Additional Thoughts (May 31, 2020) - Police Oversight

The following was originally published in my May 31, 2020 Newsletter in the "Additional Thoughts" section

In my household, I have two children who are old enough to read the news and react to it, raise meaningful questions about what they see happening in the world. I assume that the conversations happening in my house are occurring among many other families. We’ve been talking a lot about power structures and the long history of protest against power structures in our country.


It is my hope that our community can avoid the more destructive civil unrest I see happening in other places. We have an opportunity to re-assess and re-evaluate our systems for maintaining public safety. Those conversations must happen throughout our community but especially among city leadership. I strongly support City efforts to increase transparency and accountability at all levels.


For anyone who does not know: Ann Arbor has a community (civilian) police oversight commission. You can read more about it here:

https://www.a2gov.org/departments/city-clerk/Boards-and-Commissions/Pages/Independent-Community-Police-Oversight-Commission.aspx


This commission was established right before I was elected to Council, but we did address a couple of issues around it soon after I was elected. Explanation of those issues can be found here:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/police-oversight-on-the-feb-19th-council-agenda

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/followup-police-oversight-accountability


Police oversight is an issue that I care about, I know that power cannot be left unchecked, transparency matters. I believe these are core principles shared by the Ann Arbor community, generally. It is hard to watch events unfold across the country and just outside of our city limits. We cannot close our eyes to what’s happening around us and now is an opportunity to articulate our values and demonstrate them. None of us want a local system of justice that is biased, unfair, and hostile to people of color.


Since arriving in Ann Arbor, our Police Chief Michael Cox has recognized the importance of (and focused on) community engagement and accountability to residents. I have been deeply grateful to Chief Cox for the lines of communication he has opened up between his department and Council Members. We have monthly meetings to get updates on his department, he makes himself available for Council Members to bring resident concerns to him.


If you’ve never met Chief Cox, you might be interested in watching a conversation I had with him recently:

https://www.a2elnel.com/post/a2-covid-19-police-chief-cox


I have received a few emails in the last two days, asking me about our local Ann Arbor Police Department’s commitment to de-escalation, whether or not this is explicitly a part of their training. Council Member Eaton and I have already scheduled a meeting with Police Chief Cox to meet in the coming week and we will be discussing this among other things.


Thank you to everyone who has reached out to me on this issue. I believe that Ann Arbor can find the space for passionate and thoughtful conversations about how to ensure that our Police Department reflects our values and ensure that our police oversight commission is empowered to bring transparency and accountability, and ensure that our residents (and visitors to our community) feel heard and respected.

Elizabeth NELSON

DEMOCRAT for Ann Arbor City Council Ward 4

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PO Box 2243. Ann Arbor. MI 48106-2243