Vancouver city leaders will not record or publicly broadcast their upcoming listening sessions on race and police brutality, a reversal of the sessions’ original format.
The call-in sessions were designed as a way for people to convey their race-related experiences to a panel of Vancouver leaders, including the mayor, chief of police and some city councilors.
Initially, the conversations were to be broadcast on the city’s social media channels and on Clark/Vancouver Television. Vancouver announced via press release on Tuesday that it was changing course, and that the listening sessions would be neither recorded nor broadcast.
The decision was made “with the intention of creating a safe space for our residents who wish to speak about race, racism and racial justice issues,” the press release stated.
At the city council meeting Monday, Councilor Ty Stober said he’d heard from members of the community who were worried that broadcasting the conversations could have a dampening effect on the people who would otherwise call in and share their experiences.
The public nature of the sessions could make participants “feel more exposed, which may discourage people from feeling safe to share very personal things,” Stober said.
“I very much applaud everything that we’re doing here to try and reach out,” Stober added. “Sometimes, when we do things quickly, we forget to make sure and include the necessary people in developing the plans.”
Other cities have held similar open forums in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis, as protests for racial justice and calls to defund police departments have continued across the country.
In Los Angeles, public officials held and broadcast an open Zoom call with citizens on June 3 — the call amounted to eight hours worth of scorching criticism of the police commission. The citizen speakers were capped at 500, though a few of the more succinct verbal indictments of the police department went viral online.
The Vancouver listening sessions will be capped at 30 speakers apiece.
“The speakers will speak one at a time, but they will be able to hear each other,” Carol Bua, city communications director, clarified in an email.
Wednesday’s session will take place from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., and Thursday’s session will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Both calls will include Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, City Manager Eric Holmes, Police Chief James McElvain and Assistant Chief Jeff Mori. The panel Wednesday will additionally include City Councilors Erik Paulsen and Ty Stober, and the Thursday panel will also include Vancouver City Councilmembers Bart Hansen and Laurie Lebowsky.
Vancouver residents interested in speaking at one of these sessions can register online at www.beheardvancouver.org/racialjustice.