Ann Arbor’s Independent Community Policing Oversight Commission Faces Conflict with Police Chief

. July 6, 2020.
police commission
Stock photo courtesy of Rosemary Ketchum.

The Independent Community Policing Oversight Commission member’s display frustration with the city of Ann Arbor’s lack of effort to include citizen oversight into legislation.

Ann Arbor’s Independent Community Policing Oversight Commission (ICPOC) is not privy to police officers’ identities when reviewing an incident. Yet the committee fights to uphold their responsibility to the public in a meeting Wednesday evening. 

Officers are labeled by numbers in complaints that are reviewed by the ICPOC. According to Michigan’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) officer’s names are withheld from the commission and are referred to as ‘Officer #1, Officer #2,’ etc. for privacy concerns. This prevents the committee from tracking any specific officers to repeated offenses. Chair of the commission, Lisa Jackson, explained to council members that the commission is not requesting that officers’ names be released.

“It is not our expectation that we need to release those names to the public, but the public needs to have confidence that, as an independent review body, we have looked at those complaints,” said Jackson. “When we see 20 officers come across our desk we don’t know if it’s 20 different officers or one officer 20 times.”

Ann Arbor Chief of Police, Michael Cox, defends the department’s current procedure for reviewing complaints by claiming that history is not relevant when reviewing an isolated incident.

“If the person is a frequent flyer or it’s the first time that we’ve looked into it, it should be the same as far as what we find. Media attention is on something totally different — they might attach onto the fact that someone has been investigated before, but as far as the investigation itself, it [officer’s identity] shouldn’t have any impact.” said Cox. 

However, another rule included in the CBA states that the previous 24 months of an officer’s history can be taken into account. Commission member Jude Walton asserted that if two years of history is considered relevant, then the CBA does support reviewing a portion of an officer’s record. 

Jackson stated that ICPOC has not been included in any recent policy changes, and the city has ignored the valuable oversight they provide. 

“If this Collective Bargaining Agreement goes forward as is, we’ll continue for three years to have no input from any citizen oversight body. It will not have taken into account any of the last three months of reflection on citizen oversight in the United States of America,” said Jackson. 

The committee has also recommended that the duration of evaluation be extended from two years to seven. Chief Cox believes that an extension of that size is excessive.

“You want people to have the ability to rehabilitate themselves if they make mistakes along the way,” said Cox. 

ICPOC board members expressed their frustration with the lack of cooperation from the city. Jackson cites seeking out support from resources outside of Ann Arbor to advocate for citizen’s review. Board member Sarah Burch questioned the board’s purpose if the city displays minimal interest in the ICPOC’s perspective. 

“The commission’s purpose is to work along with the police. We might as well not exist if we are not able to actively participate,” said Burch. 

City Council will review the requests of ICPOC at their meeting on Monday, July 6. If the requests are not approved, the commission will continue negotiations until procedures change. 

Although the ICPOC is facing obstacles with city legislation, Jackson and the commission is committed to being an accountable public service for the people.

“The problem in Ann Arbor is that we don’t have established processes for us to be included in these conversations,” said Jackson. “The public — locally certainly, and even nationally — are understanding the value of civilian oversight. But institutions are much slower to change, and we all have some expectation of change now. We feel the urgency from the people.”The next City Council Meeting will take place on Monday, July 6 starting at 7pm. More information can be found on the cities calendar here.

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