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Ricardo and Margarita Rivera talk with Independence Police Sgt. Tino Banuelos after the listening session.


INDEPENDENCE — The overall tone of the listening session hosted by the Independence Police Department on July 8 at Riverview Park was respectful as people shared instances of racial prejudice.

The session was in response to the Black Lives Matter protests that have been happening locally and globally after the killing of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

This event was not a protest, but an opportunity for people to speak directly to local law enforcement leaders.

IPD Chief Bob Mason, Monmouth Police Chief Darrell Tallan and Polk County Sheriff Mark Garton listened as people spoke about their experiences on the receiving end of racial prejudice by police officers and other members of society.

Some people spoke in support of local law enforcement officers. And some thanked officers while also saying some things need to change.

Officers from each department also were in attendance; none of them were in uniform.

Some statements by people who did not feel comfortable talking in front of the crowd were read aloud.

Attendees and officers chatted after the event.

“In recent weeks we’ve had the opportunity to listen to community members share their experiences of microaggressions, discrimination, and outright hate in various settings within our own community and surrounding areas,” a post on IPD’s Facebook page states. “While there has been a common thread of hope expressed, it’s clear we still have work to do as a community. What might have been good enough yesterday is no longer good enough today.

Another listening session is being planned for July 22, though details of when and where have not yet been released.

Monmouth Mayor Cec Koontz said in an email last week, that Kathy Cassity, Western Oregon University’s Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will be the facilitator.

Koontz did not say who was involved in a group that will meet together before the roundtable, but said “the group will have a meal together, get to know each other, and hear about some of the barriers faced by our community members in achieving equity, justice and opportunity.”

She said by the end of their meeting on July 22, they “hope to have a statement of the current condition in our community and have them develop an action plan for wider engagement and a path to change.”

“I will ask permission to share names after this meeting. But we have representatives of the local Black Lives Matter group, students of color, farmworkers, advocates for youth LGBTQ+, and support professionals for those experiencing homelessness and disabilities,” Koontz said. “We have some who are fairly new to the community, but many long-time residents and representatives of our heritage families of color.

“We have others who want to work on educating us about our history and how to use it to move forward,” she added.

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