A monthly meeting of Brookhaven’s Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission provided an update on where the commission stands and what types of recommendations residents can look forward to regarding diversity and equity in Brookhaven. 

The city started the SJREC in September of 2020 in response to nationwide protests against police brutality and inequity. The commission is broken up into four sub-committees: Vision and Mission, Hiring and Retention, Procurement and Contracting and Policing.

The commission is expected to make recommendations on these four topics to the Brookhaven City Council by the end of this year. At a July 15 meeting, co-chairs for each subcommittee gave a short update on where their committee and topic of interest stand. 

Vision and Mission

The Vision and Mission subcommittee plans to begin asking the larger community for feedback regarding the city’s vision and mission statements, according to Co-Chair Tiffany Russell.

She said the subcommittee will participate in an Aug. 5 workshop about how vision and mission statements are created, led by one of the subcommittee’s members.

Russell said the biggest challenge for the subcommittee at this moment is the length and density of the city’s charter. 

“The charter is one of those looming issues for us because it is so long and we want to spend some time really being thoughtful about the way that we examine it through an equity lens,” she said. “So our next step – our biggest hurdle – is being able to separate the charter and give some homework assignments so that we each have a chance to fully examine the charter.”

Russell said the subcommittee has already begun to dive into the charter. 

Hiring and Retention

The Hiring and Retention subcommittee has begun to move away from their data collection phase and toward engaging the community, said Co-Chair Tywana Minor. At its last meeting, the subcommittee decided they would create a survey to be sent out to city employees to learn more about equity in relation to the city’s hiring practices.

Minor said the subcommittee is exploring the option of using an outside vendor to administer this survey. She said the subcommittee’s goal is to discuss possible questions for the survey at their next meeting. 

Minor also said City Manager Christian Sigman has agreed to help the city get data from surrounding communities as well. 

“[Sigman] agreed to help us get some best practice data from other municipalities that we could also incorporate into our work,” she said. 

Procurement and Contracting 

The Procurement and Contracting subcommittee has created a survey that will be sent out to different contractors in the community, both those who have received contracts from the city and those who haven’t, said Co-Chair Jim Moses. 

According to Moses, the survey will be emailed out in two waves, and there will be more than 11,000 emails sent. Moses said the subcommittee intends to use this data to generate reports that provide more information about how the city performs in procurement and contracting through the lens of equity.

“Hopefully we will give to the city a legacy document that they can use annually to go out and judge themselves … and what their standing is with their customer base, which would be vendors and contractors,” he said. 

According to the presentation, the subcommittee hopes to have data and reports for review within 10 days. 

Policing

The Policing subcommittee has received and reviewed a plethora of data from the Brookhaven Police Department, according to Co-Chair Monique Hudson. That data includes complaints against police, ethnicity and race data when it comes to arrests and data on what types of training police officers go through in Brookhaven. 

Hudson said the subcommittee hopes to look at best practices from other cities before making their recommendations to see what has been tried before and what hasn’t worked. 

“We’re not recommending things to Brookhaven that have been done before, have failed before,” she said. 

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.