Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Tell the AAPD how it's doing

The Ann Arbor Police Department last week posted two online surveys to measure perceptions of safety in the city and satisfaction with interactions with the police department.

I'd encourage you, dear reader, to take a few minutes to complete those surveys when you have a chance. It certainly can't hurt anything, and they're anonymous.

Police Chief John Seto says in the city's press release, "The perspectives shared on these surveys will help us as we strive to provide the best possible service to the community."

I asked AAPD Deputy Chief Greg Bazick via email whether there was any particular reason to post these surveys at this point in time. He informed me that no, there wasn't any specific reason to share them at this particular point in time; one of the department's goals for the 2015 fiscal year (outlined on page 392 of the city's FY2015 budget) is to "Proactively seek out feedback from citizenry regarding perceptions of safety and other areas of concern related to policing and community standards issues," and these surveys will fulfill that goal. The department's traffic complaint questionnaire was the result of a similar goal for FY2014 (noted on page 391 of the 2015 budget). These goals, he explained, "are designed to align with higher-level City goals and objectives."

While I'm writing about the AAPD, I would be remiss not to mention that Chief Seto seems to be making some internal improvements in the wake of the Aura Rosser shooting. At the Feb. 2 City Council meeting, he announced the department would undergo "diversity awareness" and "autism awareness" training this year, and the department is awaiting its order of 86 body cameras.

The full text of Seto's statement at that council meeting follows.
Now that the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office has concluded that there will be no criminal charges filed in the shooting death of Ms. Rosser, I am able to make some additional comments regarding this unfortunate incident.

I would like to begin by expressing my condolences once again to the family and friends of Ms. Rosser. Although the officer's response was justified, it had a tragic outcome nonetheless. This has been a very difficult time for our community and the entire Ann Arbor Police Department, specifically Officers Ried and Raab, who responded to this incident.

I have previously stated that Officer Ried has been an excellent officer who has earned my confidence by routinely demonstrating sound judgment and professionalism. His actions during this incident are consistent with my prior assessment.

The community expects its officers to resolve a wide range of conflicts. When doing so, they have a duty to protect citizens who are in danger and they have a right to protect themselves. Both were required of Officers Ried and Raab on Nov. 9.

In the weeks following the incident, I have witnessed a great deal of patience and restraint shown through many peaceful demonstrations that have occurred. I am grateful to be the police chief in a community where its citizens can express their opinions in a peaceful and respectful manner.

While we all waited for the completion of the Michigan State Police investigation and subsequent decision by the prosecutor's office, I have continued to move forward with several initiatives. With council's authorization for the appropriation of funds, the Ann Arbor Police Department has placed an order for 86 body-worn cameras. While we await delivery, we have continued the process of developing the policy and training associated with the deployment of this technology.

I have also been reviewing our current training topics to identify any additional needs. For the 2015 training calendar, I have added modules to include diversity awareness conducted by the Anti-Defamation League of Michigan, as well as autism awareness. These are in line with previous training programs which have exposed officers to other specific population groups.

Some examples include response to incidents involving citizens with alzheimer's or dementia, as well as those who are deaf or hearing impaired. Annually, all officers are also trained in both less lethal and lethal force tactics and techniques. I will continue to explore and evaluate any other relevant training opportunities for our officers.

Prior to this incident, I met regularly with the chairperson of the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission. As the commission began to hear more questions from the community, these meetings have increased in frequency and have included additional commission members as well as new topics of discussion. I will continue to work with the commission members to answer any questions they identify.

I plan to continue with all of these efforts and initiatives going forward.

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