The Ypsilanti Police-Community Relations / Black Lives Matter Joint Task Force meets tonight

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Last year, in response to high profile instances of police violence against people of color across the country, and the corresponding rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, our City Council established a task force to explore ways in which the Ypsilanti Police Department might evolve to better serve all the members of our community. While I’m unaware of any concrete changes to have been adopted thus far as a result of this process, I know that a number of ideas have been discussed, ranging from the establishment of a citizen oversight board, to the implementation of hiring procedures that might increase the diversity of our officers on the street. And, tonight, there’s going to be a public meeting at Ypsi High to discuss the progress of this task force to date, go over next steps, and hear from members of the Ypsilanti community, who are understandably concerned, given last week’s killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. If you’re interested in attending, additional information can be found here.

[This task force is co-chaired by Ypsi City Council’s Nicole Brown and John Shuler of the City’s Human Relations Commission.]

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15 Comments

  1. Posted July 11, 2016 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Perhaps relevant to this conversation, here is Ypsi Chief of Police Tony DeGiusti’s letter to his officers in the wake of last week’s tragic events.

    All,

    As I write this, I am saddened and shocked by the cowardly attack that took place in Dallas last night. These senseless killings of law enforcement officers defies all logic and understanding that should go along with a civilized society. The job of a peace officers is already extremely difficult and tragedies like those faced in Dallas make it even harder. While the loss of our colleagues may evoke strong emotions in each of you as it has me, it is my hope that this will not broaden the gap between us and those in our own community. It is important now, more than ever, to strengthen the relationships that we have and foster relationships where they are lacking. We must continue our efforts in making the Police Department part of the community so that when people talk about “us against them” what they will mean is the community, including the police, together against those that would bring harm and discord.

    In these trying times we need to bear in mind that what occurred in Dallas last night is not representative of how our nation and more importantly our community feel about you in law enforcement. We are the Guardians of our community. We are depended upon to make sure people are safe and when the unthinkable happens in their lives we are the ones looked to for hope, justice and support. That is what you all do every day at great personal risk and sacrifice. I am proud of the job that each of you do, our organization and profession as a whole. Below is a quote from a Dallas newspaper. I think it speaks volumes about the character and dedication of the officers last night. The Dallas Morning News writes in an editorial, “A peaceful protest in downtown Dallas…morphed into a horrific sniper ambush on the men and women sworn to protect them. These were police officers who had earlier posed for photos with the demonstrators, shaken their hands and provided security for their rally. Throughout the evening, mutual respect was visible between the two groups. These were the police officers who, when shooting broke out from high above them, tried to make sure protesters got out of harm’s way. … We must wake up and unite. If we lead with anger, nobody wins.”

    As we move forward please be supportive of each other. Make sure that you stay sharp and attentive while on-duty and back each other up. This is a time to come together and take care of each other.

    The wearing of mourning bands is authorized through the last officers funeral service. Please keep the officers from the Dallas law enforcement community in your thoughts and prayers as they mourn their loss.

    Tony DeGiusti
    Chief of Police
    City of Ypsilanti Police Department

  2. Posted July 11, 2016 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    If one of you happens to know what kind of input local members of our Black Lives Matter community have had in this process to date, I’d be curious to know. I know this is billed as a joint task force, and I’d like to think that our local Black Lives Matters activists have been at the table throughout the process, but I don’t really have a sense, as I’ve yet to attend one of these meetings myself, as to how collaborative the process has really been. If any of you have been to the meetings of this group previously, I’d appreciate your thoughts.

  3. Posted July 11, 2016 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Here, to get things started, in case any of you would like to engage in an online discussion on changes that we’d like to see made with regard to local policing, are a few things that have been discussed either on this site, on The Saturday Six Pack, or in community gatherings that I’ve attended.

    1. Establish either a Citizen Oversight Board or Citizen Review Board
    2. Increase training, giving special attention to deescalation tactics
    3. Seek out and hire officers that are more representative of our diverse community
    4. Seek our and hire officers who are from our community
    5. Stop the militarization of our police force, the adoption of military of equipment and tactics
    6. Increase the use of body cameras
    7. Create a culture of accountability within the force
    8. Make it easier for members of the community to file complains about officer conduct
    9. Get officers out of their cars, and walking in our neighborhoods
    10. Increase transparency across the board

    I’m sure other ideas have been discussed, but these are the first ones to come to mind. If you have other thoughts, please add them.

  4. XXX
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Video from yesterday’s 100 person march in Ypsilanti.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IDjkB3S3p8

  5. XXX
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    An interesting study out of Harvard:

    A new study confirms that black men and women are treated differently in the hands of law enforcement. They are more likely to be touched, handcuffed, pushed to the ground or pepper-sprayed by a police officer, even after accounting for how, where and when they encounter the police.

    But when it comes to the most lethal form of force — police shootings — the study finds no racial bias.

    “It is the most surprising result of my career,” said Roland G. Fryer Jr., the author of the study and a professor of economics at Harvard. The study examined more than a thousand shootings in 10 major police departments, in Texas, Florida and California.

    The result contradicts the mental image of police shootings that many Americans hold in the wake of the killings (some captured on video) of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Laquan McDonald in Chicago; Tamir Rice in Cleveland; Walter Scott in South Carolina; Samuel DuBose in Cincinnati; Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La.; and Philando Castile in Minnesota.

    The study did not say whether the most egregious examples — the kind of killings at the heart of the nation’s debate on police shootings — are free of racial bias. Instead, it examined a much larger pool of shootings, including nonfatal ones.

    Official statistics on police shootings are poor. James Comey, the F.B.I. director, has called the lack of data “embarrassing and ridiculous.” Even when data exists, the conditions under which officers decide to fire their weapons are deeply nuanced and complex.

    Mr. Fryer is the youngest African-American to receive tenure at Harvard and the first one to receive a John Bates Clark medal, a prize given to the most promising American economist under 40. He is not afraid of controversial questions. In previous work, he has paid students to read books; considered the possibility of genetic differences in intelligence; and shown that high-achieving black and Hispanic students have fewer friends.

    Mr. Fryer said his anger after the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and others drove him to study the issue. “You know, protesting is not my thing,” he said. “But data is my thing. So I decided that I was going to collect a bunch of data and try to understand what really is going on when it comes to racial differences in police use of force.”

    He and a group of student researchers spent about 3,000 hours assembling detailed data from police reports in Houston; Austin, Tex.; Dallas; Los Angeles; Orlando, Fla.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and four other counties in Florida.

    They examined 1,332 shootings between 2000 and 2015, systematically coding police narratives to answer questions such as: How old was the suspect? How many police officers were at the scene? Were they mostly white? Was the officer at the scene for a robbery, violent activity, a traffic stop or something else? Was it nighttime? Did the officer shoot after being attacked or before a possible attack? One goal was to figure out whether police officers were quicker to fire at black suspects.

    Read more:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/upshot/surprising-new-evidence-shows-bias-in-police-use-of-force-but-not-in-shootings.html

  6. Eel
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    America has different priorities.

    http://imgur.com/okzExjy

  7. Ypsi City
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Police-Community Relations/BLM Joint Task Force

    The Police-Community Relations/Black Lives Matter Joint Task Force was developed to ensure accountability of the Ypsilanti Police Department.

    The Task Force is comprised of three City Council Members and Three Human Relations Commissioners. The Members are as follows:

    Council Member Nicole Brown (Chair)
    Council Member Brian Robb
    Council Member Anne Brown
    Human Relations Commissioner John Shuler (Co-Chair)
    Human Relations Commissioner Theresa Saunder
    Human Relations Commissioner Jennifer Symanns
    Agendas and Minutes can be viewed in the Agenda Center under Human Relations Commission.

    If you have any questions regarding the Task Force please call the Ypsilanti Clerk’s Department at (734) 483-1100.

  8. Posted July 11, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Hey, Mark Maynard (and MarkMaynard.com Disciples)! Attached on this landing page you will notice 5 Simple Steps to Becoming An Anti-Racist Man/Woman/Person:

    1. Help your white peers, children, and colleagues to recognize their own complicity in the system that continues to condemn Black and Brown people to premature death. If you think you yourself aren’t a beneficiary of this same system, then ground yourself first in an understanding of the concept of self-delusion.

    2. If you ever witness a Black or Brown person being detained by cops, take out your phone and film the entire interaction. If you ever witness a Black or Brown person being harassed, assaulted, or otherwise transgressed by a cop or vigilante, put your body between the aggressor and the person of color.

    3. If you’ve got a savings account or surplus assets of any sort, share this wealth with a friend of color who is struggling financially; furthermore, let them know they may feel welcome to request this sort of sharing/reparations at any time in the future. If you don’t believe your own financial comfort is made possible in part by the poverty of others, then you’re actively complicit in the system of white supremacy. (Do not give your surplus money to churches or non-profits; give directly to folks you know.)

    4. Stop writing essays and Facebook posts decrying racism; the only thing these effect, albeit triflingly, is guilt about your own passivity. Instead, do something practical, in your own town—for example, take a piece of cardboard and a sharpie, write THIS WHITE MAN IS PRO-BLACK, and stand on a street corner for an hour. Better yet, see number 3 above.

    5. Recognize that white supremacy is rooted in patriarchy. Work to undermine both in your own home—cook, clean, and care for others on a daily basis.

    FTP,

  9. Kevin Sharp
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    That’s a great question about the participation of BLM activists, Mark. Will they be on the stage tonight? Have they participated in the process? Were they invited to participate? If they haven’t been participating, why is that?

  10. Demetrius
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Everyone in our society must be treated fairly and equally (and not be placed in unnecessary danger) when dealing with law enforcement. This needs to be an urgent goal – and one that all of should not only expect, but demand.

    On the other hand, suggesting that ordinary white people should offer to give their life savings to friends of color (and/or let them know they are welcome do expect this at any time) seems like hyperbole designed to invite the kind of outrage/criticism that is likely to detract from the much-needed discussion of racial disparities in law enforcement, and our our society.

  11. kjc
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    on the OTHER hand, all you gotta do is tell white people they could do something they’d never do and they’re outraged. so maybe catering to white fragility is something some people could choose not to do. (since everyone else is anyway.)

  12. Ypsilanti
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Adding that part about how, if you don’t want to be a racist, you should stop giving to non-profits and start giving to black people, comes across as a deliberate attempt to derail meaningful conversation, and it leaves me with the impression that some would rather keep the fight going than work together to find solutions.

  13. LAKE
    Posted July 11, 2016 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    I suggested to the Mayor that a better system be created for formal complaints. I attempted to make a formal complaint against an officer for being a striaght up bully to me (and later an inappropriate pass) and the procedure was terrible. It included submitting my on paper complait to the police station in person (!!!) or in person to the City Manager’s office. I think the Mayor and City Council should get these complaints directly. I also think some feedback should be received from the complaintant about steps that were taken to address the actions of the officer. …The only way to stop the inappropriate behavior is to make it easy to keep track of it and hold them accountable. People meed to have an easy channel to reach the ears of the leaders who can do something about the problem.

  14. kdt
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    An analysis of the methods of the unpublished study written up in the NYT and mentioned by XXX above:
    https://scatter.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/yes-there-is-racial-bias-in-police-shootings/

  15. Lynne
    Posted July 12, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I will just note that the suggestion of giving money ignores intersectionality of privilege. Because I grew up in a mostly black neighborhood, I happen to know a lot of people of color but because it was a really rich neighborhood, most of those people are pretty darn privileged in their own way and are wealthier than I am (and I am not doing badly). Just a thought. I don’t know if the giving money was serious or not but if so, this is just one criticism of the concept. Also, I think when it comes to wealth redistribution, it probably would be more effective if it weren’t voluntary and were instead the result of taxing those at the top in order to fund benefit programs and services for the poor. My favorite idea is a universal basic income. Yes, it would mean that my rich black friends would get hit as much as rich white people but overall probably a more effective idea.

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