City of Helena preparing for working group meetings in ongoing police review

Law and Justice Center
Posted at 5:38 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-09 11:15:19-05

HELENA — Last summer, during a nationwide discussion about police reform, the city of Helena announced its own review into the Helena Police Department’s operations. Now, that review is heading into its next phase.

City leaders say they’re expecting to meet with facilitators this week to start setting schedules for a new round of in-depth working group meetings.

The city has set up six working groups – each one focusing on specific issues in police operations. They will bring together elected leaders, HPD representatives and other stakeholders in the community. The first two groups could start meeting as soon as this month.

Earlier this year, city leaders told MTN one of the first groups would discuss the possibility of setting up civilian review boards that could investigate uses of force and complaints against officers. The other would provide recommendations on ways to revise the agreement with the Helena School District that established the School Resource Officer program.

After those groups finish their work, the others will discuss HPD policies and procedures, data and records management, current mental health resources in the community and – finally – ideas for a better model for providing mental health services.

City leaders said earlier this year that they expected the first groups to finish their scheduled meetings by the end of spring, and the second groups will likely finish by the fall. The last groups, dealing with the mental health issue, will run back-to-back instead of simultaneously, and they are expected to take longer to complete their discussions.

Leaders say, once the working groups’ schedules are finalized, the meetings will be announced publicly – including on the new “Be Heard Helena” webpage.

The impetus for the review came last summer, after the May 2020 death of George Floyd. The trial for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged in connection with Floyd’s death, began on Monday.