New coalition addresses criminal justice concerns in Sioux Falls

Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 5:30 PM CDT
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Over the past few weeks, leaders representing the diverse ethnic communities in Sioux Falls have come together to create a coalition.

Today they’re talking about growing concerns regarding criminal justice issues in the community.

In a press conference Wednesday, members of the SD Coalition for Justice and Equity say they were brought together over recent incidents involving the Sioux Falls Police Department.

Sara Telahun, a Coalition Spokesperson, said, “We see the hometown we’re living in, not really accepting our voices, telling us that we’re important for the growth of the economy.”

They spoke on several issues.

Including deploying the military to Sioux Falls based on false social media posts, claiming bus-loads of violent protesters were coming to Sioux Falls from Fargo.

Dr. Laura Renée Chandler, another Coalition Spokesperson, said, “These rumors were intensified by city leaders, including a city councilman and the chamber of commerce who shared this propaganda on their social media platforms.”

As marches and protests continue in the city and state, the group is calling for accountability of city leaders and reassurance that citizens will be safe.

Dr. Chandler said, “This incident demonstrates that our elected officials must make public their protocol for verifying credible threats to our city.”

The coalition is also calling on police bodycam footage to be released on an incident that occurred just over a week ago.

“South Dakota is one of a handful of states that does not make police footage readily available,” Dr. Chandler added.

Sioux Falls officers used force to arrest a juvenile. Cell phone footage shows one officer threatening to shoot.

Sioux Falls police have said they are reviewing the incident and the officers’ actions.

Dr. Chandler said, “Access to police footage should not be left to the description of the Chief of Police, as it is an important tool for ensuring police accountability."

The group has already planned a virtual youth town hall for the end of the month, which city leaders are invited to.

Telahun said, “We hope this continues and that city officials finally say that while we are important, we also deserve a seat at the table.”

The Mayor’s office did not comment on this, but group leaders did say they will be reaching out to city officials in the near future.