Sheriff Jerry Clayton and other members of the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office spoke in Ypsilanti Wednesday on law enforcement policies regarding the use of force.
Clayton and Lieutenant Kurt Schiappacasse walked through the idea of subjective versus objective decision making in situations that may require the use of force, which informs how officers are trained to judge situations based on what is logically reasonable rather than what they personally perceive to be in circumstances requiring the use of force.
Audience members at the event also asked questions highlighting concerns about implicit racial bias within officers and law enforcement organizations, which Clayton noted are major barriers to improving trust between police and citizens.
“That’s a major part of what is wrong with the relationship between the community and the police department,” Clayton said. “It’s the perception of unfairness and bias in terms of how police officers handle their business, how they are investigated and that a person in the street doesn’t have a chance.”
In discussing the challenges implicit in addressing biases, Clayton said they often cannot be addressed by legislation, and must be approached through other avenues.
“This really is a personal issue because we all have implicit bias, it’s just whether you recognize what they are and whether you are willing to admit that you have them,” he said. “And if you understand the fact that implicit bias have an influence on the decisions that you make and the actions that you take. I think our profession is behind because we get defensive about these things.”
Clayton also emphasized that citizens can play an equally important role as police in solving systematic issues in communities.
“Quite frankly, while law enforcement is oftentimes the one called, we need to stop saying that we can solve all the problems. These aren’t just law enforcement issues, but also community challenges,” he said.
John Hudson, a Superior Township resident and coordinator of his local neighborhood watch, said he attended the presentation to gain information that he would be able to take home and put to use in his community.