Dear Mayor and Council:
On February 9, 2015, and February 16, 2015, members of the Piedmont Police Department stopped two individuals during separate incidents while in the lawful course of their duties. The stop on February 16 was the result of a traffic violation observed by the officer, and the stop on February 9 was investigatory based on a 911 report of a suspicious person taking pictures of houses. Neither the individuals stopped, nor the circumstances under which they were stopped, were related in any way. However, both individuals publicly recounted their experiences ‐ one through an opinion piece in the Oakland Tribune and the other in a personal blog. Both cited race as an overriding factor for the law enforcement contact. Understandably, many who read one or both of the writings were concerned.
As the Piedmont Police Chief, I take any dissatisfaction with our police services seriously, but especially those dissatisfactions centered on impartiality or bias. As such, I am writing this letter to update the council on the work that has been done by the Department and future plans that are in the works in our continuing efforts to achieve thoughtful discourse and continued collaboration with our community, both inside and outside of Piedmont.
It is important to note that there are usually two perspectives in every law enforcement encounter. By definition, perspectives are evaluations of situations or fact from individual points of view and do not necessarily establish a right or wrong. Given that experience and history often shape opinions and perspective, two people can conceivably share opposite perspectives with neither being wrong. For this reason, outreach and collective discourse become crucial to understanding and learning from each other and finding common ground from which everyone can benefit.
With this in mind, the Department reached out to both individuals to see if they would be willing to meet and discuss each of the stops, which both were very willing to do. Both meetings were very congenial, informative, educational, and productive. I truly believe we all walked away with new thoughts, ideas, and perspectives that can only be gained through honest self‐reflection and dialogue. I am grateful to both individuals for taking the time to meet with us and, more importantly, for their candid insights which have greatly aided us in framing the ongoing conversations with our personnel. Many of those conversations have centered on awareness of the anxiety and vulnerability that people often feel when stopped by law enforcement. More importantly, how mindful consideration of this can improve our efforts to communicate with the public, put people at ease, gain better cooperation and, ultimately, bring humanism to our law enforcement interactions.
In addition to the afore mentioned meetings, all sworn personnel and dispatch have either attended or are scheduled to attend Bias-Based Police Training, as well as the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training. It is anticipated all officers and dispatchers will have completed both trainings by this time next year. Also, the Department recently participated in the Law Enforcement Executives’ Summit on Police Legitimacy and Procedural Justice which was sponsored by Melinda Haag, the United States Attorney for the Northern District of California. The day-long summit featured many law enforcement leaders, scholars, District Attorneys, and community leaders who came together to discuss how to better engage and build trust with our communities while ensuring justice, fairness, and transparency in law enforcement. It was a powerful day that gave us new ideas and validated those we have already instituted. Finally, all supervisors within the Department have been directed to read the 102-page investigative report on the Ferguson Police Department conducted by the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, and we will be discussing it at length at April’s monthly command staff meeting. Understanding and learning from others’ mistakes, as well as identifying our own potential pitfalls, is crucial to avoiding them.
I do want to point out the Biased‐Based Policing and Crisis Intervention trainings, as well as our attendance at the Law Enforcement Summit, were planned prior to either of the two stops occurring. The Department is and has been committed to being proactive as opposed to merely reactive in our attempts to continually improve police/community relations. We engage often with members of the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee ‐ in fact, a member of the PADC was very instrumental in helping the Department schedule a meeting with one of the individuals from the previously mentioned enforcement stops.
As Chief, I have an absolute expectation that everyone in the Piedmont Police Department always provide excellent customer service, and that it be delivered fairly and impartially. I am very proud of the day-to-day efforts of the men and women who police this community and truly appreciate how they actively engage in our dialogues with them and embrace our efforts and directives. The Piedmont Police Department doors are always open to everyone, and we welcome thoughtful and collaborative conversations that will better our collective efforts at policing Piedmont safely, fairly, and impartially.
As always, please feel flee to call or come by the police department if you have any questions or want to discuss any of this further.
Respectfully, Rikki Goede.
Police Chief Rikki Goede has given PADC permission to publish her update to the Mayor and Council. The letter specifically addresses two recent police stops that we ourselves have been monitoring closely. And she describes the department's ongoing efforts to instill a culture of fair and impartial policing. The letter, dated April 6, 2015, is copied to Paul Benoit, City Administrator, and also to PADC.