The committee tasked with examining local law enforcement’s relationship with the community and social services met for the second time last week.
According to notes provided to the News&Guide by Teton County Administrator Alyssa Watkins, the group voted to allow the press to observe the next meeting, which will happen sometime in January.
“I am glad the meetings are going to be more transparent for the public,” Sheriff Matt Carr said. “Now we can focus on the task at hand and continue the great work we’ve started.”
The last two meetings have been closed, and the notes aren’t detailed enough to know which committee member said what.
But according to the notes, some of the conversations have revolved around law enforcement training and the variety of calls they take.
The notes are in bullet point format. Here is an excerpt:
• questions about education and training with [law enforcement], speaking with [sexual assault] survivors in a dismissive way, not client centered, not being believed, and not trauma informed method, appears to be a disconnect between supporting survivors. Investigations appear to be focused on arresting the offender vs. arresting the offender AND supporting the survivor. Very different interactions with [law enforcement] — why cannot all [law enforcement] be better trained? New system to sheriff’s office investigator being called out to every sexual assault. Diversity and Training ... [law enforcement] is at minimum levels right now and struggling with ability to perform services.
• [Law enforcement] comes to enforce safety, so having them there in the event that a situation becomes violent is important. This helps ensure safety for non-[law enforcement] crews (medical, fire) that may be present.
• Transparency and accountability with [law enforcement], specifically [law enforcement] misconduct. Public has not had a lot of transparency that led to consequences of two incidents that occurred here locally this summer with JPD. The ability of citizens to have input — how does transparency lend itself to more accountable [law enforcement]? Budget freeze while other organizations and services are receiving budget cuts. Crisis intervention team — who is responding to calls of crisis? Mental health, substance abuse, etc. How can that be done efficiently and in a safe manner? How can it be done efficiently from an economic standpoint?
The committee also added two new members from the Latino community, according to Carr.
“They were both very welcomed additions to the task force,” Carr said. “They make the committee more diverse, and it is so important to have their voices.”
The committee is considering doing a survey of the community to better understand individual experiences with police.
Though some wondered if that’s a good way to get an accurate assessment.
The survey suggestion was followed up with, “Caution that some people’s interaction with [law enforcement] is negative because [law enforcement] enforces the law.”
Police staffing challenges and language barriers were also discussed at Thursday’s meeting.
The notes say at the end of the meeting the “large group adjourned, some members stayed on for a small group” where they further discussed “press involvement” and “concerns raised regarding a recent guest shot.”
The notes don’t go into detail about the concerns.
In the Dec. 16 News&Guide Ivan Jimenez wrote a guest shot encouraging transparency and inclusivity in the task force.
“Throughout the last election cycle we heard countless platitudes about the need to listen to the marginalized and create space for those who typically can’t engage in public processes,” he wrote. “There was talk of Latinx working class, mothers caring for children, impoverished families and more. However, if we don’t pay people for their time, then the people we say want to hear from cannot be a part of the process because they literally cannot afford to be.”
The idea for the committee came up over the summer after the Teton County Board of County Commissioners heard public comment from residents who advocated taking money from law enforcement budgets and allocating it toward human services, advocacy efforts known as defunding the police.
The decision came after a sustained campaign organized by activist group Act Now JH that formed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis. The group attended county meetings in force throughout the end of June, lobbying commissioners to defund law enforcement’s patrol budgets and divert those funds to social services.
After receiving several applications from members of the public and conducting interviews, the Teton County Board of County Commissioners voted to commit $14,000 to the project and appointed five people to the committee.
The money is paying for Leadership at Play, a firm helmed by Allison Bergh and Kat Smithhammer, to facilitate the meetings.
The information or recommendations decided by the committee will be formed into a request for proposal for another stage of assessment.
In the notes it says the firm is bringing in another consultant for the next meeting.
“Jake Jacobs from the Illumination Project will be on hand to help define landscape,” the notes state. “Will present info, answer questions, and work with the group for about an hour to highlight some examples of this work and similar processes that he has experience with that could help the group understand what direction(s) their effort(s) might take.”
Carr said Jacobs is being paid from part of the $14,000 already allotted for the committee.