Detroit City council voted unanimously today to restore the powers of the Board of Police Commissioners as originally described in the city charter. The board’s authority was reduced to an advisory role as part of the bankruptcy agreement. The resolution was authored by Council member Mary Sheffield. The vote comes after nine months of community organizing and campaigning by Michigan United.
“We are deeply satisfied to see the city council heed the will of the people to restore the full powers of our police commission.” Said Deacon Thomas of the Michigan United Detroit Pastoral Alliance for Change at a press conference shortly before the vote. “Over many months, clergy and community came together to demand democracy, oversight and public accountability for our police.”
Clergy members began to work together at Michigan United to restore the board of police commissioners early this year with a petition drive amongst their parishioners. They then met with each city council member and gathered most of their signatures on a letter that was the inspiration for Sheffield’s resolution.
Before the council voted, there was a period of public comment. “We need to restore the powers of the police commissioners for the protection of the people.” said Rev. Harvey Presberry of Michigan United Pastoral Alliance for Change. “They provide another level of accountability. Police are less likely to abuse people they are going to have to answer to.”
“This is important.” Said Ron Scott, spokesperson for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and advocate of the Board of Police Commissioners. “For young people, especially young African Americans, to have faith in the system, we have to make sure that this resolution continues.”
Mayor Duggan’s Chief of Staff Alexis Wiley pledged on his behalf to support the reinstatement of the commissioners.
Councilwoman Sheffield acknowledged the work of Michigan United. “This has really opened up the lines of communications between the council, the board and the mayor’s office.” Sheffield said. “I don’t think that would have happened without you moving this issue forward.”