Marion racial equity group brings its ideas to city council

Police Citizens Review Board, end of racial profiling among the issues

People walk along Highway 151 in Marion during a July 6 march organized by the Marion Alliance for Racial Equity. Member
People walk along Highway 151 in Marion during a July 6 march organized by the Marion Alliance for Racial Equity. Members of the group submitted six recommendations to the Marion City Council on Thursday night. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

MARION — The Marion Alliance for Racial Equity on Thursday asked the city council to stop racial profiling in traffic stops, establish a Citizens Police Review Board and have city departments become more inclusive, respectful and diverse.

The three recommendations were among six submitted to the council, which the council unanimously voted to accept.

Racial profiling is the No. 1 concern in Marion, Sophia Joseph, co-founder of the Marion Alliance, told the council.

Though 2.5 percent of Marion’s population is Black, Black people account for 16 percent of police use-of-force incidents, she said.

“We want the police review board to be proactive,” Joseph said. “We want to look at this data and what goes into it, how the problems can be solved.”

The Marion Alliance recommended organizing a working group to meet between city council meetings to address racial equity issues, with members from the Marion Alliance, the mayor, the city manager, the police chief and a city council member.

Ana Clymer, a member of the Marion Alliance, said city departments also need to be more welcoming, inclusive, respectful and diverse.


“We say we want people of color to thrive in our community,” Clymer said. “But let’s put that into action.”

Clymer said she wants the city to implement eight hours of implicit-bias training for its employees.

“Training should be eight hours spread out over time so it’s not just one and done,” Clymer said. “It needs to be repetitive and ingrained in the practice, in our meetings, in our shared language.”

Janessa Carr, co-founder of the Marion Alliance, touched on the issue of having a mental health liaison go on Marion police crisis calls.

“We know this doesn’t just benefit Black and brown individuals in Marion, but this benefits everyone,” Carr said.

Joseph added that the Marion Alliance wants to work collaboratively with the city.

“We don’t view this as an ‘us vs. them.’ ” Joseph said. “We would like to come together with the city.”

She said the Marion Alliance would like Marion police Chief Mike Kitsmiller involved in any police review board discussions.

“The police should be at the table so we can understand each other’s humanity,” Joseph said.


Previously, Kitsmiller told the council he didn’t see a need for a citizens review board but would consider it if there was significant demand from residents.

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Mayor Nick AbouAssaly said he was encouraged by the Marion Alliance’s presentation and spirit of collaboration.

“In our first meeting, several weeks ago, I said I don’t believe there are two sides. We should be on the same side of this affecting positive change,” AbouAssaly said. “I look forward to the process. … We can’t come up with solutions until we really hear what people are experiencing.”

“I think a working group is warranted,” council member Rene Gadelha said. “We need to have goals set for what we’re working toward.”

Other recommendations from the Marion Alliance that weren’t discussed Thursday evening were decriminalizing marijuana, making voting easier and more accessible, and the resignation of Linn County Attorney Jerry Vander Sanden.


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