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Police chief forum: Teresa Ewins bills herself as communicator-in-chief
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Police chief forum: Teresa Ewins bills herself as communicator-in-chief

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The second candidate vying to be Lincoln's next police chief made her first public appearance in Lincoln on Tuesday night.

Teresa Ewins, a 26-year veteran of the San Francisco Police Department, hopes it isn't her last. 

One of four finalists, Ewins appears to be the only candidate who never previously pursued the top job at a major department. But she's used to addressing citizens interested in the policing of their community, she said, and she's aiming to make a habit of it in Lincoln. 

Teresa Ewins

Ewins 

"I'm gonna come here and I'm gonna listen to you," Ewins told a crowd of about 40 people at the Auld Recreation Center Tuesday night. "This is gonna be very normal if I'm here. ... If you're upset, then you're gonna tell me." 

Ewins' commitment to public discourse — something she said is commonplace in San Francisco — emerged as a theme in her pitch to the public, as she ditched the podium and walked around the stage as she portrayed herself as LPD's next communicator-in-chief. 

The remaining two forums are set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. Darryl McSwain is scheduled for Wednesday and Ramon Batista Thursday. Genelle Moore led things off on Monday

Ewins, a commander and the highest-ranking LGBT officer with San Francisco police, moved efficiently through prepared remarks that centered around four topics outlined in advance by city officials.

Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird's office asked candidates to include a personal introduction, their crime-prevention philosophy, effective efforts to address recruitment and retention, and commentary on the current state of policing. After about 20 minutes, Ewins answered three blind questions prepared by the mayor's office. 

The Journal Star will provide highlights from each of the four finalist's appearances — including coverage of their prepared remarks, question-and-answer sessions and pre-forum media availability. 

Addressing crime prevention 

In her post as a commander in San Francisco, Ewins works frequently in the city's down-trodden Tenderloin district — an area that she described as flush with people struggling with mental health issues and addiction.

The area, too, has a high rate of prostitution and drug crimes. And it is home to more than 3,000 children. 

Ewins noted issues with a largely disenfranchised group of people in the Tenderloin — challenges that she said can push youths to turn to gangs for basic needs like food and protection. 

It was there, in the Tenderloin, where Ewins seems to have molded her philosophy on preventing crime -- stopping it at its source. 

"That means in schools; that even means when there's contact by our officers in which (youths) have made bad decisions, that they can actually recover from that bad decision," Ewins said, later noting the effects of trauma experienced by children in crime-ridden areas. 

"Even though you think the youth are not seeing it, they're seeing it," she said. "We need to address that. Even in Lincoln, we need to address that." 

Dealing with mental health patients 

Jennifer Brinkman, Gaylor Baird's chief of staff, asked Ewins how officers should be trained to respond to mental health crises. The commander then revealed in 26 years of policing, she has undergone crisis intervention training twice.

"Is that right?" she asked the crowd. "Do you think I should be trained more? More often? Yeah. It's not one fix and done. It is continuous." 

Ewins advocated for officers to practice greater patience in dealing with people suffering from mental health issues, only providing immediate intervention when necessary. 

And, imploring an idea that has grown in popularity nationwide, Ewins called for mental health technicians to be available 24/7, but said officers should accompany the techs on mental health calls. 

A balancing act 

As law enforcement remains under a nationwide microscope, Brinkman asked Ewins how she would support the officers she leads while heeding community concerns about unequal enforcement of the law. 

After pausing for close to 10 seconds, Ewins doubled down on her commitment to personally interact with residents who voice concerns about LPD. 

Ewins pledged to investigate any officer-civilian conflicts with objectivity, rather than sweep matters "under the rug." And she noted those kinds of conflicts provide an opportunity of reflection for both officers and the public, calling for officers to report discord themselves. 

"Everyone deserves an opportunity to be better," Ewins said. "Police officers make mistakes. The public makes mistakes. Everyone deserves to recover from that." 

Four Lincoln police chief finalists set to appear in public forums
Police chief forum: Genelle Moore says she's 'being called back' into policing

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or awegley@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @andrewwegley. 

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A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Andrew Wegley joined the Journal Star as breaking news reporter after graduating from Northwest Missouri State University in May 2021.

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