In both the midst and wake of community protests, the Appleton Police Department has made eloquent efforts toward constructive conversation. The results have led to tangible steps forward.
For instance, they listened to citizen concerns regarding systemic racism and responded by upgrading their technology. Thanks to funding they applied for through the Oktoberfest Community Grant program, the department purchased and installed automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) cameras on their squad cars.
“In addition to assisting officers in locating vehicles wanted for a particular crime, this technology can help eliminate any ‘implicit bias’,” their press release read. “Instead of trying to pinpoint individuals, the system automatically looks for data such as license plate numbers, makes and models, vehicle color and other features.”
Chief Todd Thomas also recently developed a Community Advisory Board, which held its first meeting via Zoom on Sept. 21. He made the Zoom link public so anyone could attend and invited feedback by creating a specific email address APDFeedback@Appleton.org.
Additionally, the APD launched a portal on their website called Inquire/Inform/Improve through which people can voice their concerns and ask questions. The department responds quickly and publicly. Many of the most recent questions involve how and when officers respond to mental health crises. There are also inquiries regarding race, police training and chokeholds.
The definitions the department provides for this three-step process offers some insight into the earnestness of its efforts.
Inquire “The first thing we must always do is listen. Actively listen, with an open mind.
Inform “We must answer the questions and concerns people have, and educate the community about who are and what we do.”
Improve “The action step is to look for opportunities for US to do better, to focus on the root causes of racism and biases so we can make things better for our community members.”
These investments in both time and technology give an optimistic glimpse into what a safer and fairer world for everyone could look like. I applaud the APD’s willingness to accept community critiques and their efforts to resolve them in innovative ways.
Somedays, when it seems like we’re endlessly mired in anger and discontent, it feels good to see some movement toward solutions and glimmers of hope.