Thank you for the honor and privilege of serving as the Town of Jackson’s Acting Police Chief.
As my first action in this job, I would like to offer my heartfelt apology to the public for the recent blotter comments.
These comments were careless and insensitive, and I fully understand that their impact was both far reaching and hurtful to vulnerable members of our community. A core value of the Jackson Police Department (JPD) is that victims deserve the utmost respect and dignity throughout the entirety of the investigative process. In this instance, we failed to live up to this core value. As a result, everyone at the JPD recognizes we have a great deal of trust to regain from the community
The JPD understands the myriad hurdles and challenges that victims of sexual assault and domestic violence must overcome before they even report the horrific crimes they have experienced. As the newly appointed Acting Chief, I will actively work to make the internal necessary changes to prevent circumstances like this from ever happening again.
Protecting victims, promoting equality for all, and deploying intelligent, compassionate, and empathetic police officers are the foundation of my vision for the JPD. The events and circumstances of the last two months are not how I envisioned the JPD’s leadership transition occurring. What occurred is our reality, though, and for the JPD to achieve my vision I will need the support and help of our community’s key stakeholders. To each of you, I ask for this support, for I believe that we as a police department, city and community can accomplish all this and more for all the residents, visitors, and employees who call Jackson home.
Over the last many months and years, the trust people place in every level of law enforcement has been diminished. This reality is my motivation for initiating a cultural shift within the JPD, one I hope will help the greater Jackson Hole community regain trust in the JPD.
At the core of this effort is my deep respect for, and belief in, the JPD’s officers. I know they will adapt to this changing environment, and together we will become a team that is even more community oriented, impartial, and transparent.
The time is now to build bridges and restore relationships with every member of our community. Despite the recent negative attention, I see this transition as an opportunity for creating meaningful, lasting change within the JPD.
I believe the JPD does many things well. Like all organizations, though, there are many things we can do better. The current transition provides us an opportunity to thoroughly reassess our policies and procedures, programs and operations, to look for areas where we can be more efficient, effective, and community-oriented.
In pursuit of these goals, the following policies and procedures are effective immediately:
- The Facebook Police Blotter has been suspended
- All case summaries will be available through the press log released by the Teton County Sheriff’s Office (TCSO)
- The JPD will partner with local media to have appropriate access to call log information
- A renewed partnership with the Community Safety Network is currently being developed to involve their highly trained staff in intimate partner violence, stalking, and reports of sexual assault responses
- A detective will be assigned to every intimate partner violence call
- A detective will be assigned to every mental health call
In addition to these steps, the JPD and TCSO have partnered to arrange for two significant trainings for our officers and deputies in upcoming weeks.
The first is an Implicit Bias training, taught by Bret Hood. Mr. Hood specializes in the psychology of leadership and the effects of implicit bias on people, communities, leadership, ethics, and investigations. In our diverse community it is imperative that officers are aware of implicit bias in order to be able to make the intentional steps to investigate crimes as an unbiased investigator.
The second is a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), to be offered this fall. The CIT program is a community partnership of law enforcement, mental health and addiction professionals, individuals who live with mental illness and/or addiction disorders, their families and other advocates. It is an innovative first-responder model of police-based crisis intervention training to help persons with mental disorders and/or addictions mitigate their individual crisis and redirect them into access of medical treatment rather than the historic model of placement in the criminal justice system. Currently 75% of the JPD is CIT trained, and both the JPD and TCSO have set the goal of having 100% of our officers undergo this crucial training,
The JPD has also taken two other steps to help make meaningful changes in our culture:
- To help insure both our officers’ awareness and well-being, we will be providing one-on-one mental health counselling. This mental health wellness check is part of a holistic approach to ensuring we have a team ready to help the public when they need our assistance.
- We have begun exploring the possible implementation of Spanish language immersion programs for 10 percent of our staff to allow us to better reach out to Spanish speaking members of our community.
Meaningful change comes neither quickly nor easily, but please know the JPD is actively and conscientiously pursuing all these steps. Going forward, we will pursue not just these, but many more. I pledge to keep you informed about our progress.
Critically, none of this can be achieved without the support and help of our community’s stakeholders. To all of you, thank you in advance for helping the JPD become an organization all of those who live in, work in, and visit Jackson can count on and take great pride in.
Michelle A. Weber
Acting Chief of Police