Piedmont PD and Recent Tragic Events, by Chief Rikki Goede
With the tragic and horrific events of the past two weeks, I have been asked by residents, council members, and committee members alike as to how our officers and I are doing. Inquiries have also been made regarding what our department has done to address the national issues concerning law enforcement. While I have had individual conversations and e-mail exchanges, I feel it is important to share my thoughts in an opinion piece for the benefit of others who may have the same questions and concerns.
What is happening in our society today with regard to our divisiveness around many issues, most notably race, far transcends the simple notion of a law enforcement versus people of color issue. It is a societal issue. The callous murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge are my and every other law enforcement officer's worst nightmare come true. I also believe they are every peaceful protester's worst nightmare come true, as well as the nightmare of every person in this nation who so passionately seeks change and wants our divisiveness to end. As I told my police department, evil seeks to divide us and turn us on each other, and we cannot let that happen.
I will tell you, we at PPD have received nothing but support from our community. People have gone out of their way to stop me and our officers on the street (in both Oakland and Piedmont) to thank us for our service and let us know they support us. We have received plants, gift cards, and letters and cards of support. It has been both heartwarming and uplifting to all of us, and we thank you. I believe it is reflective of all the good work our officers do for this community as well as how they do it, which is respectfully and professionally.
Our Department has worked hard to get better. PPD officers have been wearing body cameras since September, 2013. Every one of our officers has been through Biased Based Policing training to better understand the concepts of implicit and explicit bias. Every single officer and dispatcher has completed the week long Crisis Intervention Training to better understand and effectively deal with those individuals in personal crisis and/or suffering from mental illness. We have been, and will continue to, thread de-escalation principles throughout all of our firearms and use of force training. Our Department wholly recognizes the six pillars of policing as defined by President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing: (1) Building Trust and Legitimacy; (2) Policy and Oversight; (3) Technology and Social Media; (4) Community Policing and Crime Reduction; (5) Training and Education; (6) Officer Wellness and Safety.
Additionally, we have strengthened our relationships within our own community by partnering with the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee (PADC). Last Fall, PADC members and all of our police department employees partnered on a potluck barbeque and, over a shared meal, had an opportunity to discuss candidly the issues of which we are facing. In May, PADC sponsored and participated in the police and fire departments’ annual Battle of the Badges which raised over $2,000 for Special Olympics. And, last week one of the PADC co-chairs and I met for over two hours in a very personal and cathartic meeting in which we shared our united grief and frustration over recent events. None of us have the one answer that will solve everything, but we all feel the pain of what is happening and know these conversations and relationship building are a vital part of moving forward.
The last few years have brought challenges and opportunities for law enforcement to get better. We have heeded the call to change and made many strides toward understanding and improving those areas in which we had strayed from our core values. We have embraced this need to change and taken on the responsibility to lead. Do we still have issues--yes. Do we still have improvements to be made--yes. Do we still have work to do--yes. But, we are doing the work against the backdrop of media rhetoric, false narratives that proliferate through social media, and evil acts that constantly seek to divide law enforcement and their communities and erase all our gains. And, even with all that we have accomplished here in our community, I know that at any given moment one of my officers may be involved in a use of force or a shooting incident that could put Piedmont squarely in the cross hairs of public scrutiny. But, I also believe our work will have garnered the trust and support of our community, and we will stand together and use it to get better and stronger and, hopefully, change the narrative.
As President Obama stated during the memorial for the Dallas police officers, "...so much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much, and we ask too little of ourselves…” The Dallas police chief, who portrayed amazing leadership, challenged his community to do more and encouraged protesters to fill out an application and become a police officer and actually be part of the change they wish to see.
There is so much truth in both of those sentiments. We cannot continue to put this burden solely on our police officers. Across the nation and in our individual communities, we all need to come together and look outside the realities and comfort of our own bubbles and acknowledge we all do not experience things in the same way. We must also be willing to acknowledge that there is pain, ostracism, torment, anger, and even hatred felt by many in our own city and across the country. It is real and cannot be ignored. I truly believe this is a watershed moment for our country. And, my 31 years of policing experience tell me there are countless more good people in this world than evil who truly want to see the current divisiveness bridged. The question can no longer be what is law enforcement doing to solve this societal issue, it must be what are we all doing.
Piedmont Police Department's Chief Goede penned a powerful editorial for the July 25 edition of the Piedmont Post. We're pleased to share it with you here.