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Police chief meets with Missoula City Council to discuss policy changes

Posted at 9:45 PM, Jun 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 09:32:09-04

MISSOULA — Missoula's police chief met with city council members on Wednesday to discuss policy changes in light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests that have been taking place downtown.

Missoula Police Department Chief Jaeson White and city council members are discussing how to better the police department in response to protests over the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

"This has, I think, forced all of us to think about how we see race, and how we interact with the police force," City Council member Amber Sherrill said.

Chief White says he is in the process of rewriting use of force policy and wants to get more body cams for officers. MPD currently has 40 body cams.

"Due to charging times, download of data from previous shifts, and equipment repairs, we are unable to fully equip all of our patrol officers all the time," Chief White said.

MPD has been using body cams since 2014.

Chief White says that in 2019 only .04% of Missoula police interactions led to complaints. But in Wednesday's virtual Committee of the Whole meeting, community members made it clear they do have complaints.

"As an indigenous person who has lived here my entire life, I have never felt safe or protected by you. Ever," one person said.

That comment was made before the public comment period of the meeting and was not directly addressed.

Chief White says he has worked with Diverse U at the University of Montana to get ideas about how to increase implicit bias training.

"It's important that we're here today to share our comments and our efforts, especially during this time," said Diverse U Coordinator Ka'au Ahina.

Chief White says officers receive some implicit bias training before they are sworn in, and he hopes to add in additional training.

"Every day our officers go on shift to keep our community safe in a professional manner. It goes without saying that we are here to serve our community."

Increased training could require more funding. Chief White added that he plans to request more body cameras in the upcoming budget cycle.