In what amounted to a “mystery topic” during the Tuesday, June 9 Buena Vista Trustees meeting, Mayor Duff Lacy broke the three-three tie vote with a ‘no’ vote, declining to agree to sign a document that had arrived called a ‘Mayors’ Pledge’. He explained that he “would need more information to move ahead with it.”
The day prior to the regular Buena Vista Trustees meeting, the mayor received a document via email, urging him to support a pledge to support directing the Police Department to refrain from the use of potentially lethal enforcement actions, such as the use of chokeholds. It appeared to be in response to the nationwide protests occurring following the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, with four Minneapolis police officers charged in his murder. The mayor sent it to trustees prior to the meeting.
Although the meeting was an open meeting, the message related to the pledge was too late to make it into the trustee’s packets. As late as Thursday, June 11, Town Clerk Paula Barnett still did not have a copy of the document to share with the public. At this point, Ark Valley Voice cannot report who sent it, what the content of the request was, what action is requested, or what deadlines it contained.
What can be said is that the topic elicited strong reactions. Trustees were uncomfortable being asked to make a rush decision, although some, including Trustee Libby Fay and Trustee Amy Eckstein, both said a review of policing policies was a good step.
“I don’t know what they are,” said Fay. “I’d invite the education.”
“It’s just a review of policing policy as it applies to racism, use of force; we should absolutely look at this, I’d be in full support,” said Eckstein. “I think we should take it one step further – we should embrace this as a way to be in solidarity with the people of our country that are suffering under racism. At the least, we should have a work session.”
“Our police are very neighborly but at this point, everyone should be in support of this. I’d like us to have a work session with our Police Department. Are we doing everything possible we can?” said Eckstein. “ I bet we’d be reassured how many things are done right…we’d be in solidarity…..I think it’s time. I’m glad this was brought up. I’ve been thinking about it a lot. This is a great step.”
“I agree I guess on all sides,” said Lacy. “My thoughts are I’m the tiebreaker.” He added that because Police Chief Jimmy Tidwell will be retiring in July, that it would be good to delay until the new police chief starts July 24.
“I’m not sold that I have to stand up and say I’m concerned about my Police Department,” he added. “ I believe I show my support for them in trusting them. I’d be inclined to say that more thought should go into this rather than a decision tonight.”
“I’m very passionate about this and I’ve been following the news,” said Trustee Devin Row. “I have friends in Denver who were peacefully protesting in Denver who were tear-gassed – this movement is larger than our small little town.”
“With zero disrespect to our Police Department… the thing I want to clarify is being misunderstood,” said Rowe. “It is not that our police and what they are doing is wrong. It is about complete transparency for our community and for our citizens what force is used.”
The general outlines of the pledge were covered verbally:
- REVIEW your police use of force policies.
- ENGAGE your communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in your review.
- REPORT the findings of your review to your community and seek feedback.
“I am happy to assist the BV Trustee Advisory Board with receiving public input on this issue,” said resident Jessica Eaddy during the public comment.
Chief Tidwell weighed in, saying that policy reviews include not just the Police Department, but Town Attorney Jeff Parker too. “The new Senate bill might change some of these use-of-force things. It looks like it’s going to pass in some version,” said Tidwell.
“What is legal for use of force is not necessarily what the town might want to have in place,” said Parker. “I provide legal advice, but not advice on non-legal issues.”
The trustees appeared ready to table the issue for the night, but Eckstein made a motion to proceed, seconded by Rowe. The 4-3 vote had Eckstein, Rowe and Trustee David Volpe voting for it, and Fay, Trustees Norm Nyberg, and Cindie Swisher, and the mayor voting no. The mayor reiterated that he needs more information and reinforcing that the community appreciates its police force.
“What you saw in the discussion was everyone appreciated the comments from Chief Tidwell’s report, condemning the incident behavior, in Minneapolis” said Town Administrator Phillip Puckett speaking late Thursday with Ark Valley Voice. ” What happened there doesn’t represent the Buena Vista Police Department. You heard a desire to talk more about our standard operating procedures for BVPD and to do it in a way that is open; not a rushed conclusion.”
Puckett said that with the trustees expressing widespread support for a work session with the BVPD, he was already organizing a work session for the Trustee’s June 23 meeting that would include incoming Chief of Police Dean Morgan. He said the conversation would be held based on town needs. He pointed out that the mayor’s pledge document they had received, had a distinctly political vibe.
“The people who spoke in public comment, the people we’ve heard from so far, show us our community is very supportive of our Police Department,” added Puckett. “The work session should be a good discussion.”
Editor’s Note: Ark Valley Voice received a link to the pledge, that went to thousandsa of the nation’s mayors. The link was provided to the Buena Vista Trustees.