LIVONIA, Mich. (WXYZ) — The Livonia City Council is under criticism for its recent handling of civil rights complaints related to police made at a public meeting.
It was a virtual council meeting in Livonia that ended in a manner some in the civil rights community say was unacceptable. Today, the council vice president says there’s an explanation for it.
During a recent virtual Livonia City Council meeting, community members made complaints about alleged racial profiling by police. During public comment, they gave examples of the same issues they say sparked marches six months ago and even a billboard campaign.
“I’d like to know if you think that it’s acceptable for a child to be forced out of a car, at gunpoint," one person said during the public meeting. "Is it acceptable after a fun day of roller skating, just because someone of the same race committed a crime?”
In the seconds that followed, council members give no response appearing to dismiss it and instead joked about a proposed Chick Fil A restaurant coming to town.
Deeply offended, and furious about the exchange, community activists in support of the Black Lives Matter movement expressed their anger over the situation.
“Pathetic to see people treated that way when they come to meetings and take their time to engage,” said Delisha Upshaw, a local civil rights activist.
Activist Sara Overwater echoed the same sentiment.
“At this point in time, we don’t even have the ears of Livonia City Council, unfortunately,” Overwater said.
In response, city council vice president Scott Bahr, who says there was no doubt they heard complaints and took them seriously despite how things looked.
“It was a light-hearted communication, about a previous matter we discussed," Bahr said. "Not related to those comments.”
He added that equal treatment of all people in Livonia remains a top priority.
“Racial profiling is no laughing matter," Bahr said. "We’ve spent hours and hours on this subject since the May and June time frame.”
Additionally, Bahr released this statement: "We did not talk about the Chick Fil A instead. The council president closed the audience communication, asking twice if there were any other comments, then asked for a motion to adjourn. We were clearly on another topic entirely which referenced something from earlier in the meeting."
Livonia mayor also released the below statement:
“In the past year, the City of Livonia has made important progress in building on the trust our community has in our Police Department. There’s still work to do to ensure that Livonia is a City for All – a place where everyone feels welcome...”
The statement goes on to say that the council has done the following to address systemic issues:
- Required Diversity, Equity and Inclusion training programs for City employees.
- Established the Police and Community Together (PACT) website, displaying increased data transparency.
- Engaged in courageous conversations with residents and community partners.
The Livonia Police Department declined an interview, instead referring 7 Action News to the mayor's statement.