Local faith leaders held a forum on creating better relationships between police and Washtenaw County residents.
Pastor Denese Brown from Faith Assembly Church in Ypsilanti moderated the panel discussion. Brown says she appreciated the candor of Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton and Ypsilanti Police Chief Tony DeGiusti.
“We talked about the fact that everybody needs to be accountable. Not just the police officers, the pastors, everybody. So some kind of accountability, some way that the community can get more involved, more citizen involvement is critical.”
Brown says the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice wants local law enforcement to receive additional training to understand issues like racial injustice and mental illness.
Clayton says the Sheriff’s Office has begun putting together a training program to help officers de-escalate tense situations.
“And this will be a county wide initiative, so it won’t just be the Sheriff’s Office. It’ll be the Ann Arbor Police Department, the Ypsilanti Police Department. We’re hoping to have 30-40 total trained CIT specialists. They’ll have the extra training to have enhanced skills to manage situations when people are in mental health crisis.”
Clayton says officers will begin training later this month. Brown says the coalition of faith leaders is also asking for an agreement between police agencies on what constitutes use of force.
Currently, there is no countywide guideline on when--and how much-- physical force is necessary for police to use on civilians.