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The Bozeman City Commission requested a review of city policies to ensure they don’t discriminate against minorities. That’s a good thing. But a number of citizens have objected to the review’s conclusions because it did not constitute an impartial, third-party examination of those policies.

They have a point.

The review was requested following demonstrations in which thousands of locals participated following death of George Floyd and others at the hands of police in major cities around the country. City Manager Jeff Mihelich said the review was conducted by city staff, including Police Chief Steve Crawford, and examined 18 policy areas to define what they are exactly, whether they work well and whether they need improvement.

The report that followed did not absolve the city of discriminatory practices. In fact, it found 24 areas that need improvement. It found that people of color constitute just 3% of city employees even though 10 percent of the city’s population are people of color, and only some 25% of city employees are women.

Those who protested the report’s conclusion said having city staff review city policies and practices is unlikely to produce a thoroughly objective result. And they are right.

They further objected that the review was completed without consulting any people of color – a significant failing.

Mihelich countered that efforts to improve policies going forward will likely involve outside consultation. But improving existing policy is unlikely to be effective if it starts with incomplete data.

Through the national discussion following the death of George Floyd it has become apparent that institutional racism and discrimination persists in law enforcement and other government agencies. And Bozeman is no exception. It could be argued that, in fact, that he city’s lack of diversity may have fostered even greater institutional bias than what is found in major urban areas.

To be sure: Examining city policies in search of those biases is a worthwhile endeavor. But if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. And involving outside expertise and those most likely to be victim of those biases is a good starting point.

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Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Will Swearingen, community member
  • Angie Wasia, community member

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