Detroit Police board meets amidst growing calls for reform

Detroit police car
Posted at 8:01 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 20:43:46-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — As protests against police brutality reach day 14 in Detroit, the board charged with overseeing the city’s police department met for the first time since the defund the police movement took hold.

The ten-member Detroit Board of Police Commissioners voted unanimously to “review and enhance policies and practices by DPD around the escalation, intervention and uses of force and requirement to report threats to use force.”

Members also discussed potential strategies to create better relationships between citizens and police, like having officers go door-to-door in the neighborhoods they patrol.

Others raised questions about the SWAT-style gear worn by officers in the early days of protests downtown against police brutality.

Board member Willie Burton, a reliable critic of Chief James Craig, asked how much the department has spent on military-style equipment.

None, said a department representative.

Across the country, reform advocates have pushed to hire more officers who live in the cities where they police. While Detroit once had a residency requirement for officers, the state eliminated it in 1999.

1,914 officers live outside of the city limits, according to Lt. James Cole. DPD’s website says it has 2,200 sworn officers.

“That’s terrible,” said board member William Davis.

The most contentious moment of today’s meeting came when the board voted to elect new leadership for the next year.

Willie Bell, a former Detroit Police officer, has led the board several times over the last 10 years and was narrowly elected again today.

The current vice-chair, Annie Holt, was re-elected too.

Board members hoping for new leadership, including Rev. Jim Holley, weren't happy.

“I’m so disappointed with this, (the) way you guys are running this place,” Holley said. “It’s just the same thing over and over and over. Same negroes over and over and over.”

While the board grapples with how to reform the department, it will also have to contend with a spike in crime. At the same meeting, a DPD official said that homicides are up 26% this year, non-fatal shootings are up 43% and aggravated assaults have risen 6%.