City of Superior commissioners, leaders discuss policing practices

Emily Ness
Updated: June 11, 2020 10:51 PM

Superior’s Commission on Communities of Color voiced their thoughts and concerns surrounding policing with city officials Thursday evening. They discussed practices in place and how they can insure interactions with police are positive moving forward.

Commissioner Jennifer Van Sickle said that while she believes there is power in prayer and in protest, there is also power in policy.

"The political tides will shift. They always do. Mayor Paine will not always be the mayor of Superior and Chief Alexander will not always be the Chief of Police. That’s why it is critical that we are proactive in our policy to make sure that we have these policies in place to protect the city and the citizens for decades to come. Now is not the time to be comfortable,” Van Sickle said.

According to commissioners, policies to protect citizens are important because they could prevent future tragedies like the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of police.

"I think that’s whats important in this city is that we all feel safe and we are a community because I want to feel a part of this community regardless of the color of my skin, " Deonne Nelson, commissioner said.

Mayor Jim Paine said the City of Superior had work to do to make long lasting changes, but pledged to be an ally in bringing these changes to life.

"What we need is your vision, your ideas, your testimony on how we can effect change in this community," Mayor Paine said. "I am asking that we work together to speak as loudly, but as effectively as we can to create very real change.”

Police Chief Nicholas Alexander said part of this change is the commitment to respect in policing.

"The definition of respect for our department should be showing respect in the face of disrespect and that’s what I try to do,” Chief Alexander said.

During the meeting, Chief Alexander presented information about the department’s defense tactics, de-escalation tactics and use of force.

"From 2002-2014, so a 12 year period, the department average saw 28 use of force incidents per year for 2,000 arrests,” Chief Alexander said. "In 2015-2019, our five year average for that period is 14 use of force incidents per year so during that five year period, we have managed to cut our use of force incidents in half with the same number of arrests.”

Chief Alexander said about 76% of use of force incidents took place with caucasians, 16.2% with Native Americans and 8.9% with black or African Americans.

For every use of force incident, Chief Alexander said there is mandatory use of force reporting to determine whether it was appropriate under law and department policy.

He added that use of deadly force is a last resort for officers in life or death situations and that officers have to go through training that addresses biases they may have, as well as, their approach to de-escalating situations.

"Our policy and our training empowers even our newest officer to our most senior one to intervene if another officer is doing wrong,” Chief Alexander said. "When we say we hire people for character, that is one of the reasons why. Character and courage—courage not necessarily in being able to go deal with a dangerous suspect, but the courage to intervene when you see somebody doing wrong within your own ranks.”

Chief Alexander said a number of things have led to improvements in policing over time, such as, new training, body cameras and community engagement.

Thursday's meeting ended with commissioners inviting Chief Alexander to their future meetings. He said he would attend and said he’d like to see other officers attend as well.


Emily Ness

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