for Investigation Division:
The timeline for body cameras for investigation Division and SERT (Suburban Emergency Response Team) has been accelerated. The Department will use asset forfeiture funds to purchase body cameras for all detectives to include the Mid Iowa Narcotics Enforcement Task Force. The Department will require the use of body cameras by all detectives and during all SERT activities.
Creation of Diversity/Implicit bias instructor positions within the Department:
The Department has created 3 diversity/implicit bias instructor positions within the Department. The new instructors will attend a “train the trainer’ class being hosted by ILEA at the end of August. The instructors will also be taking course at DMACC, Drake, and other educational opportunities to become in- house experts on racial bias, social justice, implicit bias and other related topics. Three of the Department’s minority officers have been selected as the instructors in an effort to capture their law enforcement experiences as well as their life experiences. The officers and the staff are excited about the possibilities of this new program. I envision our instructors becoming regional assets to law enforcement agencies and other groups to include all other city employees.
Creating a search form:
The form will be required to be filled out by any officer requesting a consent search, probable cause, or pat down frisk. This will allow the Department to more efficiently and effectively monitor the officers’ activities in these areas and ensure they are completed without bias.
Enhancing our transparency of Department policy:
For the last 8 years the Department has published all of our policies and procedures on our website and pushed updates every 6 months. With an enhanced feature in our document management system (Power DMS), the policies will now be updated in real time as they are published to the employees.
Enhancing our training:
- Although we have attended and hosted training in implicit bias, prejudice, social justice, and related topics (example: All employees, civilian and sworn, received in-person implicit bias training in 2019), the Department will ensure training in these areas occurs annually.
- Defensive tactics instructors will attend additional training in de-escalation which they will utilize when training our officers. A class on de-escalation is being hosted by Des Moines PD in August and our instructors and other officers will be attending.
- The Department will continue to train all employee in responding to persons with mental illness. For the last several years the Department has required 4 hours of training every 3 years. Annually, the Department has partnered with the National Alliance for the mentally Ill (NAMI), the Veterans Administration, Mobile Crisis Response Team, and others to train officers on a variety of mental illness topics and how to respond. Employees are receiving some type of mental illness recognition and response training annually.
Urbandale Community School District and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Many of the issues raised were about experiences in the school setting. The Mayor and City Council do not have authority over school district policies or operations. However, the Urbandale Community School District is actively building inclusive learning environments where ALL students feel a strong sense of connection and belonging. We invite you to learn more about Equity & Inclusion within the Urbandale Community School District with these initial resources. As the 2020-21 school year continues, UCSD will be sharing more resources, having more conversations, and seeking more input from all students, parents, staff, and community members. UCSD looks forward to partnering with you to create equitable and inclusive learning and working environments. #allmeansall
City of Urbandale Efforts to Serve Children of Diverse Socioeconomic and Racial Backgrounds
In early discussions with the Urbandale Community School District (UCSD), it was evident that the kids who have been in MAC camp have been especially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The teachers were concerned that these are the students who would especially need the connection that MAC camp typically provides.
Due to COVID-19 and required safety precautions, we realized early on that MAC camp would not look the same this summer. The schools and church location where we typically hold the program were not available to us, and social distancing requirements and options for ensuring a safe camp environment for the children, as well as staff, added to the challenge.
We know how crucial this program is for so many children and families in our community, and therefore staff came up with some creative ideas for the “2020 MAC Camp” program. A top priority is to ensure that we are literally “Making a Connection” with these children - to confirm they are getting enough to eat, that they are managing well at home, and to also provide them with productive activities for them to engage in during the summer.
Each year we have hired teachers from the UCSD to lead the MAC summer Camp. This has proven to be a great benefit, as they have already built relationships with the children and their families, and this provides a comfort level for the program participants.
After doing a lot of “thinking outside of the box”, staff came up with the solution for this summer that we are calling “MAC Camp in a box”. Instead of students coming to the park each day, we are having staff make personal visits to each participants home. The staff wear masks, and make sure to follow appropriate safety protocols so staff and participants feel comfortable and are kept safe.
Each week, staff visit each of the program participants (over 85 kids signed up this summer) and they deliver a box that includes crafts (with supplies like markers, glue, etc.) educational work sheets, science experiments with supplies, coloring sheets, games/activity ideas, and books to read.
Another significant part of our typical MAC camp in previous years was providing a free breakfast and lunch to each camper. Knowing that food insecurity is an even more significant concern since the pandemic, we reached out to UCAN, and they have partnered with us to provide a box of food for each family each week, to go along with our MAC Camp in a box. They are also working with us to provide school supplies for the children in the MAC program, in preparation of the new school year.
COVID-19 pandemic has introduced challenges to nearly every aspect of life in 2020. Though we are not able to provide a more ‘traditional’ MAC Camp this year, we are thrilled to be able to offer a hybrid type of program. Our primary objective is to have a positive impact on the children and families who can most benefit from the program, and continue to “Make a Connection” and make a difference in their lives.
Diversity and Inclusive Opportunities to Participate in Local Government
The City welcomes diverse applicants for boards, commissions and committees. The City will increase efforts to reach a wider audience with opportunities, including outreach to entities as indicated above. The online application process to volunteer has been updated to include submittal to a multiple employees to ensure a timely response.
Details on Urbandale Boards, Commissions & Committees, including the application, can be found on our website: https://www.urbandale.org/407/Boards-Commissions-and-Committees
The City Clerk’s Office will continue to explore how we broadcast opportunities to attend meetings, speak on agenda items and volunteer to serve on City boards, commissions and committees.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the Recruitment and Retention of Employees
The City is an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Employer and welcomes diverse applicants. The City will increase efforts to reach a wider audience with opportunities. Job postings will be emailed those entities identified for outreach as indicated above, with special emphasis on nonprofits such as UCAN and the Urbandale Food Pantry.