By Haley Sawyer
In an effort to promote a more conscientious workplace culture for city, the City Council unanimously voted to approve a contract with the Karla Rhay Group, LLC for diversity, equity and inclusion training for city employees.
Although myriad employees will be included in the training, it will prioritize the South Pasadena Police Department.
“The focus and desire is to spend as much time as necessary to explore in great depth many of the contemporary issues that confront police officers as we ask them to reconsider how they provide services,” City Manager Sean Joyce said at last week’s meeting, “and as we ask and seek for us all greater enlightenment as we attempt to understand the perspectives, values and interests of the diverse community that we all serve.”
The diversity, equity and inclusion training will be expanded to other city employees, such as those involved with parks and recreation and the South Pasadena Fire Department.
The training comes after a summer of racial tensions stemming from the killings of multiple unarmed Black people by police officers, with the fatal arrest of George Floyd in Minneapolis pushing the tension to a nationwide boiling point.
Dialogue will be an emphasis, with participants encouraged to engage in the exchange of perspectives during focus group sessions to promote understanding and awareness for real-world situations in which they might find themselves.
“I think there’s a tremendous opportunity to create a better culture, an improved culture, and I don’t necessarily think that this needs to be something that employees approach with apprehension,” Councilman Jon Primuth said. “I’m glad to see Sean’s strong leadership on this. I think it’s very important that our employees see department heads and their supervisors enthusiastically engage with this training.”
The training will cost $38,000 and will include six to eight 90-minute training sessions with five focus groups. If necessary, additional sessions could be added, at a cost of $500 each. The decision to include additional sessions is at the discretion of the city manager, police chief and the city’s human resources manager.
The council is also considering a resolution condemning the city’s history as a “sundown town” and past practices of institutionalized racism. The resolution was included on the consent calendar at the council’s Feb. 17 meeting but was pulled from consideration to be discussed at a later date.
“The proposed ordinance, although it is a step forward, it lacks a lot of factual [information] in it,” Councilwoman Evelyn Zneimer said. “So, I would like to engage several organizations like ARC or BLM or Care First and several high schoolers, the youth, to have an input on that ordinance, because it would be meaningful in that way.”
Zneimer has previously spent time with ARC, the local Anti-Racism Committee, as she mentioned in her council member communications at the Feb. 3 city council meeting. ARC originally requested the resolution from the city to acknowledge its past as a sundown town and provided a resolution from the city of Glendale as a model.
Sundown towns, as defined by blackpast.org, were all-white communities that essentially forced Black people and, at times, other minorities to leave by sundown, after work hours.
The council will next meet on March 3 at 7:30 p.m.