It was an incident that made national news. Now, it is up for discussion. The City of San Luis Obispo will review the use of tear gas by the police department last summer during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in which five people were arrested.
The City is releasing an “after action review” report of the response by the San Luis Obispo Police Department to a protest on June 1, 2020 to the community. The Council along with the city manager requested the police department examine its response to the use of tear gas on protesters, who had entered the US 101 freeway and blocked several downtown streets. The City Council is expected to discuss the report at its Feb. 16 meeting.
After action reviews are a common tool used by police agencies following a significant incident to document the response and provide a foundation for community dialog.
“It’s important for the police department, the community and the City Council to fully understand all aspects of this major incident,” said Derek Johnson, city manager, in a press releaase. “We want to understand what made this protest different from the nearly 70 others the City supported last year, what led up to the use of tear gas, what options police leaders had when responding to the protest, and more. This report will help us all as we collectively move forward to reinforce trust, support the constitutional right to peacefully protest, and minimize the possibility that tear gas or similar tools will be used in the future.”
The methodology used for the review was derived from the National Police Foundation process, which is nationally recognized as a best practice for after action reviews. The City contracted with independent consultant James Bueermann of Future Policing Strategies to review the after-action report and provide recommendations, and with independent consultant Kari Mansager, who conducted anonymous interviews with community members to create a safe space for protest participants and community members to provide reactions, perspectives and recommendations based on their experiences. In addition to her consulting role, Mansager is director of Diversity, Inclusion and Outreach at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. Finally, recommendations from Gov. Newsom’s statewide task force on policing and protests that occurred throughout California this past summer and fall are also included.
Prior to the City Council’s Feb. 16 meeting, the police department will review the report with representatives from numerous community organizations through its “Police and Community Together” (PACT) program and SLOPD Roundtable. PACT organizations include Transitions Mental Health, St. Stephen’s Episcopal, Tranz Central Coast, Diversity Coalition of SLO County, Central Coast Commission for Inclusive Schools, JCC Federation of SLO County, Women’s March SLO, People of Faith for Justice, Elevate Christian Church, GALA, and the Anti-Defamation League. The Roundtable includes representatives from a broad array of community interests, from business to healthcare to industry.
“We take seriously our commitment to partner with the entire community and especially with those who represent diverse perspectives. Input from PACT and Roundtable members – and everyone in our community — on the after-action review will give us invaluable insights as we move to heal from the events of June 1, 2020,” said Jeff Smith, interim SLO police chief.
The City Council will be accepting public comment regarding this report. Public comment can be submitted in the following ways:
Mail or Email Public Comment
• Received by 3 p.m. on the day of meeting – Can be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or U.S. Mail to City Clerk at 990 Palm St. San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. All emails will be archived/distributed to councilmembers, however, submissions after 3 p.m. on the day of the meeting may not be archived/distributed until the following day. Emails will not be read aloud during the meeting.
Verbal Public Comment
• In Advance of the Meeting – Call (805) 781-7164; state and spell your name, the agenda item number you are calling about and leave your comment. The verbal comments must be limited to 3 minutes. All voicemails will be forwarded to the Council Members and saved as Agenda Correspondence. Voicemails will not be played during the meeting.
• During the meeting – Join the meeting/webinar (instructions on the cover of the agenda posted on February 9, 2021).
• For the February 16th meeting only, you can submit your name before the meeting to speak during Public Comment. Send an email to email@example.com.
• During the meeting and once public comment has been opened raise your virtual hand.
• Names submitted prior to the beginning of the meeting will be called first then those who have raised their hands will be called next.
Questions from the public may be directed to the office of the city clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org or (805) 781-7100.
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