Police reform begins with civilian oversight

Police reform has been on the minds of many folks nationwide following a spate of police shootings of unarmed suspects.
Recently, a Hamtramck-based writer proposed, in an opinion article in modeldmedia.com, to abolish the Hamtramck Police Department.
As you would expect, writer Elizabeth Garrett’s editorial drew a lot of attention and blowback.
No matter what you think of Garrett’s proposal, she did correctly point out Hamtramck’s long history of officers being abusive, and costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and lawsuit settlements throughout the years.
She incorrectly, however, claimed that Hamtramck has a low rate of crime – especially violent crime.
While Hamtramck is relatively safe, it is an inner city surrounded by some of the poorest neighborhoods in Detroit.
It was just recently that Hamtramck was victimized by armed suspects who were viciously attacking and robbing people on the streets. Good old-fashioned police work led to their arrests.
There has also been increased pressure for officers to crack down on careless and speeding drivers.
Certainly, it’s always worth discussing what we want our police department to do every so often.
To that end, it has been proposed to establish a civilian police commission to tackle the many thorny issues policing raises. For some reason, this never gained traction.
It is a proposal that is long overdue for the city council and administration to tackle.
Residents need a voice – and oversight — on what we want our department to do.
We disagree that the solution is to eliminate the department – which, as the old saying goes, is like “throwing out the baby with the bath water.”
Posted April 23, 2021

3 Responses to Police reform begins with civilian oversight

  1. Mark M. Koroi

    April 25, 2021 at 6:28 pm

    “For some reason this never gained traction……”

    Correct, the Hamtramck NNACP in 2009 proposed the concept of the civilian police oversight board. It went nowhere.

    During the 2017 City Council electoral campaign a debate sponsored by the Hamtramck Community Initiative the volume of citizen questions regarding establishing police oversight due to a record of misconduct and inefficiency were second only to concerns regarding economic development. While candidates felt this was a worthwhile issue – nothing was followed up on.

    The average City of Hamtramck resident has virtually no voice when it comes to complaining about the operation of the department and deficiencies in the performance of individual officer personnel.

    If, on the other hand, the chief of police did initiate disciplinary proceedings against an officer (which is rare) the officer is protected via a civil service system, union representation, availability of labor legal counsel and a collective bargaining agreement constellation of rights, including an arbitration review process.

    A civilian police oversight board acts as a counter-measure to help give the citizen a level playing field vis a vis the law enforcement agency he seeks to file a grievance against. The board acts as a neutral public body to initiate investigation of citizen complaints and provide an oversight for hiring, operational matters, and police discipline.

    In Dearborn, residents have formed Accountability For Dearborn, a non-profit group to study police misconduct issues and advocate on behalf of citizens complaining of unfair practices committed by the Dearborn P.D.:


    In Hamtramck, citizens need to unite and convince City Council that it should commence a process to study the creation of a civilian police oversight board.

    In Detroit, a civilian Board of Police Commissioners was impaneled in 1974 following the passage of a referendum in 1973 when the City of Detroit electorate voted to amend the City Charter to create such a public body.

  2. Sandy Reese McGuffie

    April 27, 2021 at 10:18 am

    What happened to the beautiful city with all of its traditions! All of the beautiful people from around the world landed there and worked hard sometimes 2 and 3 jobs to make ends meet and raise their families. There were no race issues, no animosities against our neighbors, just simple traditions and respect for one another! … Get back to your roots and reclaim your City! Shame on those that want to demolish traditions and the Police Department. This is America remember that!

  3. Mark M Koroi

    April 29, 2021 at 8:00 pm

    The City of Hamtramck Police Dept. has a history of assigning some of its officers to specialty units whose primary goal is to raise revenues for its constituent municipal members. These actions have led to both criminal charges and lawsuits involving the officers:

    (A) the COBRA anti-theft unit was composed of officers from the cash-strapped communities of Ecorse, Hamtramck and Highland Park that resulted in civil rights litigation:


    (B) the City of Hamtramck also has assigned officers to a DEA task force that resulted in a federal criminal conviction against a Hamtramck P.D. officer:


    http://www.fbi.gov/archives/detroit/press-releases/2011/former-hamtramck-police-officer-pleads-guilty-to divulging-federal-wiretap-during-highwaymen-motorcycle-club-investigation


    One wonders why Hamtramck police officers are being assigned to multi-jurisdictional units when the city has had serious local problems with such matters as speeding cars on its side streets other pressing matters

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