Mayor Dobies Proposes Community Police Oversight Commission To Enhance Policing Transparency, Policymaking Processes
Jackson, MI — Jackson Mayor Derek Dobies today announced plans to introduce a Community Police Oversight Commission to the City Council to continue to build trust, transparency, and public engagement with respect to policing in the city. The announcement comes just one week after he spearheaded an additional $1.5 million in new, federal funding to combat gun violence and hire social workers at the city police department.
Mayor Dobies said the ordinance is the result of community-driven conversations in the wake of the George Floyd murder and subsequent advocacy last year. In 2020, Dobies signed onto both the 8 Can’t Wait Pledge, and President Obama’s Reimagining Police Pledge to review police use of force policies, engage the Jackson community by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories, report those findings for review and feedback in the community, and reform police use of force policies. Dobies said the city has reviewed and updated its own use of force policy since then, and this proposed commission would make that process more regular.
“Our city has always led in matters of transparency and accountability, and our police department’s engagement with the community is unparalleled,” said Mayor DOBIES. “Creating this commission will allow our city to continue our proactive leadership in the smart, equitable, community-oriented policing that the Jackson Police Department strives for and that our community deserves.”
The City of Jackson Human Relations Commission and Racial Equity Commission both recently advocated drafts of similar ordinances establishing a Community Police Oversight Commission. Mayor Dobies worked with the City Manager, Director of Police & Fire Services and the Chief Equity Officer on drafting the final proposed ordinance, and said that the policy is a step forward in building a more inclusive, transparent local government.
The ordinance would create a five member board of residents or business owners of the city who reflects the City of Jackson’s diverse population, including income level, race, ethnicity, faith, age, gender, sexual orientation, and experience. It would charge the commission with advising the Director of Police & Fire Services on community relations, policies, procedures, training, recruiting, hiring and other applicable programming. The ordinance also gives the commission advisory responsibilities on the budget, rules and regulations for misconduct, complaints and certain limited investigatory powers within the department.
“We shouldn’t wait around for the next crisis to hit, or movement to arise, to have public examination of policies that allow for use of deadly force. It should be ongoing,” said Mayor DOBIES. “And through proactive, public engagement and dialogue we can better moderate any future, unwarranted indignation against local policing; when we agree to rules and processes together, we are better positioned to understand and validate them when they’re applied. That’s how this policy actually supports our men and women in blue.”
Public bodies that have codified police oversight are not uncommon in Michigan, and variants of this policy exist in cities like Detroit, Lansing, Ann Arbor, Grosse Ile, and East Lansing.
On June 18 of this year, Mayor Dobies and Director Elmer Hitt publicly spoke about the development of the Community Police Oversight Commission at the 2021 Jackson Juneteenth panel “Racial Inequities — Social Justice and Criminal Justice Reform” at the Michigan Theatre (48 min. into video).
A draft of the Community Police Oversight Commission can be viewed here. Mayor Dobies plans to introduce the proposal at the September 14th City Council meeting.