View the recording of Washtenaw Economic Club's Oct. 27 presentation

Police Reform and Strengthening Community-Police Relations in Washtenaw County

Here are answers to questions that went unanswered during the presentation due to time constraints:

Question 1:

This question is two-fold: (1) When talking about judgment and the Courts between 2000-2020, relative to CONVICTIONS, DISMISSALS, and SENTENCES (which are clearly misrepresented for blacks) (2) and ARRESTS, NEGLIGENT ENCOUNTERS, and PROBATION COSTS; as it relates to law enforcement. Can these things be rectified with the information that we have before moving on? How can this information that we have now usher us forward? These things are necessary for people to have a sense of trust and transparency with law enforcement.

Answer: Sherriff Jerry Clayton

I assume this question is related to the findings in the recently released CREW report. If so, my response is yes, I believe the disparities you reference can be rectified. However, several action steps are required; One of the first task is to take a deeper dive into the report. While I little doubt about the existence of racial disparities in the Washtenaw County criminal legal system. We need to examine the methodology used by the authors of the report to determine the accuracy of the findings. Again, not with the intent of disputing the findings, but to help identify the reasons and actions that caused the outcomes. This best positions us to develop systems based strategies that we believe addresses the root causes of the problem.

Answer: Michigan State Senator Jeff Irwin

Serving in Lansing, my focus is to reduce encounters and end the unnecessary arrests by reforming warrants (as embodied in SB 1047 and the recommendations of the Jail and Pre-trial task Force. Additionally, we know that even a short stay in jail can dramatically increase the likelihood of a conviction or plea. That's why it is so important to end cash bail (such as in SB 211 and related bills). With respect to the CREW report and reforms needed within our various county courts and police departments, it is critical that citizens know their judges and make sure that the elected leaders at every stage of the criminal justice system locally are engaged in finding and implementing solutions.


Question 2:

What measures ARE IN PLACE to build Community trust between the residents and the police department?

Answer: Sherriff Jerry Clayton

There are 11 police agencies operating in Washtenaw County. Each agency has their own approach to building community trust. From the Sheriff's Office perspective, we have built community engagement into our police services operational philosophy. Specific actions include hosting and participating in numerous community dialogue sessions, with us listening to community members. We have added residents to our hiring interview team for new hires. We have included community representation on our 21st Century Compliance Commission. This Commission will work with us on development of organizational policy, training and operational protocols. Essentially, including the voice of the people in terms of how we deliver services.

Answer: Chief Jerrod Hart

I will share a couple thoughts on this question. In the City of Saline, we are working on our first strategic plan for the police department. The process began last October (2019) and is a partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the U. S. Department of Justice. I have put together a very diverse stakeholder group to ensure our Mission, Vision and Values align with community needs / values and we are developing a survey that will be broadly pushed out by the various stakeholder groups. Once the survey is complete, we will have community input sessions and conduct a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat Analysis on the department. The group will then identify short and long term goals for the department to meet from 0-5 years and I will be communicating our progress quarterly. This is a community effort and I have enjoyed building trust with the group. We have built a robust policy and procedure manual which covers many topics to build community trust through accountability. We have an established citizen complaint investigation process, in-car video quarterly review, annual assessment of use of force incidents and many other reviews to ensure staff are following best practices. Additionally, staff are to get out of the cars and walk our parks and downtown area and engage our community in discussion. We also participate in many public events to engage the public.


Question 3:

How has this social and political unrest in the world after George Floyd and Breonna Taylor impacted your staffing?

Answer: Sherriff Jerry Clayton

Obviously it has been a challenging time for our staff because criticism is difficult to hear. However, we understand that much of the unrest is the result of years and years of police policies and practices that have been unjust and damaging to black and brown communities. Our message to staff is that we have to earn the peoples trust each and everyday through our deeds and action, not our rhetoric. We must acknowledge past injustices in order to positively move forward. It will take time, hard work and commitment to doing the right thing in order to earn the trust we need to be viewed as legitimate by the community.

Answer: Chief Jerrod Hart

Other than impacting officer wellness which is addressed in a question below, I have not had issues with sudden retirements or recruiting.

Question 4:

As it relates to excessive force or force that may be legal but unnecessary in a given situation, what measures are in place to monitor and mitigate the use of excessive and unnecessary force?

Answer: Sherriff Jerry Clayton

We have in our policy a statement that clearly states that our staffs actions must meet both the legal standard and our ethical standards in all situations. Staff are held accountable to both standards when we review all use of force actions by our staff.

Answer:

Chief Jerrod Hart

We have a clearly established use of force policy. Each incident of use of force is investigated thoroughly and promptly by a command officer and presented to me for review. I watch all video, read all statements then weigh the officers actions against policy. If I feel a violation has taken place, I begin the disciplinary process immediately. I have long lived by the philosophy that "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" and I share that with staff. I also track each use of force and I am continually looking for patterns. or trends. We also participate in annual de-escalation training to teach staff methods they can use (if the situation allows) to gain voluntary compliance and reduce the need for force.

Answer:

Michigan State Senator Jeff Irwin

I am working on legislation to require additional reporting on the use of force at the statewide level. In addition, I have introduced legislation to improve police training (SB 945), to require officers to intervene in situations where a citizen in custody needs assistance (SB 992), and a bill requiring that investigations of the use of excessive force are handled by an independent group at the Attorney General's office (SB 993).


Question 5:

Are there any plans to get within the community to recruit the community's youth to become those that serve and protect the community in which they grew up in?

Answer: Sherriff Jerry Clayton

Yes, we recruit now within our community. However, we are always looking for partners in that effort. Anyone that has ideas on how we can do that more effectively is encouraged to reach out to us and share their thoughts. We have a summers job program for youth that has been useful in terms of introducing them to the organization. We sponsor (pay for candidates to attend the police academy). Understanding that finances prevent some individuals from pursuing a career in police services, we hire them before they graduate the academy so they can receive compensation while they attend the academy.

Answer: Chief Jerrod Hart

We have a very successful Police Explorer program available to middle and high school aged students in Washtenaw County. The coordinator is Officer Chris Boulter and he can be reached at 734-429-7911. This is a great opportunity to learn about police work and many cadets have joined state and local police departments after graduation.


Question 6:

Are you Chiefs doing anything in-house to support the mindsets of the officers who feel attacked for the actions of other officers that they did not do?

Answer: Sherriff Jerry Clayton

Yes, please refer to the earlier question about social/political unrest.

Answer: Chief Jerrod Hart

Officer wellness is critical. I will share I was deeply impacted by people yelling "F the police" and "All Cops are Bastards" during a demonstration earlier this year. I also saw it in my officers eyes. 99.9% of police officers are outstanding people. Outside of those directing hateful speech at us, we don't get enough sleep due to shift work, overtime and court, meal breaks are quick and greasy, and we give up a lot of holidays to keep our community safe. We also see unthinkable tragedies so it is no surprise that police officers take their own lives at twice the rate we die in the line of duty. I share our Employee Assistance Program with staff and encourage them to seek professional guidance as quickly as possible and share books on officer wellness with them. I encourage and showcase their good work, especially the compassion they show towards others and encourage them to volunteer. Lastly, I recently built a gym in the basement of the PD. Mental health is strengthened by 30 mins of mild cardio a day and I want to be able to afford them their own space to disconnect and feel safe.


Question 7:

Walking the beat is key in getting to know the community in which officers are sworn to serve and protect. Young Black women and men should not have to be questioned if they belong in the community they live in and sometimes grew up in. Will walking the beat become a norm with our local police and Sheriff's office?

Answer: Sherriff Jerry Clayton

Our staff "walk the beat" now. Because of staffing levels and the geographical area we are responsible is so large, it's difficult to solely walk a beat. However, our staff are encouraged (and they do) to get out of their vehicles and walk the neighborhoods. They also have access to bicycles to use when the weather allows.

Answer: Chief Jerrod Hart

I strongly encourage my staff to get out of the vehicle and onto the streets, especially in our parks and downtown area.


Question 8:

How are you presenting the career to new officers to ensure that your community is staffed and that the new officers are protected as they approach the community in this defund the police movement?

Answer: Sherriff Jerry Clayton

The career is presented as "service oriented". We explain that it is difficult to deliver quality service and "co-produce" public safety in communities that are afraid of us. We are defined by how we serve our community, not by how others in the profession perform. They should not worry about calls to "defund". People are not inclined to defund services that they feel positively contribute and add value to their lives.

Answer: Chief Jerrod Hart

I share this is an exciting time to be entering the profession. I firmly believe this is a time of growth and reflection for us and we will rise to the occasion by ensuring we are treating everyone with dignity, respect and fairness. I share segments of our community feel marginalized and they should focus their efforts on building trust and legitimacy with them outside of calls for service. I also make a commitment to hold myself and our team accountable so we do not lose the trust of our community.