The internal investigation by Forest Park police of an April incident in which an officer slapped a 17-year-old woman who had allegedly spit on him is complete. The department, after many interviews with witnesses, concluded that Officer Scott McClintock did not violate department policy on use of force.
We’re not here to second guess the conclusion. Instead we’d start by applauding this department’s transparent approach to an ugly incident from the first moment it surfaced in a Facebook post by a passing citizen.
It is not easy to publicly acknowledge possible wrongdoing, to do so in a social media age, to investigate an incident that is replete with racial implications in a police department with a mixed history on race and use of force.
But through its openness from the start, the department bought some good faith and, for us, it continues through the conclusion of this investigation.
That said, this department, like every department, has work to do when it comes to race and implicit bias, when it comes to de-escalation training. We were heartened by our reporting last week on the department’s expansion of officer training, unrelated to this incident they made clear. A side note: of particular interest to us is an increased focus on training both fire and police personnel on best and most humane ways to engage with people dealing with mental health issues.
The remaking of the Police and Fire Commission by Mayor Rory Hoskins is a critical step forward. His appointments of Rachell Entler to chair the commission and Kate Webster – former head of the Diversity Commission—and Jerry Bramwell, an African American lawyer, are proactive and diversity building. We want to see this commission actively work to expand the hiring of black and brown officers so that our police force, which is actually through retirements becoming less racially diverse, mirrors the demographics of our village. This is not simple as hiring regs are fairly rigid under law. But neither is it impossible.
Also, the coming retirement of Deputy Chief Mike Keating can be an opportunity to infuse greater diversity in the leadership of the department. The commission, the police chief and the mayor should not waste this opportunity.
Urgency and realism
We admire the determined urgency we see in ambitious academic and social-emotional goals that our District 91 elementary schools set for themselves each year. But we worry about the deflation that follows missing those goals, and this year, actually falling slightly backward on a couple.
This school district is aggressively working to turn reading and math scores around. They bring a growing roster of instructional coaches, revised curriculum, new technology, more individualized student testing. These are the right steps. We remain confident that improved results will follow.
Perhaps it is time to ease up on expectations of 10 or 15 point gains year over year on test scores and let the innovations percolate a bit through the system. We love the urgency. We worry about discouragement.