Sad news: Benicia’s City Manager, Lorie Tinfow, has resigned as of today, September 8, 2020. Benicia Police Chief Erik Upson will serve as Acting City Manager. Information is sparse – we have only the following press release:
CITY OF BENICIA
Benicia City Hall
250 East L Street
Benicia, California 94510
Benicia, CA (September 8, 2020) — The City of Benicia announced this morning that City Manager Lorie Tinfow has tendered her resignation to the City. The City Council is grateful for Ms. Tinfow’s service to the City of Benicia and wishes her well in her future endeavors.
Mayor Elizabeth Patterson, on behalf of the city council, expressed gratitude for Ms. Tinfow’s service, stating, “Lorie’s three plus years with the City has positioned Benicia well by attracting and developing quality staff, and responding to the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our citizens both safe and primed for a strong recovery.”
Ms. Tinfow will be especially remembered by the community for starting the City of Benicia This Week weekly newsletter. The City’s Chief of Police, Erik Upson, will be serving as the Acting City Manager until the City Council takes further action.
We are saddened and angered by the killing of George Floyd and we stand with everyone in our community and across the nation against systemic racism. Enough is enough. Our communities are demanding change that is deserved and past due. It’s time for us to listen and take action to support our black, indigenous and people of color communities. We need to be clear in our expectations of our local, State and national leaders. And we won’t stop there. We must examine our actions and policies that impact all people of color and make meaningful changes.
We encourage and support the peaceful protests taking place in our City and are proud of our youth’s leadership in reaching out to so many people from all walks of life to come together with such heart and passion. Let this be the turning point our society must make so that everyone in our community can lead a life of dignity and promise.
Let us work together to make real progress, to learn from the experiences of others, to listen with empathy to new voices—voices unheard for too long—and to examine our own views and protest peacefully for this change. We know the answer is not violence. Let us come out of this time stronger and better.
The death of George Floyd is appalling and unacceptable, and we condemn the actions of those four police officers in Minneapolis. Chief of Police Erik Upson said, “I’m very proud of the culture we have built in this department and the humanistic approach we take that focuses on the community. I know there is more we can do, and I look forward to making changes that will strengthen our relationship with those we serve.”
We are confident in Chief Upson’s leadership and the Benicia Police Department’s training and practice of de-escalation, and community policing as well as his sincere desire to listen to the community and continue to advance the Department towards its vision.
We are committed, as leaders in Benicia, to better outcomes for our black community here and across our country. We honor peaceful protest and recognize the need for immediate and lasting social change. We hear you, we see you, we stand with you. By working together, Benicia will be a community where everyone is valued and respected.
City of Benicia publishes new “Use of Force Policy Review” web page, makes Policy Manual available to public – and pledges to remove choke hold from police policy
I almost always read the City Manager’s weekly newsletter. But you know how email inboxes can get out of control…
So I missed a really important City of Benicia newsletter this Monday. City Manager Lorie Tinfow shared information there about Benicia’s response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the subsequent nationwide protests and calls for police reform. Here is her June 8 message for Benicians concerned about police violence and racial justice. Read on, but don’t miss a number of my own concerns and questions that follow below.
City Manager Newsletter, June 8, 2020
“The past two weeks have been extremely tumultuous. The killing of George Floyd was the tipping point for many in our country and those participating in the protests and civil unrest that have followed have called for many necessary changes. And they are beginning to happen.
Friday night, Benicia Police Department (BPD) was notified that Governor Newsom ordered the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) to remove the Carotid Control hold from training certification. The change was immediately communicated to our Police Officers. This change seemed to follow an effort called 8cantwait.
Late last week we began to receive emails asking that we enact changes aligned with 8cantwait. Police Chief Upson evaluated the requested changes and directed his staff to create a webpage that offers information designed to increase transparency. The page includes a comparison of what BPD currently does with what 8cantwait wants as well as a table that shows total calls for service with instances of use of force for the past 3 years. Click here to visit the new webpage.
On the new page is also a link to the complete use of force policy that is posted online as required by law. For those interested in reading more, click here to view the policy.
During last week’s protest, the Benicia Police Officers who assisted, performed their duties exceptionally well. They managed traffic and helped keep the space safe for the participants. The officers’ response when at the police station in particular garnered my confidence and my respect. Click here to view the video in case you missed it. Clearly the protesters’ passions ran high but they too performed well, helping bring attention to the much needed changes across the country.
We are all navigating these uncharted waters to the best of our abilities. I appreciate the community, City staff and the City Council for maintaining the connections that keep Benicia strong. Benicia is better together!”
These new developments and the transparency embraced by our City Manager and Police Chief are to be applauded. I believe that the Police Policy Manual has never before been disclosed to the public, and the Use of Force webpage is an excellent way to engage the public in further conversations. These moves are significant and show personal and professional judgement in a time of profound unrest and hunger for reform.
BREAKING NEWS: NO MORE POLICE CHOKE HOLDS IN BENICIA
That policy (§300.3.4, Carotid Control Hold, pp. 48-49) takes up two pages in the current BPD Policy Manual. Exactly when and how the manual will be revised and adopted is not clear to me as of now.
CONTINUING QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS FOR BENICIA POLICE
There is more to be done. City staff, electeds and community members should continue to ask questions and raise concerns.
Use of Force Policy Review page on the City website
The “Use of Force Policy Review” page on the City website is a good start. The chart compares 8cantwait.org policy recommendations with BPD policy. It’s important to note at top that we will be “removing carotid control hold from our policy” (§300.3.4, pp. 48-49). But other than that, in most cases the BPD column qualifies each policy with “when reasonably necessary,” “where feasible,” etc., which seems a bit weak… Maybe that’s the best we can hope for?
The final item on that page is requiring comprehensive reporting. The BPD policy is to document all use of force promptly, but it does not address the 8cantwait recommendation to report any time an officer threatens to use force. Should we consider adding that to our BPD policy?
The 2017-2020 statistics provided on the page are interesting, but pretty thin on facts, context, details. It would be especially of interest to know about the racial characteristics of suspects and officers involved in these incidents. Can the BPD make more information available?
It is GREAT that no major injuries have been sustained by suspects or officers in use of force incidents over the past 3 years. But it is noteworthy that tasers have been used in 6 of the last 7 incidents (2019-2020), but prior to that only once in 11 incidents (2017-2018). Why has the use of tasers increased? And what are the “minor injuries” that are reported with nearly every use of tasers?
It is GREAT that the public now has access to the BPD’s Policy Manual. But gosh, it’s 756 pages long!
I would assume new officers are required to read the whole thing. And take a test?
How often are officers required to review the document and then take a refresher test?
I understand that the BPD is to be commended for its strong emphasis on frequent training exercises. Have our officers had a recent in-service training on Use of Force policies? This might be welcome in the current time of unrest and reform.
Other concerns and questions
The BPD Policy Manual has 7 references to “community policing.” It might be well to highlight and expand upon this official Department philosophy in a news conference and/or press release, as well as in an internal BPD memo or workshop.
The BPD Manual lays out crowd control measures and has extensive policies governing discipline. Will the BPD review these policies carefully in light of recent times? One suggestion: Minneapolis Police Chief Arradondo announced today (June 10) that the MPD will begin tracking disciplinary data as compiled by Benchmark Analytics, and that the Department will rely on this data rather than the authority of a supervisory officer when making decisions related to hiring and firing. Perhaps the BPD hiring and disciplinary policies could be reviewed in light of this?
Questions about race and gender: How many BPD officers are there, and how many are Black, how many Hispanic, how many Asian, how many White, etc.? How many male and female officers? The BPD Policy Manual is clear in opposing all forms of discrimination (§328.2, p. 156). But is the Department under any obligation or philosophical intent to achieve racial and gender balance? Does the BPD have any official goal statement on recruiting women and minority officers?