Group comes together for straight talk on race and police - WNEM TV 5

I-Team Report

Group comes together for straight talk on race and police

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

The summer of 2015 was an explosive one for police and the people they’re sworn to serve and protect.

Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, are among the American towns where years of frustration over alleged police misconduct boiled over.

Hand wringing, name-calling and finger pointing was the response in many of the places struck by these spasms of violence. But in Saginaw they wanted to do it differently and tamp down trouble before it strikes. And they wanted to do it quietly with a low-key, behind the scenes effort that goes by the name of ALPACT.

“ALPACT stands for Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust,” said Lt. Marv Jenkins with the Michigan State Police.

And until now, almost nobody new ALPACT existed.

TV5's I-Team was the first local media outlet given a glimpse inside.

Police, prosecutors, clergy, mental health experts and community leaders joined in conversation that was both wide ranging and very blunt.

Among the leaders of this effort to keep the peace is Carl Williams, a former State Representative for the Saginaw area.

“Let’s talk about this ‘driving while black’ issue. Let’s talk about some of the inequities we have in law enforcement,” Williams said.

Williams hasn’t lost touch with the people and community he’s served for most of his adult life.

“Saginaw’s no different from any other city in America. That trust had eroded,” said Williams.

This was evident in the aftermath of the police shooting death of Milton Hall, back in July of 2012 in Saginaw.

The idea of the meetings is to open the dialogue and get all sides talking to each other now.

“So that if a crisis like the Milton Hall incident does occur, you have advocates and leaders already in place with the kinds of relationship so you can sit down and talk and try to resolve the issue,” said Williams.

These meetings are designed to break down barriers, tell the truth, learn, and sometimes be surprised by what really matters in the neighborhoods.

“The things that are important to them. Issues that they feel need to be addressed. A lot of times are issues, that as law enforcement, we never even saw as an issue,” said Lt. Jenkins.

Charles Schoder with the MI Dept. of Civil Rights said “Getting to know someone on a personal level, by far and away, one of the best tools we’ve seen in combating some of the civil rights and social justice issues in all the communities that we serve.”

Leaders of the group say that keeping the press out keeps the focus where it should be. Asking the questions that need asking, such as why aren’t there more black cops? Also, why do some have such contempt and disrespect for the police? The group expects results and is already getting them.

“We are doing everything we can within the city to help diversify the police departments. It’s going to be a long process, but little by little we're going to chip away at it. And before you know it, we’ll be there,” said Bob Ruth, Chief of the Saginaw Police Department.

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