Sherman R. Frederick
In a report that some are calling a roadmap for Marin in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Mill Valley Herald starts a series today highlighting the town’s report from the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force.
The DEI Task Force was formed to serve as an advisory body to the City Council, and to review and develop additional actions, investigate best practices, and make specific recommendations to the Council for next steps.
Following the DEI Task Force’s presentation of its report Council directed staff to conduct a high-level sort of the 30 recommendations and place them in the following categories: Recommendations already implemented; recommendations underway; recommendations that are new or need additional consideration from Council, Staff, Commissions or legal research; recommendations beyond direct City control but could still be influenced.
The report makes a number of assertions about the Mill Valley community, starting withthe town and its residents are — consciously or unconsciously — part of a racist system.
“This moment of overdue racial awakening presents a rare and exciting opportunity to reshape our future in profound and meaningful ways,” the report begins.
Mill Valley, the report points out, is rich and white. “The Black experience in Mill Valley is so different from the white experience that it can be difficult for white community members to acknowledge and accept. That White denial itself lands a dehumanizing blow to Black people who battle the headwinds of racism on a daily basis.”
Racism is “woven into the fabric of Mill Valley’s community and civic life,” the Task Force said. To correct it, the town’s residents must acknowledge it and then adopt some data-driven strategies to make sure the town makes progress in becoming a more welcoming community to racially oppressed and socially disadvantaged people.
Local people of color, the report asserts, see the Mill Valley Police Department as “custodians of segregation. ” The report said that “Police as ‘custodians of segregation’ whom they see as focused on making sure Black and Latinx people are not in the ‘wrong neighborhood.’”
It adds: “For Black people in Mill Valley, the fear of police violence is a very real and immediate concern. In order to ensure safe, equitable, and trusted law enforcement in Mill Valley, the Task Force is recommending a variety of measures aimed at eliminating police bias and excessive use of force, and at increasing transparency and accountability.”
Part I of the DEI report is below.
(You can reach writer Sherman R. Frederick at email@example.com.)
(Editor’s note: In the wake of Black Lives Matter, Marin is taking a serious look at systematic racism in the county. One of the first towns to issue a formal report is the very rich and white berg of Mill Valley. This is part I of an ongoing series taken from Mill Valley’s new Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Task Force report.)
The Task Force is grateful to the Mill Valley City Council for this opportunity to gather, investigate and express our community’s concerns and hopes in the realm of racial justice.
This moment of overdue racial awakening presents a rare and exciting opportunity to reshape our future in profound and meaningful ways. We look forward to traveling this path of learning and healing with the City of Mill Valley and all of its residents.
This report provides a roadmap for our common journey:
- To transform our small community into a model of universal welcome and inclusion;
- To encourage and support the individual and collective potential of all our residents; and
- To honor and celebrate diversity in all its forms as a catalyst for creativity, innovation and community enrichment.
This is among the most challenging and important efforts that our community is likely ever to undertake. Our shared commitment is a giant first step in a transformative journey that we must dare to believe is possible.
Naima S. Dean, Task Force Chair Elspeth Mathau, Task Force Co-Chair and All of Us on the DEI Task Force
LACK OF DIVERSITY HURTS MV
The Black experience in Mill Valley is so different from the White experience that it can be difficult for White community members to acknowledge and accept. That White denial itself lands a dehumanizing blow to Black people who battle the headwinds of racism on a daily basis.
A Black parent from Marin City who plans to attend a Tam High open house, a Black teen going to school or meeting up with classmates in town, and a Black resident going for a run: all know when they set out that they will see few if any others who look like them. They know what it is like to be watched and followed in Mill Valley stores and have seen the Nextdoor postings warning neighbors when a Black person “suspiciously” appears on Mill Valley streets. They have experienced “the corridor” on Miller Avenue where driving while Black is a magnet for police detention. They are wary of the danger and humiliation that accompany a too-likely police encounter, when theirs will become the public face of “the criminal suspect.” And always front of mind is an awareness that this perception could trigger a police officer to deploy the heavy arsenal at his or her disposal.
The perception and reality of racial bias in our community is a powerful deterrent to Black people and other people of color who might otherwise choose to live, work in, or visit Mill Valley. The resulting lack of diversity harms the entire community, narrowing perspectives, fueling intolerance, and stifling innovation, artistry and entrepreneurship.
As this report demonstrates, racial inequity and injustice have been firmly woven into the fabric of Mill Valley’s community and civic life. The Task Force has identified evidence-based best practices for advancing racial equity in six essential areas: DEI Leadership & City Government (Part I); Law Enforcement (Part II); Affordable Housing (Part III); Culture & Recreation (Part IV); Economic Opportunity (Part V); and Education (Part VI).
All of us on the Task Force firmly agree: There can be no enduring progress on these issues in Mill Valley without the sustained and focused leadership of a permanent DEI Commission. Establishing a dedicated DEI Commission is the first of two immediate, top priorities in this report. The second is for the City to undertake a facilitated racial equity planning process to center equity in all government actions and decisions. These two critical initiatives discussed in Part I, will provide the necessary human resources, tools, training and infrastructure that will enable the City to activate a seismic shift toward an equitable and inclusive future for Mill Valley.
We have tentatively designated the remaining recommendations as Short, Medium or Long Term—with one exception for an Urgent, time-specific initiative. We urge the City to move as quickly as possible on the Short- Term recommendations, and to work with the DEI Commission and racial equity planning facilitator to develop a strategic timeline for a comprehensive Racial Equity Plan encompassing all of the Task Force recommendations.
The Task Force has identified several central tenets that should guide us in this work.
• Data and Accountability—Our efforts must remain data driven and community informed so that we can monitor our progress and hold ourselves accountable to goals. We therefore urge the City to begin collecting and publicizing relevant data in areas where it is not currently available.
• Transparency and Communication—In order for diversity to thrive in Mill Valley, it is not enough to lift racial barriers; we must commit to the transparency, outreach and two-way communication necessary to build community trust. Many of the recommendations center on these issues.
• Meaningful Partnerships—Mill Valley is not alone in this effort. Cities, school districts, nonprofits and businesses throughout the County—and the County itself—are rolling out a wide array of racial equity plans and initiatives. Affected communities—BIPOC [Black Indigenous People of Color] individuals and racially segregated communities like Marin City and San Rafael’s Canal District—have much to teach us about what is needed and how success should be measured. Partnerships with these and other allies should inform our strategies and priorities and will allow for collaborative approaches that will amplify our efforts.
• Shared Learning—We must commit, both in and out of government, to listen and learn about racial justice, implicit bias and anti-racist practices. And we must be prepared to share and to support one another throughout this learning journey.
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS
The City of Mill Valley does not have, and apparently has never had, a single department, commission, staff member, plan, policy or program, dedicated to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion. The challenge of en- trenched racism will not be overcome without dedicated, sustained and strategic leadership. The Task Force has therefore identified the first two recommendations as immediate top priorities.
PERMANENT DEI COMMISSION
A dedicated DEI Commission will leverage community knowledge, skills and expertise, and provide the ongoing oversight and leadership necessary to meaningfully advance racial equity.
HIRE A FACILITATOR
Overcoming deeply rooted racial bias and inequities in government requires a system-wide transformation that centers racial equity in all City actions and decision-making. The City must engage a knowledgeable and experienced facilitator to lead its development of a
strategic Racial Equity Plan to bring about this transformation.
POLICE: CUSTODIANS OF SEGREGATION
From slave patrols to stop and frisk, the history and evolution of American policing has been shaped by racial bias. Whether due to intentional or unconscious bias, the Mill Valley Police Department has not escaped this legacy. Long experience has led local people of color to describe Mill Valley Police as “custodians of segregation” whom they see as focused on making sure Black and Latinx people are not in the “wrong neighborhood.” For Black people in Mill Valley, the fear of police violence is a very real and immediate concern.
In order to ensure safe, equitable, and trusted law enforcement in Mill Valley, the Task Force is recommending a variety of measures aimed at eliminating police bias and excessive use of force, and at increasing transparency and accountability.
Data collection prescribed by the California Racial and Identity Profiling Act is essential to en- able MVPD to identify and address racial profiling by its officers, and to monitor the effective- ness of anti-bias policies and other remedial measures.
The evidence-based RIPA Model reflects the best available policies for achieving bias-free policing. Adopting the RIPA Model Policies will position the Department as a leader in the County in anti-racist best practices.
Adhering to RIPA Best Practices for Anti-Bias Training will bring MVPD into statutory compli- ance and empower MVPD officers to recognize and effectively combat explicit and implicit racial bias.
MVPD currently has no policies, training or practices aimed at addressing bias by proxy (bias-based calls for service from community members). MVPD 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.
The MVPD Policy Manual is a one-size-fits-all model produced by the Lexipol software company. The Manual is designed to meet minimum legal and constitutional standards but reflects neither Mill Valley community values nor current best practices for bias-free policing. The City, the MVPD and the DEI Commission should conduct a comprehensive review and revision of the Manual with this in mind.
(Stay tuned to the Mill Valley Herald and Marinscope Community Newspapers for more on the Mill Valley DEI report. You can see selected stories from all the newspapers at MarinLocalNews.com.)