SPRINGFIELD – A virtual floor opens up to the community to voice its thoughts and experiences to a use-of-force investigator regarding the July 29 Thurston protest. A public meeting is scheduled Thursday, Dec. 10, from 6-7:30 p.m.
The Springfield Police Department’s use of force that night has been questioned by the community; videos show Springfield police dragging protestors out of the crowd by their limbs, hitting unarmed protestors with batons and punching protestors in the head.
The City ordered an external use-of-force investigation “to provide clarity, understanding and meaningful change,” Springfield city manager Nancy Newton said. Use-of-force expert Rick Braziel, who has 33 years experience with the Sacramento Police Department, is contracted through Jan. 31 to lead the investigation.
At Monday’s Springfield City Council meeting, community members shared their apprehension about the public forum.
“I’ve been both confused and concerned about the way the City is seeking information for the investigation. I’m certainly grateful it’s taking place but I’m also really troubled … that there is such a substantial burden being placed on those who are most impacted by the events of that night,” Springfield resident Christy Costello said. She said she is concerned about the level of confidentiality in email testimonials, and the amount of people willing to “relive their trauma in front of a wide and anonymous” audience.
“One cannot deny that this would cut the number of people willing to comment drastically if this is the primary way to share your experience,” Costello said. “It really makes me concerned about what information will be missed … What is the point of an investigation when those you need to hear from either haven’t heard about it or are too worried about their own safety to come relive their trauma in order for it to count?”
Newton said that because Braziel is a private consultant, emails sent to him would not be considered public record. Braziel “doesn’t have the same type of restrictions that we as government staff do about retaining records,” Newton said. “At the conclusion of his investigation – in emails or if someone wants to submit a video describing their situation – he would not retain those, and those (records) will be destroyed.”
Newton also said that residents concerned about confidentiality can log into the forum with a pseudonym to protect their identity, and “that’s fine; we’re not asking people to give their name or where they live or anything of that nature,” just enough information to give people the opportunity to voice their concerns, she said.
“One small step toward setting it right is to make space for victims to speak safely,” said community member Dana Hercut, and suggested private meetings between community members and Braziel would have been preferred due to safety concerns.
“I do want to acknowledge that many people feel very harmed and traumatized by some situations in the community and the events of that night,” Newton said. “I’m just trying to manage the costs of consultants and the time that he spends on the various tasks that are in front of him for this investigation … it’s a very comprehensive investigation.”
Braziel was a member of the Sacramento Police Department for more than 33 years. He was the lead investigator in the review of the police response in 2013 to former LA Police Department officer Christopher Dorner, a high-profile case that involved the review of Droner’s shooting spree in Southern California in 2013.
Braziel said at a previous council meeting that his process is more in-depth than just surveying the footage. He said that the investigation includes not just the incident, but what happened after and ways to improve.
He’ll be looking into the planning and preparation that occurred ahead of the protest, including how it was managed and the orders, directions, policies, strategies and training.
“We made sure that Braziel had not just our own police videos, but that we had given him the links where he could find the community videos from all different sides of the issue,” Newton said. “I know that’s not a substitution for somebody speaking to him personally … I’m just trying to manage the process in the best way and that’s most cost efficient.” The cost of the investigation will depend on the work performed, but won’t exceed $35,000.
Braziel said it won’t be an “I-got-you” process; rather, he “wants to establish cause and not assign blame.”
Newton said that if more victim-impact statements are needed, “then we will look at where he is on his contract … and if we can make some accommodation there.”
Participants can log in or call and get three minutes to speak. Register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1730716375629375247. For listen-only mode, call 1-951-384-3421 with access code 761-158-973.