Wednesday's public forum on police use-of-force policies in the City of New Bedford will be a "listening session" that gives each speaker a three-minute slot on Zoom to express their views.

That's according to City Councillor Brian Gomes, appointed by Mayor Jon Mitchell as chairman of the recently-formed Commission on Police Use of Force Policies. The meeting is set for Aug. 26 between 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

“A ‘listening session’ indicates that our role is to be there to hear concerns,” said Gomes in a media release. "If members of the public have questions want to email their recommendations, please send them to NBPDInfoHub@newbedfordpd.com."

The forum comes escalating tensions between Black Lives Matter activists and city officials. Activists continue to point to the 2012 death of Malcolm Gracia, a 15-year-old boy of Cape Verdean descent who was killed by New Bedford police after allegedly stabbing an officer. The circumstances of the killing remain a flashpoint. Gomes has said the ad-hoc commission will not re-litigate the Gracia case, but will instead look at ways to reform police policy on use-of-force.

Those who wish to read the New Bedford Police Department's current use-of-force policy documents beforehand may download three PDFs here, courtesy of WBSM:

Use of Deadly Force

Use of Less Letha Force

General Order

The meeting will take place via Zoom but will not be streamed on Youtube or Facebook Live, said New New Bedford Police Department spokesman Melissa Batchilder. Batchilder did say the meeting would be recorded for future viewing by New Bedford Public Access TV.

Mayor Jon Mitchell created the commission in June while announcing his commitment to "The Mayor’s Pledge," an Obama Foundation initiative aimed at addressing use of force policies in police departments across the country. The pledge calls on mayors across the United States to commit to the following four actions:

1. REVIEW your use of force policies.
2. ENGAGE your communities by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in your review.
3. REPORT the findings of your review to your community and seek feedback.
4. REFORM your community's police use of force policies.

The Commission meets weekly on Wednesdays, but its meetings are not open to the public, said Gomes.

Here's how to join the Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 929 5403 3788
Passcode: 872199
Dial-in: (646) 558-8656

Those with any questions or want to submit recommendations are being told to email NBPDInfoHub@newbedfordpd.com.

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