Actions by police officers in our country have been under scrutiny for many years and, as we’ve all experienced, even more acutely in the past weeks following the tragic killing of George Floyd at the hands of a law enforcement officer. That tragedy should not have happened, and it is our responsibility to make sure that it does not happen again, certainly not here in Moscow. There have been calls for police reform, and policies and procedures of police departments are being reexamined nationwide. The city of Moscow is not exempt from scrutiny in the manner that we provide public safety services.
Moscow Police Chief James Fry approached administration at the city of Moscow and me to discuss and review the Moscow Police Department’s current policies and procedures. He’s moved quickly to identify additional professional development and training to officers to further support positive interactions with all community members. Chief Fry also serves as staff liaison to Moscow’s Human Rights Commission, where he communicates regularly with community representatives regarding human rights issues.
As mayor of Moscow, I have regularly seen firsthand the quality of our public safety officers, from the leadership of Chief Fry, to the officers who interact with our community daily, keeping our community safe in an appropriate and respectful manner. Since the 1990s, the city of Moscow has been committed to a community policing approach that fosters a culture of respect and inclusion for our culturally diverse community. This approach is just one of the ways that Moscow differs from many cities and one of the reasons I choose to live here.
While I am confident in how our police support public safety, I also recognize that as mayor, I have the duty and responsibility to provide informed oversight of the police department. For that reason, I have regular meetings with Chief Fry to stay up to date on operations, current events and future initiatives.
Many things make up a police department that is known for respect and inclusiveness rather than fear or hostility. In addition to the city’s community policing approach, we are also committed to:
— Supporting a climate of respect for all members of our community, without regard for race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, or social status. This commitment is absolute; there are no exceptions and extends to every facet of the City, including the MPD. As Chief Fry often says, “To those to whom much is given, much is expected,” and this applies especially to those of our MPD officers to whom we entrust the safety of our community. All residents have the right to expect that they will be judged by their actions, not by the color of their skin, where they are from, their religious beliefs, their gender identity, and whether they are rich or poor. We want Moscow to be a place where our resdents know they will be welcomed and accepted just the way they are and they will receive equal treatment from our police department.
— MPD requires high standards of conduct for its officers and clear, understandable, and transparent policies and procedures which require adherence to the city’s established policies of inclusiveness, support of cultural diversity, and overall fairness. This requirement begins with the hiring process and continues throughout an officer’s career. The city of Moscow maintains a rigorous selection process, including a thorough in-person background check before making an offer of employment to any potential officer.
— Continuous professional development for every rank of MPD officers, that focuses not only on law enforcement practices, but also emphasizes the importance of positive interactions in an often underrepresented, culturally diverse community.
I do not want to minimize the events that occurred in Minneapolis, or elsewhere in our nation. I want to assure our community that we are acutely aware of the need to be fair and respectful in our community policing approach. I am proud of our officers and our residents for the empathy and support shown to each other every day. Even more so in the past few weeks as we all grieve the tragedies that have occurred nationwide.
Though our hearts are heavy, our community has been and will continue to be an example of how neighbors work together.
Bill Lambert is the mayor of Moscow.