SIOUX FALLS (AP) – Advocates for police reform gathered on the front steps of Sioux Falls' city hall on Wednesday to announce they had created a new coalition to advocate for changes to the Sioux Falls Police Department.
The group, called the South Dakota Coalition for Justice and Equity, said it would be advocating for greater transparency around incidents of police force, including an independent, community-led process for reviewing complaints against the police. While Mayor Paul TenHaken has largely defended the police department's record, calling it one of the best in the country, the group argues that several incidents in the last few weeks show the need for changes at the police department.
Laura Renée Chandler, a spokeswoman for the group, pointed to one incident in which police, searching for people who burglarized during a riot on May 31, executed a search warrant at the home of a Black teenager who they later found was not connected to the crime.
“When police officers make mistakes, our community must fully understand and revisit the responsibility and power that we invest in our law enforcement,” said Chandler.
The Sioux Falls police department have defended their handling of the investigation into vandalism and burglaries that happened in connection with protests. The Argus Leader reported that a police spokesman said the investigation is not getting any more attention than other crimes it investigates.
But Chandler called the response to the riots excessive and “militarized.” Gov. Kristi Noem deployed the National Guard to back up the police as protests turned violent.
Chandler also pointed to another incident in which a police officer threatened to shoot someone in a car who had fled from officers. The police department is reviewing the incident, but has not released video footage.
The group plans to invite city leaders to a virtual forum later this month to discuss ways to change criminal justice in the city.