The Baker City Council on Tuesday night adopted a policy prohibiting city police officers from using excessive force against people engaged in nonviolent civil rights demonstrations, paving the way for a $1.5 million federal grant.
New Directions Northwest plans to use the money to build a Wellness Center for its clients in addiction and mental health treatment.
Councilors Lynette Perry and Doni Bruland have objected to the 64-word policy, which the federal government has required since 1990 for cities and counties to qualify for federal block grants. Both councilors believe the policy is vaguely worded, and they contend that the city, which has an 8-page use of force policy for the police department, shouldn’t be required to pass the federal policy to qualify for grants.
The City Council first considered the policy during its Oct. 13 meeting.
Police Chief Ray Duman told councilors that he does not object to the policy, and that it would not affect how police officers do their jobs.
During the Oct. 13 meeting Perry and Bruland, along with Councilors Arvid Andersen and Larry Morrison voted for a motion to postpone a decision on the policy. The motion passed 4-3, with Mayor Loran Joseph and Councilors Randy Schiewe and Jason Spriet voting no.
Andersen was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
Joseph, along with Morrison, Schiewe and Spriet, voted in favor of a motion to approve the policy Tuesday.
Perry and Bruland voted against that motion.
Perry, who said she has been a supporter of New Directions for more than 30 years, emphasized that she objects to what she considers the policy’s wording, not to New Directions receiving the federal grant.
“I hope that all these people that have been so upset over that realize this was not an objection to New Directions having a wonderful new facility or trying to undermine them getting a grant. It was not,” Perry said.
Bruland reiterated her concern about the lack of specificity in the policy.
“It is the policy of the City of Baker City that:
1. Its law enforcement personnel shall not use excessive force against any individuals engaged in nonviolent civil rights demonstrations; and
2. Applicable state and local laws that prohibit physically barring entrance to or exit from a facility or location which is the subject of such nonviolent civil rights demonstrations within its jurisdiction shall be enforced.”