The Independent Community Police Oversight Commission met Thursday night to hold elections for leadership positions. Former acting Chair Commissioner Lisa Jackson and Former Commissioner Frances Todoro-Hargreaves were elected as Chair and Vice-Chair, respectively.
The commissioners also passed a resolution to establish social media platforms and discussed the budget and workplan for the commission in the 2020 fiscal year. There were eight commissioners and two non-voting county liaisons in attendance; two commissioners were absent and one seat is currently vacant.
The Police Oversight Commission was founded in March in order to increase transparency in the Ann Arbor Police Department. Former Commision Chair Robin Stephens stepped down in the summer and then-Vice Chair Jackson assumed interim chair.
“I’ve been the acting chair since August, so I’m happy to work with this dynamic group of commissioners, and I am looking forward to the work that we can do in the future,” Jackson said after the meeting. “There’s a lot to do … looking forward, understanding that there is a lot of work.”
Jackson updated the Commission based on the Oct. 7 City Council meeting where Jackson reported on behalf of the Commission for the first time since its inception.
“We talked about our training and our goals and we reported out about our mission,” Jackson said. “We understand that it’s the best practice for us to go and report out to City Council periodically. This was our first time doing so, so we thought it was important to do that.”
Discussion then moved to the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission, which the Police Oversight Commission said they will likely collaborate with on issues. HRC was the first body to call for increased transparency that eventually led to the creation of the Commission.
“They have addressed certain items that we'll be taking on, and they certainly were instrumental in our formation, obviously, from the inception of the idea of having an oversight commission, and so there is some natural collaboration there,” Jackson said.
Because the commission was founded in March, few people know it exists, Commissioner Anan Ameri said. She suggested the Commission release a video or a series of videos to introduce the body and explain its function.
“Number one, we need to understand who’s our audience,” Ameri said. “From my perspective, (a video) should explain what we do. We can talk about us as individuals so they know our faces and who we are but focus on what the commission is and why this commission was created and how people can get in touch with us. Something like that, because we’re very new.”
The lack of an 11th member to the commission for two months has been “pretty big,” Jackson said. In discussing the process of appointing a new commissioner, the hope is to add to the diversity of the commission and include more representation from the community.
“My opinion is that we should have someone from the Latino community, because we don’t have representation of that community,” Commissioner Mohammad Othman said. “That would be an added voice to the dynamic and diverse group. We would like to be inclusive and have more members representing the diverse community we have.”
Most importantly, Commissioner Deandre Caldwell said, is that the commission must uphold its original purpose of transparency.
“Advocating for the public, let’s be sure to be transparent about how the next appointment is going to work,” Caldwell said. “I understand it’s a mayoral appointment, so if (the mayor) needs to report out, but let’s be sure that we are transparent with the public on how this next commissioner is going to be appointed.”
The Commission also discussed transparency in terms of marketing. It seeks to consult artists to design a logo for branding and marketing. Consistency in Commission meetings next calendar year also helps to be candid with the public, members said.
Lastly, the Commission passed a resolution to establish social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“This is mainly to get the word out — who we are, when we’re meeting, things like that,” Todoro-Hargreaves said. “It also gives each of us and our individual groups the opportunity to be able to share the information, retweet it, let it out that way so people know we're meeting. That’s what this resolution is for.”
The resolution passed unanimously. Todoro-Hargreaves spoke optimistically after the meeting adjourned about the future and her new position.
“It feels good (to be vice-chair),” Todoro-Hargreaves said. “I’m looking forward to being in the role and continuing the work that I’m doing. I put in a lot of hours for it so I’m hoping it will all pay off.”