RJC: Town Hall – Presenter’s Notes

NOTE: The following information was presented at the Town Hall on Town/Gown Race Relations held by the Racial Justice Coalition in Macomb’s City Hall on 1/30/2020.

Town Hall: 1/30/2020 6-8 pm, Macomb City Hall

Regina’s Comments: “Welcome, and thank you for attending this Town Hall. We wish to thank all who gave us affidavits, support, witness, and resources of time and expertise that we might begin our work tonight. 

The Democratic Women of McDonough County has remained the main group sustaining pressure on our city and community leaders to address the racism in our community after white business owners posted dehumanizing signs all over town calling for the firing of the first Black president of WIU. 

We are not experts. We are volunteer community members who are deeply concerned about our under-represented community members. But we are fortunate to have expert direction in our work. At this time, we wish to acknowledge the hard work, leadership, and expertise of Civil Rights Hero and EXPERT, Dr. Essie Rutledge, for her tireless mentoring of our members and willingness to help us work on these issues. Thank you, Dr. Rutledge.

Our members have attended several community forums led by respected nonviolence scholar Dr. J.Q. Adams have been organized by community leaders representing the city, WIU, business owners, and one member representing the currently defunct NAACP.  However, our members in attendance at those observed that the community conversations focused strongly on nonviolent communication, rather than on actions to promote the causes of equity and restorative justice. 

That type of format had the unfortunate side effect of prioritizing and centering the feelings of white people, including some of those who had put up the signs, even over the safety concerns of our Black community members, many who have expressed they experience fear of retaliation and other negative consequences for speaking up. Indeed, several Black community members and our own members have related explicit threats against them by certain police officers should they complain. This is why we are using our white privilege to ensure our community hears their concerns, despite the fear and risk of possible retaliation.

We have identified immediate and overwhelming needs for redressing the real discrimination and violence faced by our communities of color, and that is what we are here to begin doing.

In this space, let us center the needs, safety, dignity, value, and quality of life of our Black, Hispanic, Latino, and Native American community members, international students, and those of immigrant heritage. Those are the community members subjected to the trauma and ongoing intergenerational harm of implicit bias, acts of bigotry and marginalization, and race-based violence.

We are here to strengthen our resolve to take concrete steps to redress the issues we are confronted with. While we encourage all efforts in our community to help white community members learn about these issues, recent incidents of harm done to members of our Black community specifically have made it clear to us that we cannot wait to get to this vital racial justice work in our community. 

Structural racism allows bias to remain as possible variables in systems of power and authority. It is the ongoing lack of attention and effort to address these broken structures which leaves the risk for bias to be expressed by public servants and elected or appointed officials in public policy and procedure. It is those structures which we hope to come together as a community to address over time.

With that having been said, let’s move beyond words and into action. We hope you’ll join us in our effort to make this community a safe, welcoming, and prosperous place for all our residents by taking a strong public anti-racist stance, and fixing the structures that prevent us from achieving equality. 

Let us begin with a brief introduction into bias by Candace Whitman, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor from Wild Moon Counseling. 

[Candace presents Implicit Bias]

  • [Reading of the Macomb Police Chief’s Comments & Why We Protect Their Identities]

[Reading of the Affidavits]

  • “Macomb Man Experience of Being Black & Gay in Our Community” – Becky Danner
  • “Affidavit of Macomb Bomber Mom” – Read by Heather McMeekan
  • “Macomb Resident Victim of Mistaken (Black) Identity Assaulted In His Own Home by MPD” – Read by Candace Whitman, LCPC

Addressing Structural Bias in agencies/policies/training/procedures/outreach

• Policing
• Busing: (Adherance to all IEP’s, and Title IX; demand for second adult to ride; investigate comments made by Anthony Read to parents)
• Schools: (our asks from the petition)
• Places of Employment: (Getting the EOFHC to hear discrimination cases in the city
• Justice System: (Establishing a watchdog group to witness hearings; establishing a jail outreach group; evaluation system for our local State’s Attorney and public defenders, allow 2 – 1 hour visits for families of incarcerated persons (who aren’t on restrictions) instead of the 1 – 30 minute time slot they get; setting up ride-alongs for white community members.)
• Healthcare System: (Getting Black/Hispanic/Latino community members appointed on the MDH, North Central, McDonough County Health Department Boards)

Our request to Mayor Inman and the Macomb City Council:

1.  Open an investigation into the functioning and leadership of the Macomb Police Department

2.  Issue a Proclamation declaring Macomb an open and welcoming city for all, AND

  • condemning all acts of bigotry and intolerance, AND
  • calling on ALL city and county boards, commissions, and committees to issue the same or sign on

3. Encourage all City Council members to canvass their wards at least annually so they are regularly directly informed about the conditions in the city as experienced by those they represent

4. Provide at least two method(s) of outreach to communicate, educate, and inform. Some examples City Council members in other communities provide include holding Town Halls, Coffee Conversations, online reporting forms, newsletters, FB pages, letters to the editor of the paper, etc.

5.  Put a more robust online reporting form for such concerns on the city website, with an explanation as to who receives the complaints, how they are evaluated, in what time frame, and how long before someone can expect a response

6. Solicit information from the public about other negative experiences regarding racism/xenophobia/hate speech, ensuring a transparent reporting process to help community members feel safe when making such reports

7. AMEND the “complaint reporting form” on the Macomb Police Department website to comply with “Best Practices” according to the International Association of Chiefs of Police

8. Annually solicit data about the public perception regarding the culture and functioning of the leadership and members of the Macomb Police Department

9. Publish an annual report detailing how such information informs police department leadership, hiring, training, advancement, and functioning

10.  Place that information on the city website, linked to a web form for solicitation of feedback from the community

11.  Update the city website listing for the “Police and Fire Commission” to include:

  •  Dates, times of meetings
  •  Contact info for all members
  • A description of the purpose, scope, and function of the commission
  •  Links to all relevant governing documents and policies
  •  Creation of a web form for all to submit a complaint/concern to the commission’s members

Macomb School District – Request for Remedy

We expect District 185 to take a pro-active stance towards Title IX. Addressing our school district’s lack of racial & ethnic representation at all levels of education for our children in our community remains an unmet need in our community. We ask you, the members of the Macomb School Board, to direct our school administrators to prioritize desegregating the teaching and administrative staff.

Remedies include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. The district immediately designate a Title IX coordinator who has been professionally trained to respond to complaints of misconduct.
  2. Student rights under Title IX should be clearly posted and easily accessible on the website and in poster form in the hallways.
  3. Revise the 185 Handbook to clearly and prominently communicate Title IX policy, filing and investigation procedures, and the identity, phone number, and email of the coordinator.
  4. All reports of assaults should be communicated to district parents within 24 hours of the initial complaint in a format that protects the identities of the students and in full compliance with FERPA laws.
  5. Teachers and administrators be trained to examine their own assumptions and biases about the cultural prejudices and myths that misguidedly blame victims and excuse perpetrators.
  6. Establish a CULTURAL COMPETENCY TASK FORCE with Black, Hispanic, Latino, and Native American community members to evaluate Macomb’s school environment and advise on policy and procedure
    • Direct them to evaluate the existing student code of conduct, paying special attention to items which disproportionately violate the human and civil rights of under-represented students, such as:
      1. outdated dress code
      2. subjective disciplinary actions which allow implicit bias
      3. lack of clarity in Title IX issues
      4. gender bias
      5. neglect of inclusive language and support for students of color, various faith backgrounds or LGBTQ+ students

Macomb Police Department

At this time, the Democratic Women of McDonough County renews our call for Chief Barker to step down.

Other action items: 

  1. Fix the obstructive complaint procedure; 
  2. Train all department employees in implicit bias and de-escalation procedures. 
  3. Prohibit Macomb P.D. Officers from visiting Black people’s places of employment without a current, active complaint, request for aid, or in the event of an investigation. 
  4. Ending “broken windows policing” practices of overenforcement of petty crimes in disproportionately large numbers of non-white persons in our community, 
  5. Get the Police/Fire Commission information current on Macomb’s website, advertise the meetings, and explain the process for having a complaint heard by the commission. 
  6. Hire or contract with Black police officers. 

Remedy #1: Fix the obstructive complaint procedure

Exercept from International Association of Chiefs of Police: “Which Complaints to Accept – A simple declaration stating that ALL complaints against any member of the police department will be received and investigated leaves little room for dispute. CALEA Accreditation Standard # 52.1.1 states, “A written directive requires all complaints against the agency or its employees be investigated, to include anonymous complaints.” It also prevents the age-old problem of certain complaints being discounted or rejected for purely subjective reasons.

It is difficult to explain to a citizen why one complaint was accepted and one rejected for basically the same offense. This kind of inconsistency brings a supervisor’s objectivity into question when his or her peer has accepted a complaint in the past for a similar offense. 

It is important for each department to, 1) set the rationale for receiving complaints, 2) assign a person the task of receiving them, and 3) specify in a formal policy format which complaints are accepted. 

A bright line rule, stating clearly that all agency employees will accept any and all complaints is the easiest to understand and teach other employees. It is not the easiest for most employees to accept. Some departments feel that the credibility of the complainant should be assured by requiring a sworn statement from those who make the complaint. This can ensure sincerity, but it can also discourage honest people who may be skeptical or reticent. 

At no time should a department seek to discourage a person from making a complaint because the investigation process is embarrassing or difficult. A Community’s trust in their local police department is solidified when our citizens know we want their input and will amend policies, procedures and behaviors if we find we have made mistakes.

Format of Acceptance:  One common way to receive a complaint is through a formal written statement. However, a police department wanting to portray an image of true responsiveness will accept complaints in any form – by phone, mail, in person, e-mail, or web form. It is highly recommended that anonymous complaints not only be accepted, but that the department’s policy clearly say so. Agencies run the risk of losing valuable community input if the complaint process is not clear and simple.”

Source: Best Practices Guide for Internal Affairs A Strategy for Smaller Departments” By Deputy Chief Beau Thurnauer, East Hartford, Connecticut, Police Department Chief of Police, Coventry, Connecticut, Police Department [retired]. Available: https://www.theiacp.org/sites/default/files/2018-08/BP-InternalAffairs.pdf