A new report recommends that Clayton officials participate in more extensive police and community engagement opportunities as a way of improving relations.
Released Wednesday, the Strategic Plan for Clayton, MO: Community Engagement and Reconciliation report lists several recommendations, including more community interactions and gatherings between the Clayton Police Department, business owners and residents.
It specifically cites an incident in Clayton nearly one year ago, when 10 African American Washington University students were stopped by Clayton police officers after a "dine and dash" was reported at a nearby IHOP. The encounter sparked accusations of racial profiling. 21st Century Policing Solutions was contacted by Clayton officials in October 2018 following the city’s investigation into the incident.
"We are looking at it closely, and we are really very eager to start working on the recomendations that they have," said Clayton Mayor Michelle Harris. "I think we have some really good avenues to proceed on to bringing our community together around some of these issues."
The report says that the community discussion and community engagement reconciliation plan came about “to find a pathway for the key stakeholders of the city (the Clayton Police Department, the City of Clayton leadership, Washington University and students, the broader Clayton Community) to process the incident, listen to each other, and determine specific strategies they can take to reduce such incidents in the future.”
The city hired 21st Century Policing Solutions and Strategic Applications International to gather feedback and gain insights from the community and issue recommendations. Harris said Clayton officials have already met with representatives from other cities to examine the diversity models of other communities.
“The goal was to better understand the Clayton community, its diversity and strengths, as well as the Clayton Police Department’s (CPD) relationship with those they interact with in Clayton,” reads the report.
The recommendations come following several months of community discussions. The report says most of participants were Clayton residents; 58% of participants were white, while 44% of participants were people of color. More than 100 people took part.
Teddy Washington, one of the Wash U students involved in the IHOP incident, said that when he and other students met with Clayton police shortly afterward, the discussion led him to believe better outcomes are possible.
“When you respond to those things, there has to be a way to approach them that gives room for someone to be innocent,” said Washington, 18, speaking on St. Louis On The Air on Tuesday. “(Police) have to find the criminal or the culprit, but there should be a way of approaching it in a non-inflammatory way.”
The report also recommends an audit of the East Central Dispatch Center to review the criteria of when officers are dispatched to respond to a suspicious persons call. The suggested audit would review call records between fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2018.
The organizations that authored the report also suggest that Clayton officials establish a Diversity Working Group and that city officials review current policies and conduct a random analysis of ECDC call records to “assess for reasonable suspicion or concern based on a caller’s threat identifiers and suspect description.”
Clayton officials said in a statement last year that they aim to introduce more racial sensitivity training in the police department.
Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis.
Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.