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Flossmoor commission delivers recommendations on police-community relations to board

Flossmoor needs to utilize communications, relationship-building and collaboration opportunities when it comes to fostering good relations between police and the community they serve.

So says the village’s Community Relations Commission, which delivered a presentation Monday, March 6, to the Flossmoor Village Board. The commission was asked by Mayor Michelle Nelson to create recommendations following an October community forum held after Madeline Miller was killed by Flossmoor police responding to a domestic disturbance in July 2022.

CRC Chairperson Phillipa Leon-Thompson and Commissioner Stephen Ramsey presented to the board.

“We know that improved communication, relationship building and connections will strengthen our commitment to one another throughout Flossmoor,” Leon-Thompson said. “We recognize the events that brought us to this moment and acknowledge the loss of life as well as lessons learned. Now, we are forward thinking, ready to take the next step toward partnership with both citizens and police to build on our foundation and influence the necessary changes.”

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Leon-Thompson said the CRC consolidated its response to three pillars of characteristics it deemed necessary to bond the community, educate, and build a culture of understanding and acceptance: effective communication, building relationships, and ensuring diversity, equity and inclusion.

The commission recommended DEI efforts include a DEI Council subset of the CRC or a DEI position. The village should also organize diversity dinners and bring back One Book-One Flossmoor, the CRC recommended.

In terms of ongoing communication, the CRC recommended it be timely, clear and concise; both verbal and non-verbal; written and visual; and transparent. They also said police should utilize social media platforms, crisis communications and active listening.

“By utilizing all forms of communication available in a timely manner, we lower the suspicion, cultivate trust and build a community while providing the means to education,” Ramsey said.

The CRC also recommended communications to residents of police training and assessments related to crisis intervention, emergency medical response, law updates, officer wellness, mental health, firearms restraint and firearms qualification, as well as sexual assault, civil rights, hate crimes and procedural justice. Statistics, training and other information should be used to promote transparency, and the public should be educated on where to go for information in the event of a crisis, according to the commission’s report.

The CRC also suggested establishing trust through honesty and transparency. Commissioners noted that should involve an investment of effort and time, an aim for consistency and a demonstration of commitment.

Coffee with a Cop, National Night Out, Ride Along and D.A.R.E. were highlighted as programs already being conducted. But the CRC said there are additional opportunities for Conversation with a Cop, bike-alongs and a free throw tournament to reach youths, and the return of a Citizen Police Academy.

“When we work together, it strengthens the community and allows for relationship building and, perhaps, the preservation of life,” Leon-Thompson said.

The October community forum received “mixed and negative” feedback from those who spoke at a subsequent village board meeting, and the March 6 presentation likewise got a mixed response from some residents who spoke during public comment.

Flossmoor resident Jenny Curtis said she appreciated the CRC’s comment about trust being established over time, but she called the village’s efforts a “smoke and mirrors” attempt to take the focus off of policy change and move it onto smoothing over public relations with police.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t want to ride in a cop car,” Curtis said. “I want accountability.”

Homewood resident Casey Kueltzo said he was glad the CRC did what they were asked to do but could have done more.

“We don’t need to make the police cute for the community,” Kueltzo said. “There are real issues we need to address. That requires actual policy change. … Flossmoor police, they killed a woman. I feel like you all aren’t grasping that or something. It takes more than just handing doughnuts out to people — or sitting down for coffee with them — to stop that or to prevent it.”

Trustees largely applauded the presentation and said it gave them a lot to think about. Several said the ideas presented were a good starting point.

“There’s a lot here, and next steps are always top of mind for me,” Trustee Rosalind Mustafa said. “Great presentations need to turn into great next steps. That’s the part that’s sometimes the most difficult.”

Trustee Gary Daggett said he likes the idea of more social media use to meet residents where they are with communications efforts, as well as the DEI Council proposal. Trustee Joni Bradley-Scott said she also considers communications “of the utmost importance.”

“We do have to find a way to engage the entire community,” she said.

Mayor Michelle Nelson said the village will review the CRC’s recommendations alongside the village’s strategic plan to see where those align and what Flossmoor can do moving forward.

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