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Helena discussing possible outline for police department review

Posted at 7:43 PM, Jun 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-18 21:43:14-04

HELENA — The city of Helena could begin holding meetings next month, as they start a review of the Helena Police Department’s policies and procedures.

The Helena City Commission discussed a possible framework for the review process Wednesday during an administrative meeting.

“This is just a draft at this point, just to kick off a conversation,” said Commissioner Heather O’Loughlin.

O’Loughlin and Mayor Wilmot Collins began talking with Police Chief Steve Hagen about looking into how HPD operates earlier this month, in the wake of nationwide protests after the death of George Floyd in police custody.

The current plan would be for the first meetings to be an overview of HPD’s staffing, responses, budget and existing policies.

“What type of calls our law enforcement are responding to, what are some of the needs in our community – I think getting some of that baseline information is going to be really important,” said O’Loughlin.

That could be followed by listening sessions with individuals and organizations from around the community, sharing their experiences and concerns. Finally, leaders would look at possible recommendations for next steps.

O’Loughlin said, by the end of the process, they’ll have a number of “decision points” to consider – from how to invest city resources to whether any specific policies need to be updated.

“My hope is that over the coming months, a part of this is really better understanding these dynamics in our community and getting the data and the information so that we can turn to more intensive work sessions to potentially make concrete policy change,” she said.

City leaders say they expect to have more details on the exact schedule for the meetings in the next few weeks. They say they will be asking for and encouraging public comment throughout the process.

O’Loughlin said she expects the process will last for several months.

“This is certainly not a conversation that can happen overnight,” she said. “My hope is that we can be really thoughtful about the various topics that are involved in this and really dig in.”