Sixty-four percent of the city’s residents believe the Lawrence Police Department needs to heal its relationship with marginalized communities, and more than half of Hispanic and black residents say the department is biased.
The results of a survey conducted by Allegro Training and Consulting for the City of Lawrence were released Friday afternoon. Less than 1 percent of the Lawrence population, 572 people, responded to the online survey, which was conducted in August and September of 2017.
More than half of those respondents said they had seen bias in individual officers. The numbers were especially high for minority groups.
Most respondents said their perceptions came largely from personal interactions they had with police, rather than stereotypes in media
The survey also showed overwhelming support for new training programs for officers, including mandatory stress, emotional health, safety, anti-bias and cross-cultural communication training.
A series of recommendations Allegro gave the department included these programs among other measures to improve citizen relations.
Allegro suggested the department place a focus on community engagement, examine its current practices to see where implicit biases may exist and hold focus groups with those who identify as marginalized.
The consulting group advised the Lawrence Police Department to create specialized units for sexual assault and domestic violence and “train all officers in sexual assault statistics and send message loud and clear from leadership down that there is zero tolerance for dismissive behavior surrounding these issues.”
The survey results were posted Friday, shortly after The Star obtained records indicating the city had failed to release the information the consulting firm sent three months ago. In those records city manager Tom Markus says he is “reminded by the recent inquiry by the Kansas City Star that (he) should sit down with Beth Clark (the CEO of Allegro) to get updated on the draft of her report.”
At Tuesday’s city commission meeting, Lawrence resident, Pantaleon Florez urged an immediate release of the survey results.
“We have a city manager who has to be reminded by the Kansas City Star that this report even exists,” Florez said.
“His forgetfulness renders those of us demanding transparency invisible and forgotten. His forgetfulness further antagonizes communities who have had horrific encounters with our police.”