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Video: BPD Chief Cites Accountability Steps — And Openness To Change

Dan Donath and Connie his wife pinning his new badge
Eric Stock
Dan Donath with his wife, Connie, last year when he became Bloomington's chief of police.

Bloomington Police Chief Dan Donath says he hopes the pain and anger over George Floyd's killing are soon followed by open mindedness about making "real, distinct and well thought out changes to how we as a society operate" — including his own department.

Donath made his comments in a video shared on BPD's Facebook page. He said it was the full speech he intended to deliver at Sunday's NAACP demonstration in downtown Bloomington. He cut his comments short as the crowd chanted, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!" Two other police chiefs scheduled to speak decided against it.

In the video, Donath spoke about his wife of 27 years, Connie, and their sons, who are African American. Donath said he has a large extended family that is black.

"But I won't suggest I know what it's like to walk in the shoes of African American people," he said. "However, I do believe my life experiences tell me our community is grieving over the killing of George Floyd."

Donath called Floyd's killing while in police custody a "terrible sin." Four police officers are now charged in his death.

"What we all saw in Minneapolis was horrific," he said. "The officers involved should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

Donath, who became police chief last August, said his department already is doing many things that have increased accountability:

  • All officers work with body-worn cameras
  • Body-worn camera footage is reviewed after the use of force, plus random checks every month for every officer
  • Creation of the Public Safety and Community Relations Board to review how citizen complaints are resolved

In 2018, BPD signed off on the NAACP's 10 principles guiding relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Donath said BPD recently provided those 10 principles to individual officers to sign off on — a "great idea" that he said was proposed by the Bloomington-Normal branch of the NAACP.

Officers have undergone training on cultural diversity, implicit bias, and de-escalation, said Donath, adding he hoped to do more implicit bias training earlier this year, but those plans were slowed down by COVID-19.

Donath acknowledged law enforcement has historically been slow to change. But he said he wants BPD to constantly be re-evaluating what it's doing and why.

"We as a police department are not perfect. No one is. But we will own it when we make a mistake," he said.

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