Although council members do not typically have discussion during the public comment period of meetings, a question from a resident about how the city would react and how citizens are expected to react if protests occur in Magnolia prompted responses from both the mayor and police chief during Magnolia City Council's teleconference meeting July 14.
Although the public comment period gives citizens the right to be heard by council, any subject not posted on the agenda may not be discussed. However, Mayor Todd Kana did give a brief answer to the question.
“We have had one peaceful protest already; I would expect our citizens to obey the law, and I would expect any protesters to do the same,” he said. “Anybody in the city that’s breaking the law or interfering with the public’s ability to maintain their reasonable life, I believe we would intervene at that point.”
Kana said they have not seen any issues as of yet and would ask citizens not to interfere with any peaceful protests, but citizens do have the right to protect themselves and their property.
Magnolia Police Department Chief Kyle Montgomery said during his department report that the police department does not have the manpower to handle a large protest and would therefore request assistance from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.
“They have access to [the Houston Police Department], Harris County, and if we had some kind of major deal we could get those resources in to handle it,” he said.
Montgomery said the police department has also reverted to a more normal shift compared to its “COVID[-19] mode.”
“Last month we had 90 traffic stops, [and now we are] up to 415,” he said. “We are about up to where we normally are as far as the proactive policing goes.”
Residential patrols and business checks dropped by roughly 100 calls each since last month, but calls are still more frequent than before the coronavirus pandemic, Montgomery said.
Officers are also not required to wear masks, Montgomery said; masks limit the ability for officers to aid in verbal de-escalation. However, all officers are supplied masks and can wear one if they choose.
“The big thing is—and we have always tried to do it—verbal de-escalation,” he said. “[Wearing a mask] really makes it hard to communicate ... we want to make sure that whoever we are dealing with can hear us clearly so there is no miscommunication.”