While that focus has largely been driven by the community’s interest in making Mill Valley a safer, more welcoming place for all residents and visitors, it’s also been propelled by the ongoing national conversation around police killings of Black people. The latest example of that was last week’s shooting of 20-year-old Duante Wright by a 26-year veteran of the police force who claims she shot Wright with her gun instead of a Taser by accident. That tragedy occurred amidst the ongoing trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis Police Officer accused of killing George Floyd, whose death sparked a series of peaceful protests both here in Mill Valley and all over Marin and the world in the spring and summer of 2020.
With all of that as a backdrop, new Mill Valley Police Chief Rick Navarro is set to deliver a status report on April 19 to the Mill Valley City Council about the police-related recommendations within the City’s DEI Work Plan. The report indicates that MVPD is well on its way to implementing many of the recommendations, particularly on data reporting and adopting policies that spur bias-free policing, but less so on on adopting civilian review of MVPD and exploring the possibility of reducing the size of the department.
First on the list is the implementation of the tools spurred by AB 953: The Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA), which requires California law enforcement agencies to begin “collecting and reporting data on complaints that allege racial or identity profiling,” as well as “perceived demographic and other detailed data regarding pedestrian and traffic stops, including “the perceived race or ethnicity, gender, and approximate age of the person stopped, as well as other data such as the reason for the stop, whether a search was conducted, and the results of any such search.”
Law enforcement agencies of Mill Valley’s size must implement that RIPA data collection by 2023. But Navarro is set to report that MVPD expects to meet the reporting requirement in June 2021. Navarro reports that after an exploration of several data collection platforms, they’ve identified RIPALog as their chosen app-based data collection tool, with MVPD having beta tested phase RIPALog in the field. MVPD test data for April will be submitted to the Department of Justice per the agency’s request, Navarro writes.
Adopt RIPA Model Policies for Bias-Free Policing
Navarro writes that MVPD has developed a comprehensive “Bias-Free Policing” draft policy and provided a copy of it to the Police Working Group of the Mill Valley Force for Racial Equity and Empowerment (MVFREE), comprised of members of the
former DEI Task Force. Navarro writes that he expect to implement the policy after the Council meeting.
Align MVPD Training with RIPA Best Practices
MVPD plans to increase its anti-bias training to every three years, with a staff member certified as an instructor for the “Principled Policing” course, which teaches policing approaches that “emphasize respect, listening, neutrality, and trust, while also addressing the common implicit biases that can be barriers to these approaches.” MVPD officers are also set to take an 8-hour cultural diversity course offered via UCLA extension in the coming weeks to help officers understand “how biases, stereotyping, and cultural humility concepts impact present-day policing practices. The course focuses on increasing cultural humility, dispelling myths about common stereotypes, and understanding implicit biases.” MVPD will continue to send supervisors to the Supervisory Leadership Institute program, which features a 2-day course held at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, Navarro writes.
Adopt RIPA Best Practices to Prevent Bias-by-Proxy
Law enforcement agencies have stepped up training on co-called “bias by proxy” – cases in which civilians racially profile a person and call the police to intervene, despite frequent lack of any crime committed. In May 2020, the San Francisco Police Commission approved a sweeping anti-bias policy that included bias-by-proxy, with law enforcement personnel trained to “use their critical decision-making skills to assess whether there is criminal conduct.” Navarro writes that “MVPD currently has no policies, training, or practices aimed at addressing bias-by-proxy” but should “adopt RIPA recommendations to empower its officers, dispatchers, and other staff to respond appropriately to bias-based calls for service and to protect the dignity and security of any person who is the subject of a bias-based call.”
Align MVPD Policy Manual with Procedural Justice Best Practices
Navarro writes that MVPD’s policy manual had been a one-size-fits-all model produced by the Lexipol software company, “designed to meet minimum legal and constitutional standards but reflects neither Mill Valley community values nor current best practices for bias-free policing.” With that in mind, “MVPD made several policy changes based upon Lexipol’s regular update cycle, which occurred after the initial DEI Task Force review, including on use of force, temporary custody of juveniles and gun violence restraining orders, among others. The updated manual is here. “Reviewing these policies will be an ongoing process,” Navarro writes.
Align MVPD Use of Force Policies & Practices With 21st Century Policing
MVPD took several steps to address the fact that its “use of force policies, derived from the Lexipol standard form, (were) out of step with 21st Century Policing best practices as established by President Obama’s 2015 Task Force on 21st Century Policing. In 2020, MVPD removed the carotid restraint from its Use of Force policy and implemented de-escalation training and technique requirements. MVPD also adopted the state’s “reasonableness” policy in use of force, and held department training in November 2020 that “provided scenario-based training (on) responses and tactics.”
Those changes included moving the Citizen Complaint Tab to the MVPD home page, including a 5-year log of formal complaints and updated crime data, as well as providing all staff email contacts for community members to reach staff, an updated MVPD Policy and Procedure manual, posted bi-weekly calls for service and a Use of Force tab and RIPA, the latter two of which are in progress.
Collect & Publicize Comprehensive Data on MVPD Website
Since “data collection and transparency are central to building trust and legitimacy,” MVPD has sought to provide more info to the community about MVPD interactions with the community, Navarro writes. Under the “Community Information” tab on the homepage, staff has added a “Monthly Activities Report,” which provides a snapshot of offenses, arrests, citations, and accidents MVPD has handled over the previous month, as well as a “Calls for Service” tab with a log of all calls police have responded to over a two-week period.
Improve Community Access to Civilian Complaint Process
The DEI Task Force recommended that, in the interests transparency and police accountability, police officers should “carry complaint forms in their patrol vehicle and hand out business cards to pedestrians and motorists they stop.” MVPD handles an average of 18,500 calls for service per year, and says it currently averages two formal complaints per year. Community members can access a five-year complaint log to view the type of complaint, the day/time and a synopsis, with each complaint reviewed and classified with one of the following dispositions: Unfounded, Exonerated, Not Sustained or Sustained.
As recommended by the DEI Task Force, MVPD updated all its business cards to include a website link with more info on department complaints as well as complaint forms in their patrol vehicles.
Develop Civilian Oversight of MVPD
The City Council decided in December 2020 that it serves in the role of an oversight body for the Police Department and indicated that an additional oversight commission was not appropriately scaled for the City, given that MVPD has just 28 employees, handles an average of 18,500 calls for service per year, and has had a total of 10 formal complaints in the past five years and one the past two years. Instead, a City Council Police Governance Sub-Committee, which includes the Mayor, Councilmember, and City Manager, meets quarterly with Navarro to review policy changes, complaints, use of force incidents, and RIPA data. The committee, which met for the first time in February, will focus on: crime statistics; use of force; complaint statistics; the status of new officer hiring/training/probation; significant policy changes; training updates and RIPA training, set for June 2021.
Investigate & Consider Prior Misconduct in MVPD Hiring Decisions
Task force members suggested that “allegations of misconduct against a police officer are highly predictive of future misconduct and should be investigated and considered in MVPD hiring decisions.” Navarro points to the required pre-employment background investigations for peace officers, which screen out candidates who, based on their history or other relevant information, are found unsuitable for the position. That includes reasons for leaving and history of counterproductive work behavior, including: disciplinary actions, being fired, asked to resign, workplace violence, resignation in life of termination and subject of written complaints or counseling for poor performance, among others. MVPD also points to newly hired officers having a 12 to 18-month probationary period, with monthly performance evaluations, and the potential to be terminated if unable to fulfill the requirements and duties set by MVPD.
Assess MVPD Functions & Funding Against Community Needs
Should the City of Mill Valley join many municipalities across the country and reevaluate the size of its police department? With a staff of 28 when all positions are filled, MVPD has currently frozen one officer position and reassigned one parking enforcement officer to assist with vegetation management inspections, funded via resources provided by the voter-approved Measure C, the Wildfire Prevention Authority Parcel Tax.
MVPD’s “base” staffing per shift is one sergeant, one corporal, and two officers, and its “minimum” staffing is one supervisor (sergeant or corporal) and two beat officers, providing a buffer “of one person per shift for vacancies due to vacation, sick, bonus day, and training. On average, each patrol team is assigned 182 shifts per year. “Staff conducted a review of staffing on a national level and found that California was on the low end of per capita staffing with an average of around 1.9 officers per 1,000 residents. Mill Valley staffing is below the California average, with 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents.
Develop and Implement a Need-Based Community Service Model and Budget
In response to a recommendation that the City and MVPD develop a model and budget for a City Service Team to respond to service calls that do not require an armed police response (from leaf-blower complaints to mental health emergencies), Navarro writes that MVPD works with an array of agencies, including Marin Mobile Crisis, Adult Protective Services, Child Protective Services and many more.
MVPD recently began training its Community Services Officer on how to handle certain calls for service where a sworn Officer might not be needed, including fraud reports, lost/stolen property, non-injury traffic collisions, “cold” theft cases (for example, a stolen bicycle that occurred a week prior), and “cold” vandalism reports (where no suspects are on scene or observed). “Once the CSO is properly trained in the next 90 days, and when applicable, the MVPD CSO will handle identified reported crimes.”