A police officer kneels in solidarity with a demonstrator in front of the Lewiston Police Station at the end of a June 1 rally protesting the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal Buy this Photo

LEWISTON — The city will pursue options to outfit all police officers with body cameras following talks between city officials and the police patrol union.

Mayor Mark Cayer met with the police union Monday regarding the City Council’s recent resolution that condemned racial profiling and excessive force nationwide and in Lewiston, which prompted some pushback from the union that included a request for body cameras.

Lewiston police patrol union President Tom Murphy said Tuesday that the resolution didn’t recognize the “good work” the department has done, and that it painted the Lewiston Police Department in similar light to departments that have been at the center of controversy since the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The resolution, approved earlier this month, commits the city to conduct anti-bias and de-escalation training for police personnel, expand efforts to recruit and hire individuals from minority communities, and through an ad hoc committee, review the process by which citizen complaints against police officers are investigated.

Murphy, a police detective, said the union does “not have a problem saying we’re against these things,” adding that “racial profiling and police brutality, it’s already illegal and against our policies.”

“They made it sound like this is an issue here, which it’s not,” he said. “But we think it’s time for body cameras and de-escalation training.”

In response, the union requested that the council fund body cameras; institute mandatory paid monthly use-of-force training for all patrol officers and detectives; and require all city councilors to attend a Citizen Police Academy course, “Shoot/Don’t Shoot” training and at least five patrol ride-alongs within one year of taking office.

“The biggest thing I took from the meeting is that our officers want to be part of the solution here,” Cayer said.

Cayer, a former police lieutenant, said he supports body cameras for police and that the city will have to identify and ultimately approve funding for it to happen.

“It reminds officers that the public is always watching,” he said. “And it may protect the police officer from accusations that are not supported with evidence.”

Murphy said a union member will be taking part in a Police Department meeting regarding body cameras on Wednesday. He said “the ball is rolling,” but that’s he’s concerned the price tag may “scare the city off.”

Murphy said Tuesday that the resolution, drafted by Councilor Safiya Khalid, was “unfair” toward Lewiston police and included statements that don’t reflect the work that’s been done to recruit and increase minority hiring within the department.

Prior to the council’s vote on the resolution, a number of people identifying themselves as Black residents said they’ve witnessed racial profiling by police in Lewiston. Khalid said she saw it happen to her own brother.

“As a parent of Black children, this is a problem in Lewiston,” Tonya Bailey-Curry said prior to the vote. “I’m concerned that if we don’t take preventative measures, we’ll have to take reactive measures.”

Several others questioned why the resolution was controversial in the first place, and implored officials to listen to the only Black councilor.

Asked Tuesday about the comments during the meeting, Murphy said, “I think if you look at those situations, you’d find them to be false.”

Murphy and Cayer both said there needs to be a “clear understanding” of the difference between pursuing a witness description and racial profiling, which is stopping someone solely based on skin color.

“If that is going on here and it’s discovered, then those officers would be dealt with,” Murphy said. “I know the chief wouldn’t stand by and let something like that happen, and I wouldn’t stand by and let it happen.”

Cayer said he doesn’t believe profiling to be “a pervasive issue in Lewiston,” but that he “remains open-minded.”

“As mayor, I take any suggestion of racial profiling seriously,” he said. “Through the ad hoc committee and potentially the standing committee, we’re going to have to look at all these things. Data will drive us on many issues, to let us know who were stopping and why, and who were arresting and why.”

Cayer added, “I’ve said before that the Lewiston Police Department is second to none, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking at things to make ourselves better. And I think our officers are OK with that, they just want to be treated fairly.”

The union represents 65 patrol officers, detectives and corporals of the Lewiston Police Department.

Murphy and the union are also calling on city officials to learn more about their Police Department. He said during the Monday meeting, the union offered an amendment to the resolution that lists a number of those steps.

The final version of the resolution included language referring to the Police Department’s longstanding policy that prohibits officers from using chokeholds or strangleholds, and that the department is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies “as a result of its adoption of a full range of the best practices, policies, and procedures, and that the department has worked hard to develop a strong and positive relationship with all members of our community.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.