LEWISTON — The City Council will vote next week on a resolution that condemns the use of excessive force by police and commits Lewiston to “achieving equality and equal justice for all in its policing practices, policies and tactics.”

Lewiston City Councilor Safiya Khalid addresses the crowd last week during a Black Lives Matter protest in Lewiston. Khalid introduced a resolution Tuesday calling for policing methods in Lewiston that ensure equal justice for all. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

The resolution, introduced by Councilor Safiya Khalid on Tuesday afternoon, lists a number of actions similar to what has been seen across the country in reaction to the death of George Floyd at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer.

Khalid’s resolution includes language that “affirms and acknowledges that Black Lives Matter,” commits the city to conduct anti-bias training for staff and police personnel, and commits the Police Department to expand efforts to recruit and hire individuals from minority communities, among other goals.

While generally supported Tuesday, it was met with mixed reaction from fellow councilors during a City Council workshop, with some stating they didn’t agree with certain statements included in the two-page document, including mention of Lewiston’s “troubled history of racial, religious and ethnic hatred and division.”

Councilor Lee Clement, a former 45-year police officer, questioned whether all the statements were accurate, and said it may send the “wrong message” to local police.

“What happened in Minneapolis was unjust, but I don’t think it’s fair to paint a broad brush,” he said. “I don’t believe there’s systemic racism in the Lewiston Police Department.”


Others, including Councilors Michel Lajoie and Zack Pettengill, appeared reticent to support the resolution as written.

“With everything going on right now we have the obligation to do the right thing,” Pettengill said. “But, we will only get one shot at this.”

Khalid, the only black member of the council, later countered that all statements included in the resolution were “facts and history” and said that the hesitation from officials to support the resolution is an example of why the country is seeing so many protests right now.

“We cannot move slow when it comes to fighting injustice,” she said. “As we move from protest to true action and policy change, people need to know where the city’s leadership stands.”

Khalid thanked police Chief Brian O’Malley and the department’s officers “for being great examples for Maine and the rest of the nation.” She said she stood alongside officers during recent protests in Lewiston, but added, “we need to recognize our history, whether in Lewiston, in Maine or the nation.”

Councilor Alicia Rea also disagreed with earlier comments from Clement, which argued that the resolution unfairly criticizes Lewiston police.


“This recommits us to our policies, and pressure checks the rest of them,” Rea said.

In the resolution, Khalid points out that the Lewiston Police Department has had a longstanding policy that does not authorize officers to use chokeholds.

George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man from Minneapolis, died after Derek Chauvin, a white, former police officer, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as two other police officers helped to pin him face down on the pavement. A fourth officer failed to intervene. All four officers involved in the arrest now face charges, including a second-degree murder charge against Chauvin.

In Lewiston, Chief O’Malley issued a statement following Floyd’s murder, calling the video “disturbing and upsetting.”

Councilor Stephanie Gelinas said when she read Khalid’s resolution, “I never once felt it was against our Police Department. It reads more about accountability.”

Councilor Luke Jensen said he’s supportive of the resolution that makes it “clear that we as a council are supportive of the movement that is necessary that’s happening across the country and world right now.”


Khalid’s resolution also aims to form a “community review board” that would review the Lewiston Police Department’s use of force polices, but it was not immediately clear whether that language would remain in the final resolution.

The council Tuesday also voted unanimously to support the creation of a new ad hoc committee to address “equity and diversity.”

Mayor Mark Cayer said he didn’t support a “civilian review board” to look at use of force policies, but said he would work closely with Khalid on forming the committee.

Clement suggested the council table Khalid’s resolution until after the committee was formed.

Khalid said it was clear that some officials were “undercutting my resolution.”

Councilor Pettengill posted a draft of the resolution on his Facebook page Tuesday, but it was not included in the workshop agenda packet.

Following the discussion, written comments received by administrators on the Zoom meeting were read aloud. They included: “This isn’t Minnesota,” and “All lives matter.”

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