CONSULTANTS ADDRESS CITY COUNCIL ON NEEDED CHANGES IN WAKE OF GEORGE FLOYD PROTESTS

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In a marathon special session Tuesday afternoon, Santa Rosa City Councilmembers heard directly from the county’s human rights commission and an independent consultant about how the city’s police department handled citizen protests in the wake of last year’s murder of George Floyd.

Human Rights Commission leaders sharply critized the department, asking that the city council vote to ban the use of tear gas and 40mm munitions except in extreme situations. They also charged that citizens of color had been targeted by police both during the Floyd protests, and in their aftermath.

Meanwhile, the OIR Group, authors of an independent report on police conduct which was months in the making, addressed the council for the first time. While acknowledging that the department had been cooperative and seemed willing to make changes, the consultants called out failures by the Santa Rosa PD in several key areas including the use of force and tactics. Among the criticisms was the department’s unauthorized use of “barricade” rounds on protesters, the heavy deployment of tear gas and “less lethal” projectile rounds, and the use of aggressive tactics like “skirmish lines” for crowd control. The report also called out the department for assigning a sergeant to review use of force reports who was himself involved in use of force deployments.

The report called upon the Santa Rosa PD to institute 7 changes to procedures, among them improvements in handling munitions, changes to the way it approaches the use of force, and more thorough and timely review of officer use of force reports by supervisors.

On Wednesday the special session will continue. The council will hear from city officials who’ve gathered public opinion on the city’s performance during the protests, and what changes the community feel need to be made moving forward.

Excerpts from Monday’s testimony:

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