DEAR ELECTED OFFICIALS:
These are difficult, tragic times in our country. Race relations and police brutality are front and center. Again. We are grateful that we have experienced no recent situations of the magnitude of the Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd cases in our community.
We hope this is because our law enforcement agencies already have some policies and procedures in place to help prevent the conditions that led to these unacceptable deaths and generally tense relationships between law enforcement and the African American community and other communities of color in Rome and Floyd County.
There is much evidence that these situations arise as a direct result of local government decisions and that preparedness is wise. Thus, we believe that now is a good time to share any of your current policies and practices that seek to cultivate better, fairer relationships between the African American community and law enforcement, offer some statistics and information with the community regarding local policing and race, and respond to the list of questions below.
The list of questions is based on understanding some of the factors that may have contributed to the problems within the police force in Minneapolis. We ask that you urge the police departments of Rome, Cave Spring, and Floyd County and the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office to offer clear, precise answers to the following questions publicly:
♦ What training about systemic racism, implicit and explicit bias, de-escalation strategies, or other awareness efforts do you employ to improve any officer’s ability to deal with situations and interactions with members of the Rome/Floyd County community?
♦ What are the policies in place regarding charges of excessive force? Is there a clear definition of excessive force?
♦ Have the departments self-examined for whether they are engaging in racial profiling? For example, do they look at records of routine traffic stops or on-foot stops to see what the ratio is of Black (and Hispanic) to white and how that ratio matches up to the demographics of the city and county? If not, would they be willing to do so?
♦ Do all officers currently have body cameras and are required to use them? If not, are there plans to equip all officers with body cameras and require their use? If there is such a plan, what is the timeline to have the body cameras and requirement of use in place?
♦ What percentage of police officers reside in the city/county? How many are familiar with, if not already connected to, the areas they patrol/respond to?
♦ What is the crime solving rate of the departments? Specifically, what do your statistics reveal about the rate of solving crimes – of all kinds, not just violent – perpetrated against white victims compared to those perpetrated against Black victims or other victims of color?
We believe that explaining any policies and practices you currently have in place as well as addressing these questions honestly and openly would do much to improve relations between law enforcement and communities of color. Such transparency and self-examination could make our law enforcement agencies models for other cities.
The Floyd County Democratic Party is committed to making sure that all citizens are treated equally by law enforcement regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, and sexual or gender identity. We believe all reasonable people share this commitment. Now is the time to take steps to honestly examine and begin to remedy the long-standing problem of inequalities within our justice system, on the local, state, and national levels.
We ask that the Rome City & Floyd County Commissions, the Cave Spring City Council, and the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office respond publicly to this letter with details and statistics. We believe doing so will mark a significant step towards creating positive racial relationships through transparency.
Ruth Demeter, chair
and the FCDP Executive Committee