The city of Ann Arbor held a Police Task Force meeting Thursday evening to discuss and suggest revisions of the policy regarding the Ann Arbor Police Review Board.
City Council had finalized the creation of a task force in March to create higher accountability for the Ann Arbor Police Department. Area residents had called on the city to create the task force after police brutality incidents occurred in the city, including the 2014 shooting death of Aura Rosser and the arrest of Ciaeem Slaton at the Blake Transit Center in September.
Richard Friedman, co-chair of the Police Task Force, explained Thursday’s meeting specifically hoped to address the review board’s role in incident review, especially with the recent Blind Oig restaurant incident. The previous weekend, a Black man was arrested after a fight intiated by a white man broke out. The Black man was the only indivdual arrested during the incident.
“As a task force, we don’t have any role to investigate this,” Friedman said. “But, this is the type of incident for which the commission we’re working on is designed to address, I think. We hope that it will have a good review process to address incidents like that.”
Transforming Justice Washtenaw and the Collective Against White Supremacy both submitted revision requests for the commission’s establishment.
TJW members Maren Spolem and Julie Quiroz addressed TJW support of the commission but raised concerns regarding what the commission sees the core issue to be.
“TJW is committed to the creation of a police commission that is independent, transparent, representative and adequately funded,” Spolem said. “We’ve reviewed your template and while there are many points in the template with which we agree, fundamental differences remain.
Quiroz continued the statement by explaing that the template mischaracterized what residents believe the core issue regarding the Review Board is.
“First and foremost, TJW is troubled by what seems to be the underlying premise of the task force template,” Quiroz said. “As written, the template implies that the core problem to be addressed by the police commission is community misunderstanding and mistrust of police. Community members are not confused. We understand that if policing exists, than there must be oversite to protect people from well-documented harm to our bodies, harm to our communities through surveillance, criminalization and mass incarceration, and harm to our country, which is becoming more policed and authoritarian every day.”
Ann Arbor resident David Bigham addressed the crowd, calling for a more diverse representation among the attendees after detailing his arrest at the Blind Pig restaurant this past week.
“If this is going to be real, if we’re going to create real change, the crowd can’t look like this,” Bigham said. “It can’t. The people most affected by this need to be represented. They need to be reached out to in a real way that’s not superficial. We’ve heard things before.”
City Administrator Howard Lazarus stated he would not censor, alter or modify the recommendations from the task force when brought to City Council for approval, but would advise the council on recommendations that may not be wise to adopt.
City Councilmember Sumi Kaliasapathy, D-Ward 1, addressed concerns of how the matter would be addressed in City Council meetings.
“Ultimately, whatever you recommend comes to City Council,” Kaliasapathy said. “That is made (against) community input we get, legal attorneys’ opinions, and city administrator staff. They serve multiple and competing interests. We don’t get it all the same way … I don’t believe Mr. Lazarus’ review of what we have done is the final word on this.”
Ann Arbor resident Robin Stephens, Police Task Force representative, cited concerns on how the justice system and the task force can adequately investigate situations without creating confusion.
“We want to be sure that people have fair criminal process and if there’s a police investigation and then a commission investigation, that could potentially develop different information or additional information,” Stephens said. “Then, you start to get into these criminal rules about what can be used and what can’t based on the way it’s collected. That can then create unfairness not only to the person who could potentially be charged but also create unfairness to the police.”
The task force will provide forms with which citizens can file complaints online, by phone, by mail and at Ann Arbor District library locations and community centers. All complaints will be handled by the commission, and then forwarded to the Ann Arbor Police Department. Complaints can be filed anonymously or by name.
The next Police Task Force meeting will be held July 12 at 2805 S. Industrial Parkway.