Thursday, September 13, 2018

Opinion: Show up tonight to support strong police oversight in Ann Arbor

Tonight at 7:00 at Ann Arbor City Hall there is a joint meeting of the Police Oversight Task Force and City Council Work Session. At the meeting, the Task Force will be presenting a ordinance that would create a strong, independent Police Oversight Commission. Some highlights of the Task Force ordinance:

Functional independence: Current and former law enforcement will not be eligible for membership on the Commission (though they can be invited to act as consultants when needed) and the Commission will be able to hire independent counsel.

Adequate funding: The Task Force requested that at an amount equal to 1.17% of the AAPD’s annual budget (or approximately $327,000) be set aside for oversight.

Representative of the community: As written, the draft includes a participatory nomination process through the Human Rights Commission which focuses on racial, economic, and experiential diversity to ensure that people most impacted by policing and people with the skills to address policing are represented.

Power: As written in the draft ordinance, the proposed Commission will be empowered to issue subpoenas and participate in arbitration when needed to compel the police and the City to provide information to the Commission.

Access to data: The proposal gives the Commission broad access to data about policing in Ann Arbor, data that can be used to shape policy changes and develop programs for the police, the city, and community members to address disparities in use of force and enforcement, and develop alternative forms of resolving conflicts.

City administrator Howard Lazarus is also presenting an competing ordinance that would create a weak, non-independent Police Oversight Commission. Here are some highlights from his proposed ordinance:
Not independent: former law enforcement officers can be members, and police and the City Administrator will be more involved in the process

Not well-funded: less than $25,000 to start

Not empowered: it has no power to act on its own

Not representative: members will be chosen by the Mayor (vs. the Human Rights Commission)

If you want strong, independent oversight of the Ann Arbor Police Department, please come to City Hall tonight and show your support. Amber Hughson, a community member who has been following the Police Oversight Task Force encourages folks to show up to tonight's meeting: "Showing up tonight at the City Council work session, and the public meetings that follow, is key to supporting oversight of the police. City Council needs to see that community members want community oversight of the police that is functionally independent, especially oversight that ensures people can file confidential complaints about the harm they've experienced." I reached out to Julie Quiroz who is an organizer with Transforming Justice Washtenaw for a comment about tonight's meeting and here's what she shared with me:
"In its entire 194 year history Ann Arbor has never had community oversight of police. Since the 1970s Ann Arbor's black community has been working for community police oversight. In 2014, when AAPD shot and killed Aura Rosser, a long history of community outrage erupted again, which moved leaders like Dwight Wilson on the Human Rights Commission to take real steps toward an actual policy. Thanks to this long history of organizing, and the more recent work of so many groups and individuals, we now have a strong proposal from the community-led Task Force.

Right now we can really stand up for something. By supporting the Task Force recommendations Ann Arbor has the opportunity to do something that matters in real people's lives, that puts racial justice values into practice, and that serves as a model for the country. What do we want our city to do? What do we want our city to be? It's time for us to make sure the Mayor and City Council know."

At tonight's meeting there will be parent volunteers on hand to provide free childcare. Also, the Huron Valley Democratic Socialists of America are providing transportation for those who need it. If you need transportation, drop HVDSA a line at: So if you support strong police oversight, come out tonight and show your support.

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