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Topeka city leaders address expectations for special city council meeting

Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 9:31 AM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Ahead of Tuesday night’s special city council meeting, Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla expressed her hope that supporters of law enforcement and of black lives can listen to each other’s experiences to help improve the city.

WATCH THE CITY COUNCIL MEETING HERE:

“We have an opportunity not only to learn about what we have been working with our police opportunity to implement but we also have the beautiful opportunity for our black leaders in our community that are talking about their fears to hear from the people who’ve had positive relationships with the police department and we have the opportunity for everyone to speak their truth but to do so respectfully,” she said at her joint news conference with City Manager Brent Trout Tuesday morning.

“Rather than yelling at each other I would invite people to maybe ask, ‘hey tell me about a positive experience that you’ve had with the police that makes you stand here resolute that you support our officers and for that group of individuals that’s there to support our officers to say, ‘tell me about where you’re coming from and what have been your experiences because I’ve never seen those experiences.’”

De La Isla said supporting black lives and law enforcement can happen at the same time and emphasized there are no plans to defund the police.

“It seems no matter how often City Manager [Trout] and I indicate we are not defunding the police, that since my election we have added as a team our departments have added $5 million to our police department,” she said.

“Yes this year we had some cuts that were not police officers they were some administrative positions because of the crisis we have because of COVID it seems to not suffice the thoughts and the rhetoric in our community that the City of Topeka, the council and the mayor are defunding your police department.”

City Manager Brent Trout said it was important to leave room for the staffing officers in the city budget.

“It was a challenging budget year, it was very difficult for department directors the directions from the city council and the mayor were to not raise the mill levy rate, to fully fund our police and fire staffing and to work towards that.”

Trout described the funding for planned police academies as “a positive step towards making sure our officers have the staffing level that they need so they have the backing they need when they are in situations”.

Topeka Police Chief Bill Cochran said interest in the planned police academies have increased in recent months.

“I always tell [people] if you want change be part of the change and this is a part of it so in that aspect recruiting has not really fallen off that much for us in those aspects and that’s because of what we do and how we do it.”

Cochran said he is excited to see what comes out of the special council meeting.

“I’m excited for tonight because it’s really going to be a great opportunity for us to hear a lot of comments from a wide perspective of individuals in our community and one of the things I’ve always talked about if there’s things that we can do to make ourselves better, then we need to hear those things,” he said.

“The hopes are that we can get some ideas and if there’s something positive from this person and something positive from this person, we can look at doing and implementing to make the police department better which increases the quality of life for everybody in the city of Topeka then we’ve accomplished that and that’s what I hope.”

Cochran added the meeting is an opportunity for Topeka to shine.

“Topeka’s made of a different fiber and we have different people that live here we have people that want a good quality of life and make the City of Topeka a place where people can come live, enjoy and raise their kids and so this is an opportunity to showcase to the world what Topeka’s all about and even though we have differences we can all come together, talk and come up with solutions.”

Mayor De La Isla recounted an incident from 2007 when she called 911 for a domestic incident she was involved in that she said saved her life and the lives of her children.

“To anybody that has the courage to say that I am not supportive of my police department because I say that Black Lives Matter because they are not exclusive terms, I will tell you to check yourself because nobody has been in my shoes and nobody has had the wonderful interactions that I have had with my police department,” she told reporters.

The mayor said she anticipated that a recent police shooting in Wisconsin may heighten emotions at the meeting, but hopes people can channel those feelings to help make change.

“Of course there’s going to be emotions, emotions on both sides and I think the call to everyone tonight is that you have every right to your emotions you have every right but make sure as you are working through your emotions that you allow your better angels to come out and that you engage in conversations that are going to be meaningful that are going to help us to move forward as a community,” she said.

“Let’s figure out a way that we can all validate what we’re feeling and at the same time be able to work towards unity so we can continue moving our community forward.”

Previous story posted at 2:36 p.m.

Topeka Mayor receives threats ahead of special meeting

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla has received two threats due to her support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla says she has received two threats in connection to Tuesday nights police reform meeting due to her support of the Black Lives Matter movement. She says she can support Black Lives Matter and also support the Topeka Police Department.

Mayor De La Isla says during her time serving the City, $5 million has been added to the Topeka Police Department budget. She says cuts that happened in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic were strictly made to administrative staff and officers were not affected.

The Mayor says she also honors the voices of Topeka residents asking for reform. She says the need for reform does not mean she is criticizing the work of Topeka officers.

Mayor De La Isla says the Topeka Police Department and Topeka City Manager have copies of the threats she has received.

The Mayor says the threats specifically dealt with the misconception that she has defunded the police. She says one even responded to her automated response message thanking residents for their input by saying that if she responded she would have to call the police.

Topeka City officials still plan on hosting an open discussion at 6 p.m. on Tuesday night while simultaneous rallies will be held outside the Topeka Performing Arts Center hosted by Back the Blue and Black Lives Matter.

Editors Note: Mayor De La Isla told 13 NEWS that she does not believe the threats to be death threats like previously reported. The story has been corrected after her clarification.

Previous story posted at 9:30a.m.

Topeka Mayor and City Manager to hold news conference ahead of special meeting

Mayor Michelle De La Isla and City Manager Brent Trout will hold a news conference at 10:00 a.m. ahead of a special city council meeting to discuss police reform.

Topeka City officials plan an open discussion on issues relating to police policy, and their relationship with the community Tuesday night at 6:00 p.m.

As per the city council’s regular procedure, people who want to address the council must sign up by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, and each speaker is limited to four minutes.

Before the meeting, two groups, Back the Blue and Black Lives Matter, will rally outside of the Topeka Performing Arts Center.

Topeka Mayor, City Manager news conference

Topeka Mayor De La Isla and City Manager Trout are holding a news conference ahead of a special city council meeting to discuss police reform.

Posted by WIBW on Tuesday, August 25, 2020

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