City Council to consider police oversight reforms

Sunday, January 3, 2016 - 6:23pm

On Monday, City Council will kick off their first meeting of the year with a resolution from the city’s Human Rights Commission calling for reforms to police oversight. Also on the docket for the body’s meeting are resolutions concerning the city’s sewer cleaning contact, as well as projects to expand the Bryant Community Center.

Police Oversight

Following controversy over the fatal shooting of Ann Arbor resident Aura Rosser by police in 2014, as well as broader national awareness of police-community relations, the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission compiled a set of recommendations to increase civilian oversight of the Ann Arbor Police Department.

At Monday’s meeting, Council will vote on implementing the committee’s recommendations, which include hiring a police consultant to review the city’s police practices and the creation of a nine-member Civilian Police Review Board.

The proposed review board, composed of mayoral and council appointees, would be charged with acting as an independent investigative body for complaints filed against the AAPD.

In a report released by the commission in Novembers several reasons were outlined for the necessity of such a board, including Rosser’s death. The Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office decided last January that it would not press charges against the officer who shot her.

“Policing must be based on a partnership between police and the people of Ann Arbor that is founded on positive interaction and evidence that all individuals are treated fairly,” the report said. “Currently, as was made clear in discussions with community members, trust in police is uneven in our city. Some form of oversight of law enforcement could serve to strengthen trust in the police throughout the community.”

The report calls in particular for the board to monitor potential racial bias and unequal treatment by members of the AAPD, as well as examine how the department responds to the diverse cultural composition of Ann Arbor’s population currently.

The HRC’s recommendations also highlighted transparency within the police department, citing issues with current procedures to file complaints against officers. The report noted that the current process involves the police investigating complaints made against their own conduct without external review.

Other sections of the report call for expansion of crisis intervention training and community policing, as well as alternative channels for dispute resolution between citizens and individual officers.

The HRC resolution before Council cites similar models of civilian oversight that have been adopted in over 100 other cities, stating that “oversight bodies can strengthen relations between police and the communities they serve, benefitting police officers and administrators, city officials, and community members.”

Sewer Contract

Council will vote to award a contract for city sewer maintenance to United Resource LLC for $232,669. If the bid is approved, work will begin on February 15 and is expected to conclude by mid-May.

Bryant Community Center Expansion

If approved, this resolution will allocate $100,000 of the city’s money toward a planned expansion of the Bryant Community Center, which provides meals, tutoring and other services to residents in the Bryant neighborhood area.

The resolution will also allow the city to accept $90,000 in additional funds from Washtenaw County to design an addition to the Center.

Waste Drop-Off Feasibility Study

Pending approval by the Council Monday, Ann Arbor will undertake an agreement with Washtenaw County to evenly split the cost of a feasibility study to assess the viability of a new solid waste drop-off center on Platt Road.

If approved, the cost to the city is expected to be $34,805. It will entail a review of the planned site by a third-party contractor according to the resolution.