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Updates on Lawrence police, ‘8 Can’t Wait,’ and decriminalization coming up at Lawrence City Commission meeting

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Lawrence police on Tuesday will share updates with the Lawrence City Commission about progress made on a consultants’ recommendations.

In May, consultant group Citygate Associates submitted its report based on its review of the Lawrence Police Department. 

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Interim Police Chief Adam Heffley provided a memo sharing which of the 75 recommendations have already been implemented, such as software to track complaints, and which are currently in progress, such as “Be cognizant of the potential of false positives created by increased complaints being captured” through that new software. 

Heffley also shared some other updates, including that one of the department’s patrol service dogs has experienced a medical issue that will require him to retire from service. His replacement will not be trained to sniff for pot — “It is likely that the state will legalize marijuana in the next few years and it is more complex to train a PSD ‘off’ a scent (than) to elect not to train in that manner.” 

The department is also drafting a policy for drones, Heffley wrote. Check out the full memo and presentation slides ahead of the meeting at this link


The two other big items on the commission’s regular agenda also touch on crime and how the city wants to define it and respond to it: 

• An update on local versions of ‘8 Can’t Wait’ policies that aim to prevent police killings. 

The policy initiative gained a great deal of attention nationwide following the death of George Floyd. Though LPD has policies in place that are similar to the 8, there are some key differences and caveats noted in Citygate’s review

A screenshot of 8cantwait.org shows the policies that Campaign Zero has pushed nationwide.

For instance, rather than an outright ban on chokeholds and strangleholds, LPD policy allows them in instances where “deadly force is authorized.” Some policy modifications between October 2020 and January 2021 left that caveat in place. 

On that policy and on the 8 Can’t Wait recommendations to ban shooting at moving vehicles, to require that police give verbal warnings before shooting, and to require that officers exhaust all alternatives prior to using deadly force, Citygate “sees no feasible way that such a blanket requirement can work in 100 percent of the cases.” 

• Possible means to decriminalize poverty from the city attorney’s office.

“The City Commission has expressed an interest in exploring the decriminalization of certain provisions in the City Code that may have an impact on persons in poverty,” according to the memo in the commission’s agenda packet. 

The agenda includes a list that “was devised based upon staff’s understanding of the Commission’s directions, and takes into consideration the recommendations provided by the Douglas County Anti-Poverty Workgroup,” according to the memo. 

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Criminalized behaviors on the list are dumpster diving, a vehicle noise ordinance, “parking on unimproved surfaces,” aggressive panhandling, being in parks outside their hours of operation, public consumption of alcohol, illegal camping, indecent exposure and jaywalking. 

The agenda also includes some feedback from the Douglas County Anti-Poverty workgroup, who suggested a long list of other ordinances to look at, including a number of parking and vehicle maintenance-related violations and skateboarding bans. 


The Lawrence City Commission will meet starting with a closed-door session to discuss pending and potential litigation at 5 p.m. The public meeting will start at 5:45 p.m. 

Written public comments can be emailed to ccagendas@lawrenceks.org, or dropped in the utility drop box at Sixth and New Hampshire streets, until noon the day of the meeting. 

Commissioners will attend virtually. Those who wish to give public comment during the meeting may do so via Zoom or in person at City Hall. Register to give public comment via Zoom at this link

The meeting will be livestreamed on the city’s website and YouTube page. Find the full meeting agenda at this link.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

More coverage: Lawrence Police Department

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