Sherman R. Frederick
Mill Valley Herald
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force report offers a harsh assessment of life in Mill Valley, marked by a racially biased police force, a successful effort to keep Blacks from living in the town and the historic “plunder” of the Miwok.
These assertions are contained in the second installment of the DEI report re-published by the Mill Valley Herald today on A5. Other installments on the contents of the DEI report will follow in future weeks. The Mill Valley DEI report is the first in Marin to articulate a way forward after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department.
Members of the Mill Valley DEI Task Force are: Naima Dean, Elspeth Mathau, Megan Acio, Amber Allen-Peirson, Sacha Bunge, Johanna Calabria, Nancy Carlston, Dart Cherk, Tammy Edmonson, Eileen Fisher, Zoe Fry, Halicue Gambrell Hanna, Running Grass, Gilda Harger, Hilary Heaven, Tammy Herndon, Jasson Minadakis, Celimene Pastor, Kerry Peirson, Denmo Ibrahim and Frank Leidman.
The DEI Task Force says the Mill Valley Police Department is “out of step” with 21st century policing. The department’s use-of-force policy, the DEI Task Force said, needs revamping to require officers use de-escalation techniques as well as ban “chokeholds and other restraints that pose a risk of asphyxiation.”
The DEI also asserted that Mill Valley police officers are “poorly suited” to interact with students on school campuses because they contribute to “disparate treatment and needless criminalization of Black students and other students of color.”
On the subject of housing, the DEI members concluded that Mill Valley has discriminated against people of color by creating “whites-only subdivisions” and “redlining.” To counteract the “wealth gap” in housing opportunities, the DEI urged the city to look at “permissive zoning and incentives to encourage the conversion of single-family homes into two homes; disincentives for housing size expansion.”
And finally, the members of the DEI Task Force wantx Mill Valley residents to “provide redress for the historic exclusion of people of color and plunder of Native Lands. Restitution and conservation easements benefiting descendants of those affected are among the appropriate remedies.”
The Mill Valley City Council has directed city staff to sift through the DEI report “to better understand the goals and desired outcomes of the recommendations.”
For Mill Valley police:
No trust = no legitimacy
(Editor’s Note: This is the second installment of an ongoing series on the Mill Valley Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force report on what Mill Valley can do to awaken to systemic racism in the town.)
Mill Valley’s use of force policies, derived from the Lexipol standard form, are out of step with 21st century policing best practices (standards established by President Obama’s 2015 Task Force on 21st Century Policing) that center on procedural justice and the sanctity of life. The policies should be amended, among other things, to: forbid the use of force that is dispropor- tionate to the harm sought to be avoided; require—rather than merely suggest—utilization
of de-escalation techniques whenever possible; and ban the use of chokeholds and other re- straints that pose a risk of asphyxiation.
Data collection and transparency are central to building trust and legitimacy, the first pillar of 21st Century Policing.
A transparent and credible system of police accountability builds community trust, but it must be understood by, and readily available to, members of the community. RIPA recommendations— that officers carry complaint forms in their patrol vehicle and hand out business cards to pedestrians and motorists they stop—help to achieve these objectives.
Civilian oversight helps ensure objectivity in the investigation of civilian complaints and provides a safe avenue for BIPOC individuals who have been harassed or intimidated by police to raise their grievances.
Past allegations of misconduct against a police officer are highly predictive of future misconduct and should be investigated and considered in MVPD hiring decisions.
Police officers are poorly suited to the needs and objectives of students in an educational setting. Their presence on school campuses contributes to disparate treatment and needless criminalization of Black students and other students of color.
The cost of unchecked police expansion—in Black lives, in BIPOC intimidation, and in sheer economic terms—has led many communities to reevaluate the size and scope of work of their police departments. Cities are discovering that a great number of the functions currently as- signed to police can be performed more safely, more effectively, and at a lower cost by well- trained service personnel. A responsible allocation of functions and resources to the MVPD must begin with an analysis of the needs and duties in our community for which armed law enforcement personnel are uniquely trained and well-suited.
Based on the data assessment called for above, the City, MVPD and DEI Commission should 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). The model should endeavor to be cost saving or cost neutral once in operation and should be monitored on an ongoing basis against goals and objectives.
Whites-only subdivisions, redlining, and other discriminatory practices have effectively discouraged and prevented many people of color from settling in Mill Valley. As in communities across the nation, housing segregation in Mill Valley has operated to establish and deepen racial disparities in wealth, education and other basic rights and opportunities. Mill Valley’s soaring housing prices operate—by means of the racial wealth gap—to reinforce the exclusion of Black people and other people of color. Workers in Mill Valley’s service sector, many of them people of color, are forced to commute great distances due to the lack of affordable housing.
The Task Force is recommending a number of approaches to build upon the City’s current plans and progress to expand affordable, equitable housing opportunities. We must proceed on multiple fronts if we are to accomplish our goal.
This Report offers a variety of recommendations including, among others: permissive zoning and incentives to encourage the conversion of single-family homes into two homes; disincentives for housing size expansion; further encouragement of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs); and development of, or partnership with, a Community Land Trust.
A variety of measures can be undertaken to protect renters and insulate them from rent increases and eviction. Short Term Rentals can be regulated to encourage cost-sharing residential use rather than profit-making heavy turnover use.
The City should investigate, acknowledge and provide redress for the historic exclusion of people of color and plunder of Native Lands. Restitution and conservation easements benefiting descendants of those affected are among the appropriate remedies.