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Worthington group releases police reform recommendations

WORTHINGTON — Four months after a dashcam video surfaced of Worthington Police Department Agent Joe Joswiak punching and kneeing an unarmed Laotian resident, a group of concerned citizens have publicly released their police reform recommendations.

The Immigrant Task Force’s list of recommendations includes more cultural and de-escalation training, a review of dashboard and body camera media procedures and an attempt to increase diversity on the police force. The task force is urging the city and its police department to “take action to heal community fears of and anxiety towards law enforcement agencies.”

“We have brought this list of requests to the police chief and the mayor and discussed it with them at length,” said task force member Lisa Kremer. “We wanted the community to see what we’ve been showing them and give us their input.”

Among their list of suggestions is holding Joswiak and his supervisors accountable for the excessive force incident. An independent investigation into the episode is currently ongoing. There is no concrete timeline, and no information will be made public until it is completed.

“Our committee was in agreement, based on the video and reports that we saw, that some sort of action needs to be taken with that particular person, because it was just beyond the pale,” said Kremer, who acknowledged the task force doesn’t have any say in what happens.

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Many of the recommendations were formed after the task force hosted a general community forum on July 9 at St. Mary’s Church, in which Worthington residents voiced their concerns with WPD and the Nobles County Jail. Some residents said they were fearful that their kids would experience police violence, and a few individuals reported encountering racial discrimination.

The recommendations call for a community policing agreement between the Worthington Police Department and the city's communities of color. The St. Cloud Police Department signed such an agreement in 2005 that clearly lays out the department's policy and procedures.

Also on the list is a Human Rights Commission, where residents could voice their complaints or concerns about how people are being treated in the community. Nobles County had a Human Rights Commission — meant to guarantee residents equal opportunities in housing, employment, education and public services — through the early 2000s, but it was disbanded about a decade ago.

The task force also calls on the community to establish diversity on the Police Civil Service Commission, a civilian board that handles hiring, promotion and discipline of police officers.

Mayor Mike Kuhle worked with the task force to have Cecilia Bofah nominated, but the Worthington City Council did not approve her appointment on Monday. City staff are currently looking into dissolving the commission and replacing it with a police advisory board.

The task force’s full list of recommendations can be found in petition form at http://bit.ly/2yJpMRR .

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