Though Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved a resolution to fund a second phase of the third-party review of the Ann Arbor Police Department at the council meeting Monday night, several councilmembers expressed their concerns with the efficacy of the process so far. They raised questions of whether the additional appropriations were necessary and whether Hillard Heintze LLC — the Chicago-based security firm in charge of the review — had been implementing the best methods available.
The resolution added an additional $30,000 in funds to the original $200,000 approved in February. According to a memo to council from Debra Kirby, Senior Vice President at Hillard Heintze, the $30,000 will fund “interviews with command staff regarding community engagement, off-site training and brainstorming session on community engagement and development of a strategy and plan for enhanced community engagement.”
While the first phase of the review was intended to involve community outreach and listening to perspectives on the AAPD from community members, the second phase was intended to implement some form of civilian review board for the AAPD.
Members of the community have expressed their disapproval of the process so far, saying Hillard Heintze’s outreach efforts to minority communities have been insufficient. Councilmember Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4), among other councilmembers, said he heard residents’ concerns.
“At times I’ve been rather disappointed in their ability to reach members of minority communities who could really get good information about people who may in fact have a legitimate complaint about our police,” he said.
Councilmember Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1) shared Eaton’s concerns and said Hillard Heintze had also failed to properly communicate with the city’s Human Rights Commission, despite their active involvement in the review.
“Hillard Heintze has appeared before the HRC, but this extension of work was never discussed or brought before the HRC,” she said. “The HRC has been a watchdog on this whole issue, and they have raised several serious concerns with the consultants regarding especially reaching out to minorities. I hope they take this seriously. The HRC has been giving really constructive help in terms of which groups they should be going to, where they should be going to and reaching out.”
Councilmember Kirk Westphal (D–Ward 2) was surprised the firm was asking for more money. He cautioned that the request should be considered carefully, especially given errors the firm had made during the first phase of the review.
“I have trouble when a large contract like this comes back with an additional ask that seems to have been part of the original request,” he said. “I’ll note now in something that one constituent has highlighted to me is that the survey contained an error in it, and it gives me pause about the process and some feedback we’ve received from members of the community. So my inclination would be to think more about what we are getting here and see if this money can be sourced from the existing contract.”
Asking City Administrator Howard Lazarus if the community-wide survey on attitudes regarding the AAPD was still available to the public, Lazarus replied that it was, but they would not be considering new responses.
“There comes a point in time where we have to own the results and then implement it,” he said. “I think that’s where we are.”
There was also debate over the terminology Hillard Heintze used in its memo to the council regarding the second phase of the review. Though much of the talk around the audit prior to approval of the city’s contract with Hillard Heintze revolved around the creation of a “civilian oversight board,” which the chief of the AAPD has publicly opposed, the memo from Hillard Heintze used the term “citizen advisory board.”
“It just seems that this is beyond the initial scope of whatever terminology you might want to use, but the initial one that came out of the Human Rights Commission was ‘civilian oversight board,’ ” she said. “I was surprised because this didn’t come to the HRC or anything like that.”
Lazarus said the creation of a civilian oversight board was never certain.
“I think it’s not quite correct to say that there was supposed to be an oversight board,” he said. “That was part of the effort of the people we talked to, members of the HRC who participated in the selection.”
Councilmember Graydon Krapohl (D–Ward 4) criticized the concept of oversight boards outright, saying they created a divide between the police and the community they serve.
“Oversight boards are retrospective looking, they look backwards and tend to be punitive in nature, and they don’t tend to have the full engagement and support of all the parties involved,” he said. “And I think a critical part of moving forward is there’s not communication, engagement, understanding, between different elements of the community, between police and the different communities they serve within a city like Ann Arbor.”