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Village Council—Concerns about police aired

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Several villagers attended the June 6 Village Council meeting to express concerns about recent incidents in which they believed local police acted too aggressively.

“This was an overreaction by police that has to be acknowledged and dealt with,” Bob Baldwin said, regarding a recent incident. “Force has to be tempered to the situation.”

During that incident, a longtime local resident felt she had had too much to drink at the Gulch, so she went to her car behind the bar to wait for her daughter to give her a ride home. An officer who found her in the car requested that the woman open the door and she refused. In response, the officer shattered the car window, forced her out of the car and charged her with resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstructing official business.

“Is this the sort of community policing that we talk about in this town?” said Alisa Meier, referring to the same incident.

The incident was not isolated, according to Chrissy Cruz, who reported another recent event when an inebriated villager walking home was “thrown to the ground” and arrested.

“These are the things making us feel unsafe in our community,” she said.

In response, several Council members said they share the villagers’ concerns.

Three citizens had spoken with Judith Hempfling about the Gulch incident, she said.

“This is a matter of grave concern to me and needs to be investigated,” Hempfling said. “We need to figure out how to prevent this from happening in the future.”

Council is in the process of establishing a new Justice System Task Force, comprised of citizens along with Council representatives Hempfling and Marianne MacQueen, which will look closely at the local justice system, including the police department, with the potential to make changes. However, Council will not wait for the task force in order to address the recent incident, according to Council President Karen Wintrow, who said that she and Council member Brian Housh had talked with Village Manager Patti Bates about the concerns.

“We’re making it clear to staff that we want things to change,” Wintrow said.

Such involvement by Council is a shift in Council behavior, according to MacQueen.

“I believe Council is beginning to take a more active role in talking to police,” she said. “In the past Council was not involved.”

It’s important that citizens recognize that police want to do a good job, Baldwin said, and Council members agreed that no one wants to demonize local officers, but rather, to help them meet community standards of policing.

“We want our officers to de-escalate, not escalate situations,” MacQueen said.

Other June 6 items of Council business will be in next week’s News, including a request by Morris Bean leaders to connect Morris Bean to the Village sewer system, which has been a longstanding topic.

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