At their Tuesday meeting, Ann Arbor City Council members unanimously appointed current Interim Police Chief James Baird as police chief, concluding the city’s nationwide search to fill the role.
Baird will officially assume the role on Feb. 22.
The search for a new police chief has been ongoing over past months. Council initially confirmed James White, assistant police chief of the Detroit Police Department, in November 2015. White unexpectedly turned down the appointment to remain in Detroit.
Baird has been serving as the city’s interim police chief since Aug. 1, 2015, after the retirement of previous Police Chief John Seto. Seto had been with the AAPD for 25 years and transferred to a position in the University Housing Security and Safety Services in May 2015.
Baird’s appointment was well received among the councilmembers. Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4), who had expressed support for White, embraced Baird’s appointment and stressed that Baird deserved unanimous support from Council.
“James Baird is a very capable professional of the highest integrity,” Eaton said.
Julie Grand (D–Ward 3) praised Baird’s patience and dedication throughout the long process, noting she appreciated his constant thoughtfulness and responsiveness.
“After everything, he still remains committed to Ann Arbor,” Grand said.
Councilmember Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5) expressed confidence in Baird’s capability as police chief, pointing to an interview between the appointee and councilmembers during which Baird discussed addressing biases in police training.
Baird became deputy police chief in 2013 and has held other positions throughout his 23-year career with the AAPD, including professional standards lieutenant and crisis response unit sergeant.
Also discussed at Tuesday’s meeting was the topic of Ann Arbor’s deer cull, which has been an ongoing controversy in the city in recent months. Several speakers at the meeting charged that the decision to carry out the cull was based on little statistically valid evidence.
Lorraine Shapiro, Ann Arbor resident, cited a Feb. 1 post on the city website that said a deer management assessment report will be conducted in May, which will include results from an Ann Arbor City Hall [COPY: Council?] survey. Shapiro expressed concern, pointing to a prior 2014-2015 survey which showed support for the cull that she said was flawed and biased.
Shapiro alleged that the survey was taken by less than 0.4 percent of the Ann Arbor population, citing a sample bias. She also claimed three questions began with a pro-cull statements.
Challenging councilmembers to be more transparent about the purposes and motivations behind surveys, she said she expects them to include all stakeholders in a statistically valid, unbiased survey during the next round of data collection.
“Let’s do a statistically valid survey this time,” Shapiro said. “Let’s have no more garbage in, garbage out.”
Audience members carrying signs reading “Stop the shoot” and “Save the deer” applauded and cheered, “Stop the shoot.” during remarks.
Grant Shafer, Ann Arbor resident, was also among the residents who expressed disapproval toward the deer cull. He suggested that the USDA Wildlife Services violated the terms of their permit, citing a story of a resident who reported a deer shot outside the permit period. He also called for another investigation into poaching in a unspecified densely populated neighborhood, saying that either Wildlife Services or poachers fail to clean up the deer remains.
Other sanitation concerns about the cull were brought up at Tuesday’s meeting. One resident said he was worried that the bullets used to kill the deer would contaminate potential meat sources used in food pantries.
The city’s agreement with Food Gatherers is a requirement for the city’s deer cull permit, and Michigan Radio reported the president of Food Gatherers, Eileen Spring, is certain the deer meat will uphold food safety regulations.