Decatur Police further explain invite-only focus group meeting

Posted by Dena Mellick June 2, 2015
Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Photo by Dan Whisenhunt

Decatur Police say an invite-only meeting of chosen focus groups is not an “effort to ‘cherry pick’ participants.”

Instead, the appointed focus groups are a “representative cross-section of the community, including citizens who have not been satisfied with their interactions with the police department.”

In a press release, Decatur Police Lt. Jennifer Ross said, “In March 2015 Chief Booker of the Decatur Police Department requested funding to conduct a strategic planning process for the department. Earlier multi-year strategic plans for the department were conducted in-house. Chief Booker felt an external information gathering process would result in a more beneficial result and would hopefully foster more and better community involvement in the operations and goals of the department. City commissioners approved and endorsed this proposal and a private consulting firm was hired to facilitate the process.”

On Monday, Decaturish reported reader Chris Billingsley wanted to know if a June 10 focus group meeting would be open to the public. Lt. Ross said the meeting was only for invitees.

Decaturish asked for more details, and the Decatur Police Department sent out the press release to multiple media outlets Tuesday.

The press release explained, “The initial phase of the process was to identify stakeholders who would be invited to participate in focus groups. The department desired a diverse representation to participate in the process and worked diligently with other city departments and groups to identify representatives from the community.”

Ross said there are seven focus groups, comprised of about 200 members of the Decatur community.

The press release goes on to say, “As this process is in its beginning stage, not all of the focus group participants have been finalized and invitations offered. At the conclusion of the initial information gathering phase, the proposed draft of the strategic plan will be presented for community review and comments. Revisions will be made at that time. It is hoped this process will strengthen the services the Decatur Police Department provides to the community and further engage the community in partnership with its police department.”

Here’s the entire press release:

In March 2015 Chief Booker of the Decatur Police Department requested funding to conduct a strategic planning process for the department. Earlier multi-year strategic plans for the department were conducted in-house. Chief Booker felt an external information gathering process would result in a more beneficial result and would hopefully foster more and better community involvement in the operations and goals of the department. City commissioners approved and endorsed this proposal and a private consulting firm was hired to facilitate the process.

The initial phase of the process was to identify stakeholders who would be invited to participate in focus groups. The department desired a diverse representation to participate in the process and worked diligently with other city departments and groups to identify representatives from the community. While the nature and purpose of focus groups is to identify small groups of citizens who are representative of the community, there has been no effort to “cherry pick” participants. The small size of the groups is merely a management tool to facilitate substantive dialog with all participants. The facilitators have attempted to identify a representative cross-section of the community, including citizens who have not been satisfied with their interactions with the police department.

There are currently seven focus groups, encompassing approximately 200 members of the Decatur Community. These focus groups are as follows:

1. Members of the Leadership Circle

2. Decatur Housing Authority residents

3. Graduates of the Citizen’s Police Academy

4. City residents (this group contains residents, some of who have previously filed citizen complaints against police personnel)

5. City Management Team

6. Members of CAPS (Citizens Assisting Public Safety)

7. Members of the Decatur Police Department

As this process is in its beginning stage, not all of the focus group participants have been finalized and invitations offered. At the conclusion of the initial information gathering phase, the proposed draft of the strategic plan will be presented for community review and comments. Revisions will be made at that time. It is hoped this process will strengthen the services the Decatur Police Department provides to the community and further engage the community in partnership with its police department.

About Dena Mellick

Dena Mellick is the Associate Editor of Decaturish.com.

View all posts by Dena Mellick

  • So … basically, housing authority tenants, some city residents, and five groups of people who are highly sympathetic to the police department’s point of view.

    Great.

    • JC

      Or, 5 groups of people who will have an opportunity to learn how to improve by way of this meeting. Let’s not be too cynical, they didn’t have to set this up

  • Chris Billingsley

    My son and I went to Trackside Tavern Friday night. We had a great time with food and drinks but especially the people. Trackside is unlike any other place in Decatur. Not only is it an adults only establishment (no screaming kids), but it also has what I call true diversity. Old geezers, bikers, twenty-something’s, babes, gays, black folks, cute Scotties and Tech boys and other groups that are beyond my personal knowledge (as I am a clueless old geezer). During the evening, Stacie the manager told me a great story. It seems that Brad (World Famous Tracksider second only to Spencer J.) came by earlier in the week and told everyone that he watched the city commission meeting on channel 25 and heard a shoutout to Stacie and the Trackside crew. Stacie and I laughed that Brad might be the only person in Decatur, hell maybe the entire metro area, that watches C-25. After buying Trackside specials for former students (in their mid twenties I have to add) and two other patrons, my son and I left feeling pretty good knowing that Trackside Tavern is still the best place to relax and enjoy real Decatur camaraderie.
    Now there is a purpose for my description of Decatur’s “All Around Best Bar” and that is, more citizens need to attend commission meetings. You might be surprised, as I was, that there is an organized group that appears at every commission meeting whose purpose is to slander, misrepresent and ultimately undermine the authority of the Decatur police force. I attended the last commission meeting and heard a citizen FROM AVONDALE ESTATES read a letter to the commissioners that basically called for the micro-management of the Decatur police. Next was a local preacher who told the commissioners that he would warn black visitors to his church that they would be profiled by city police officers. I was so angry listening to this nonsense that when it was my turn to speak about the Memorial Day/Weekend activities, I was shouting. Later that evening, I kept thinking that the commissioners are only hearing one voice concerning our police force. These are the anti-police activists who continue to make false accusations of racism and calls for extreme oversight.
    The media promotes this bias and I experienced it last week when contacted by a local T.V. station concerning an upcoming Decatur police focus group meeting at the Rec. The background details are found at Decaturish http://decaturish.wpengine.com/2015/06/decatur-police-further-explain-invite-only-focus-group-meeting/. The reporter seemed eager to meet with me until he found out that I wasn’t challenging the invite only focus group meeting and that the real problem was the secrecy of the Leadership Circle. Soon after that, he sent me this text, “Working to get answers from the commission. I’m still interested though, just want to do the story right.” And that was it. I suspect that as long as I was someone challenging the Decatur police, the reporter wanted to interview me but once he found out differently, he wasn’t interested. Maybe I’m wrong and if so, I will apologize on this blog but I don’t think so. In my opinion, much of the media continues to promote the anti-police hysteria that is heard regularly at the commission meetings.
    What to do? Please take the time to thank our police officers for their fine work. They not only patrol our neighborhoods and help keep us safe but we rely on them for something most of us would never do, arrive first on the scene at horrible traffic accidents or worse, investigate a tragic murder in downtown Decatur. They deserve our respect and support, especially now that they are under attack here in Decatur and across the United States.
    I hope that there are those reading this that will show up at a future government meeting here in Decatur or a surrounding community and praise our local police officers. Since attending a commission meeting is tough for most of us, may I suggest you send an email supporting the police to your commissioner (and if you don’t know who your commissioner is, send an email to Ms. Kecia Cunningham KeciaCunningham@decaturga.com I’m sure she will appreciate your comments). If you cannot do this, the next time you see a police officer, give him or her a thumbs up, a friendly wave or tell them, “Thank you for your service. God bless you and keep you safe.”

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