The City Council received initial input from the community at the council meetings of June 9 and June 23, 2020 when a total of about 50 residents came, and many spoke about the issues of racial equity and community/law enforcement relations. Many were African-American residents, who all expressed affinity for Lakewood as a community but also recounted personal stories of experiencing racial discrimination.
One longtime resident was a retired L.A. County Deputy Sheriff who served at the Lakewood Sheriff’s Station for many years. He described times when he was stopped by Sheriff’s personnel while walking in Lakewood in civilian clothes, apparently because someone called in about a “suspicious black man walking in the neighborhood.” Another resident described her pain at having to tell her son never to walk to shopping areas with a group of other African-American boys because of her experience that they would be looked upon suspiciously and stopped by law enforcement.
“The feeling I got from these residents was not that Lakewood is a bad place,” said then-Mayor Todd Rogers in June 2020, “but rather a community, like many others around the nation that can do better in making sure that all of its residents are treated with equal respect under the law and equally embraced as fellow neighbors by all. We’ve started the process of our community dialogue and action plan in Lakewood and we look forward to continuing to report back to residents on our progress and on how they can get involved.”
Zoom Town Hall meetings
Two Zoom Town Hall meetings were held in September 2020 with over 100 Lakewood residents participating.
Residents unable to participate in the Zoom Town Halls had the opportunity to submit written comments, anonymously if they wished.
Several religious congregations held discussions on racial equity topics on Sept. 26-27, 2020, creating a "Weekend of Dialogue" in Lakewood. Those comments and recommendations were forwarded to the Lakewood City Council for review.
Community Action Plan created
The Lakewood City Council integrated the comments and recommendations received from the Community Dialogue process into a multi-point Community Dialogue Action Plan (approved by the council on Jan. 26, 2021) that includes:
- Create a Council Committee on Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
- Create a regular public Roundtable on Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.
- Create a Lakewood Multicultural Festival and Food Festival.
- Provide training on racial sensitivity and inclusion to City officials and staff.
- Enhance the City's work with teens on racial equity.
- Organize more community talks with the Sheriff's Department.
- Create neighborhood-level or park-level events for residents to meet their neighbors.
- Publicize the public complaint process for the Sheriff's Department and the business discrimination process of the state and federal governments.
- Unite members of different community groups in volunteer service projects.
- Educate residents on the city motto of "Times Change, Values Don't."
- Public education on calendar commemorations that honor and celebrate the diversity of residents in Lakewood.