Tools to Address P.O. 3176 in Ashland, Oregon: Community Police Commission Proposal

Words by Kokayi Nosakhere

By now, hopefully the hard work of Ashland’s media outlets have saturated you, dear Reader, with the facts you need to make a decision with the City Council on Tuesday, August 6. An ordinance written by the Ashland Police Department is up for vote. Amazingly, it is not controversial because the police are telling the Mayor how they wish to police, rather than the other way around.

The Ordinance is controversial because 1) low trust with law enforcement nationwide and 2) Ashland’s small population. So far, over 50 residents have officially testified against the Ordinance since its release in early May. The testimony is one sided: against adoption of this Ordinance.

Despite this solid wall of opposition, it looks like the votes are against the activists: 5 to 1.

Because I seek to implement solutions, I have a compromise to propose.

Before I present my ideas, please allow me to establish the authority by which I make this proposal. 

For those who are just learning who I am, my name is Kokayi Nosakhere. I am a community organizer and award-winning journalist from Anchorage, Alaska. In Spring 2018, I relocated to Ashland, Oregon. 

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I am considered a social justice warrior, who is pragmatic and centrist.

For example, the following words are familiar to those who choose to study my Facebook page. They are in response to the unrest following through the American consciousness after this past weekend (August, Saturday, the 3rd and, Sunday, the 4th.)

CONCERNING HOW TO DISCUSS the MASS SHOOTINGS in America (originally posted on Facebook: August 4 2019)

 

  1. Please choose to begin accepting that at this point, with two events back to back in less than one day, all 320 of us Americans are reeling from PTSD. Recognize and accept that many, many persons are in FEAR, FREEZE and FLIGHT mode right now. They just want a cessation of the stimuli, so their nervous system gets a break from being hyped up all of the time. Some persons are absolutely exhausted.
  2. Because no IMMEDIATE smoking gun, single bullet solution to mass shootings exist, persons REALISTICALLY do not know what to do other than debate the two polarizing sides of being in FEAR, FREEZE and FLIGHT. One side is demanding the right to protect themselves – with guns – and the other side is demanding the core issues of class/caste division within American culture be addressed. The complicated answer is: both side possess valid arguments and points.
  3. Because we temporarily do not feel safe: when we are discussing this issue we, ourselves, become polarizing. We begin making the DEMAND the other person agree with our stance in order for us to feel safe in their presence. The Truth is: we have to slow down, breath and remember that we are not each other’s enemies. We are in shock and trauma.

 

With that frame in mind, I present the following:

A Police Generated Solution to a Legal Problem?

I am against the adoption of this Ordinance. My position is based on my experience with Melchisedek Shalom, the young man who was wrongfully arrested in Ashland, Oregon on November 26, 2018. He was twenty years old. He attempted to stand up for himself and he refused, according to his own recorded testimony, to verbally identify himself. He demanded the police choose to follow their own policies and collect the material necessary to meet the demands for reasonable suspicion and probable cause. Three Ashland police officers refused to follow their own training to determine if their action were legal or not, and arrested Mr. Shalom. It took 8 hours to rectify this mistake.

Police Chief Tighe O’Meara physically visited the family the day after Mr. Shalom’s release to personally apologize. So egregious was this violation, The Ashland Tidings documented that this meeting occurred and made this household knowledge.

I personally testified before the City Council my concern that passage of Proposed Ordinance 3176 would make it possible for the Ashland Police Department to make wrongful arrests legal.

The gap of trust is present between Ashland Police and the populace that perceives itself to be targeted by the Ordinance. To build a bridge of trust, I propose the creation, in Ashland, of a Community Police Commission.

I do not know the process of creating a commission as outlined by the Ashland Municipal Code. I submit this proposal to the community, with the intent that it spark conversation and stimulate a pathway down the middle, which resolves the polarization created by the existence of P.O. 3176.

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Qualification Process for Police Commission

  • 8 Volunteer Positions – unpaid: must be gender balanced and ethnically diverse commission
  • Each commission member must secure 2500 signatures from registered Ashland voters.
  • Receive majority vote confirmation from City Council within a three-meeting process already established by the City Constitution.
  • Commission members serve for 24 consecutive months at a time. Members cannot serve two terms consecutively.

 

Activities

  1. Organize an annual “Back to School” meet and greet between the police and local students. (August – October depending on when school starts each year.)
  2. Organize an annual “Ashland Police Day,” where officer teach the citizens the boundaries and stressors of their professional lives. (Spring)
  3. Organize a Grievance Process, when necessary:

 

  • Offended citizen is interviewed by a minimum of three members of the commission to determine if grievance meets standards for an investigation.
  • Investigation – 

A restraining order is placed upon the officer to prevent contact with the offended citizen. Additional restraining orders are issued to prevent harassment by APD upon the citizen and their extended family members. The officer is put on unpaid leave, so that he or she can participate in the investigation. Closed door meetings for conducting the investigation.

  • Conclusion is publicly disclosed at a City Council meeting with the recommended corrective action – $250 fine from the officer’s salary per offense, upwards to 3 offenses, which must be paid in the following pay cycle, nonprofit community service hours (32), and a submission of a self-care plan with measured goals. Monies from the grievance process is used to fund the annual events.
  • If an officer receives three judgments by the Commission against him or her in 24 consecutive months or 2 years, he or she is recommended by the Commission for termination in their conclusion.

 

Thank you for choosing to read these few words. Shall we have a conversation?

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