City Council candidates include police reform measures in platforms amid nationwide protests

Thursday, June 18, 2020 - 8:16pm

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Design by Maggie Wiebe

After the killing of George Floyd, protests against police brutality and racism erupted nationwide, calling for an end to systemic racism, police department oversight and defunding the police.

With elections coming up on August 4, City Council candidates from all five of Ann Arbor’s wards have turned their focus to fighting police brutality in Ann Arbor. In interviews with The Daily, candidates detailed policies such as reallocating the police budget, implicit bias training for officers and police oversight.

Anne Bannister, Democrat for Ward 1 

City Councilmember Anne Bannister, D-Ward 1, is running for re-election and said she believes all citizens of Ann Arbor deserve to be treated humanely, justly and with dignity. 

According to her platform, Bannister supported the creation of the Independent Community Police Oversight Commission and strongly believes in communicating with victims of systemic racism and ensuring their problems are addressed.

Bannister said she plans to ensure better training of police officers to reduce implicit bias and also believes the community should be able to easily access law enforcement data. With the help of Police Chief Michael Cox, Bannister hopes community policing will be improved.

“Like our whole country, I’ve been very hurt and disappointed and disturbed by the incidents of police brutality around the country,” Bannister said. “(We have to) further this philosophy of compassion and well-trained officers that are here to protect us.”

Lisa Disch, Democrat for Ward 1 

University of Michigan professor Lisa Disch is running against Bannister.

Disch said she believes creating a community that upholds safety is essential. Her platform includes ensuring the safety of people being stopped by law enforcement without cause and also expanding community policing.

Disch said she has heard about numerous incidents of racial harassment from Ann Arbor residents. She said she wants to work on eradicating the fear residents may feel when reporting these incidents. She said she aims to change local law to increase the oversight power of ICPOC, review and reallocate the Ann Arbor Police Department budget and reorient policing to focus on the causes of crime.

“I am struck, but not surprised, by hearing people say that they feel free to relate their concerns in public forums but that they hesitate to file official grievances,” Disch said. “That fear itself, let alone the treatment they describe, tells me that this city has urgent work to do.”

Disch supports the prevention of biased crime reporting and wishes to implement implicit bias training for all police officers.

“This is just a start,” Disch said. “I continue to listen and learn, and hope to work collaboratively with other council members and ICPOC to find creative solutions moving forward.”

Jane Lumm, Democrat for Ward 2

Jane Lumm, I-Ward 2, who is running for re-election as a Democrat, has represented Ward 2 as an Independent since 2011. She is one of the two councilmember liaisons on the ICPOC and has been working towards police oversight since 2018. She believes ICPOC needs to have more access to police records to ensure effective oversight.

Lumm said she supports Police Chief Cox and believes that he will lead the AAPD towards better policing policies, tactics and training. 

“With the recent tragic George Floyd death and the nationwide reaction, including protest here in Ann Arbor, everyone’s awareness toward policing practices (has) been raised,” Lumm said. “It has heightened everyone’s appreciation towards police oversight.”

Mozhgan Savabieasfahni, Democrat for Ward 4 

Mozhgan Savabieasfahni, an environmental toxicologist, said she believes ICPOC needs to be empowered with the ability to hire and fire police chiefs and the power to discipline police officers to ensure public protection.

Savabieasfahani also said spending $30 million to police a population of around 120,000 people is unnecessary. She said the money should be reallocated to fund community development projects.”

“We must seriously consider slashing police funding,” Savabieasfahani said. “We must make sure that the system is not racist. We must start channeling resources that otherwise will go to the police, to community development.”

Erica Briggs, Democrat for Ward 5 

Erica Briggs, a current Ann Arbor Planning Commission member, supports the transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility of law enforcement and governance.

Briggs said she believes that residents should be able to access information about the AAPD’s training policies, the incidents they respond to and information about uses of police force. She also believes that residents deserve to be able to voice their opinions about what they would like the police in their community to do.

“Ann Arbor, like every other community in this nation, must re-examine what community safety means and looks like, who we’re trying to protect and what professional services are needed to create a safe community for all of us,” Briggs said. 

David A. Silkworth, Democrat for Ward 5 

David Silkworth, a University alum, supports empowering ICPOC, working with Police Chief Cox in creating more effective policing policies and enabling safe community policing.

Silkworth said the investigative power of ICPOC needs to be expanded by allowing subpoena power and giving access to police records and documents. He also said ICPOC should be given more funding to ensure their ability to conduct police inquiries.

“One of the things I think is key here is that the city has reopened contract negotiations with the police union,” Silkworth said. “Hopefully these negotiations will end in a more just organization.”

Dan Michniewicz, Democrat for Ward 5 

Zingerman Bakehouse baker Dan Michinewicz states in his platform he believes police funding should be reallocated towards programs that meet people’s basic needs like housing, social services and mental health services.

Though Michniewicz believes that police officers should receive implicit bias training and there should be more diversity in the police force, he said focusing on the reallocation of the police budget is essential to decrease the responsibilities of the police. He also supports demilitarization of the police.

“We have the police doing way too much,” Michniewicz said. “We don’t need somebody with a gun pulling people over, making traffic stops or responding to domestic disturbances all the time.”

The Daily reached out to every Ann Arbor City Council candidate. Candidates not included did not respond to The Daily’s requests for comment. 

Daily Staff Reporter Navya Gupta can be reached at itznavya@umich.edu.