The Ann Arbor City Council met virtually on Monday to discuss changes to the tasers and body cameras used by the Ann Arbor Police Department (AAPD), as well as new Independent Community Police Oversight Commission (ICPOC) protocols.

The council voted unanimously to approve CA-17-21-1003, a purchase order for upgraded tasers and body cameras for AAPD. Though the department already utilizes Body Worn Cameras (BWC) to promote accountability, under the proposed new system, BWCs will automatically start recording if a taser is taken out of its holster. The new tasers will also be yellow, which will make them more visible than the black tasers officers currently carry. 

Councilmember Jeff Hayner, D-Ward 1, said he felt the purchase order was an important measure to pass to increase transparency and improve safety in the Ann Arbor community.

“The truth is there are times in our society, in dealing with the public, when there are reasonable uses of force necessary, (and in these cases) the police have and follow an escalation of force protocol,” Hayner said. “I would much rather have an officer unholster and use a taser to diffuse a situation than a firearm. And I think that represents a reasonable de-escalation.”

Ann Arbor Chief of Police Michael Cox attended the meeting and offered his perspective on the resolution. Though AAPD has carried tasers for years and will continue to do so, Cox said, the weapons were deployed just twice in the last year, and only four times in 2019. 

“Even though we have these weapons … it’s not something we use frequently and de-escalation and all the things around that are our primary source of what we try to use before we even try to use (a taser),” Cox said.  

Councilmembers then discussed C-1-21-1208, an ordinance regarding proposed amendments to ICPOC. The ordinance would institute three structural changes to ICPOC: ICPOC would recommend new candidates for appointment to the existing commission for approval, ICPOC would be able to work on complaint cases before police internal investigations end and the number of ICPOC information managers would be increased from three to five.

ICPOC chair Lisa Jackson was in attendance at the meeting to explain why each of the proposed changes would improve ICPOC’s operations as an organization, better positioning it to serve the needs of the Ann Arbor community. 

The proposal’s first amendment begins the initial ICPOC recruitment process with a series of outreach attempts coordinated by the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission to organizations that represent diverse communities. Then, City Council and ICPOC will collaboratively work to ensure ICPOC’s members represent the diverse demographics and perspectives within the Ann Arbor community. Current ICPOC members can then recommend and vote on candidates. Jackson said this process would allow ICPOC to increase the diversity of its members, ensuring a variety of viewpoints would be considered when making decisions.

“Do we need an undocumented person, for example, do we need a formerly incarcerated person, or a person who is or has been unhoused?” Jackson said. “The commission, after undergoing this rigorous (nomination) process, would like to make (candidate) recommendations to the four liaisons … who can then evaluate our recommendations … and decide whether to take the names forward to the full City Council for a vote.”

Jackson then explained the second part of the proposed ordinance, which would allow ICPOC to begin reviewing complaint cases prior to the conclusion of internal police investigations, including appeal processes. Jackson said this change was suggested to ICPOC by city administrator Tom Crawford in response to an incident in which police broke into the wrong house following a 911 call.

Jackson noted that the change would not be applied to all complaint cases, and ICPOC would need the permission of the police chief to review cases while investigations are ongoing.

“(The change) doesn’t allow us to work in parallel with police investigations, typically,” Jackson said. “Only in specific cases and only with the police chief’s permission.”

Jackson then explained the final component of the proposed ordinance, which would increase the number of information managers from three to five.

Jackson said “information managers” are defined as commissioners who have had more training in complaint review. AAPD releases information to information managers — including body camera footage, dashboard camera footage and internal documents — before a complaint review meeting. Information managers are able to study these materials before the meeting and ask the police informed questions about the case.

Jackson explained to the City Council why only having three information managers is not enough.

“In one case, one of our (information managers) was unable to attend one of the meetings after having reviewed the documents,” Jackson said. “We wanted to substitute with another information manager, but that would have meant that four people would have seen the documentation, and that was in violation of the (ICPOC) ordinance.”

Though AAPD worried increasing the number of information managers they work with on cases might lead to disorder and confusion, Jackson reassured the police department and the City Council that having five information managers would be logistically advantageous.

“In all actuality, the process on (the police officers’) end would likely not change at all; they would still work with three commissioners as they have been,” Jackson said. “We need the fourth in case of something like a conflict of interest, or unexpected unavailability … Simply, there would be more people who would have access to the information.”

The Council voted unanimously in approval of this ordinance.

At Monday’s session, the council also unanimously passed B-1-21-1042, an ordinance aiming to amend how discrimination is defined in Chapter 112 of Title IX of the Code of the City of Ann Arbor. In particular, the definition of racial discrimination now explicitly includes discriminating against hair texture.

DC-4-21-1191, a resolution renewing the city’s contract with Recycle Ann Arbor for an additional 18-month term — with the option to extend the contract another year beyond that — passed unanimously as well.

In regards to the passage of DC-4, Councilmember Ali Ramlawi, D-Ward 5, said he was happy to see the resolution receive resounding support from the City Council. Ramlawi said he was equally excited that the partnership with Recycle Ann Arbor has been so successful.

“It’s good to see the relationship between these interested parties have yielded mutually beneficial results,” Ramlawi said. “It’s good to see us working with our community partners. I know when I first joined the Council, it was a little bit different. It’s good to see the working relationship now in a much better place.”

Summer News Editor and Daily Staff Reporter Lily Gooding and Andrea Wong can be reached at goodingl@umich.edu and wongan@umich.edu.