State commission makes recommendations to improve police, commun - WNEM TV 5

State commission makes recommendations to improve police, community relations

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FLINT, MI (WNEM) -

The state is working to build trust between the community and the people sworn to protect it.

The Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards is making new recommendations to improve the relationships between the public and police officers.

The recommendations focus on creating and improving an understanding of mental health issues, de-escalating conflicts and being fair to people of all races and ethnicities.

"Twelve years ago I worked for corrections and there wasn't an equal ratio percentage. We know that," Ray Collins said.

Collins said it's hard to find an urban police force that reflects the community it serves. It seems the state is in agreement.

The commission announced 16 recommendations to improve relations between the community. One recommendation is to diversify the workforce.

"Just equaling out the ratio," Collins said.

The report also urges agencies to use social media to reach the communities they serve and to engage with the community in a more non-enforcement role. That includes doing more with young people and schools.

"Treat people as you want to be treated," Collins said.

In Flint, where police have their hands full, resident Brenda Watson said she would like to see the police force increase in size in order to better protect the community.

"I definitely feel that they are trying, but we have to all pull together and work together," Watson said.

Flint Police Chief Timothy Johnson said he has been trying to diversify his department from day one.

"We're working extremely hard on trying to reach out to all areas in this city. Not just certain areas, but all areas to get good candidates that can come in here and serve and be more respective to the citizens in this city because they understand because they're from this area," Johnson said.

He said his biggest struggle is trying to get more financial resources for a department already suffering from a lack of resources.

"From a budget standpoint, it's like pulling nails to try to get any financial assistance for this police department from the people who are in the position to assist us," Johnson said.

Residents said it's also important for the community to work with police and that means speaking out when they see something going on.

Cory Hamilton, Saginaw resident, said he believes the police can do a better job of building trust in his community.

"I would like to see the police show up when we call," Hamilton said.

He believes their response times are lagging, putting his fellow residents in a tough spot.

"It puts us in an awkward position in where we have to protect our own family, which will cause more issues in the end when the police can just come out and do their job," Hamilton said.

Gov. Rick Snyder directed the commission to find ways to improve relations between the public and police.

Saginaw resident Wanda Morris thinks officers in blue are doing good work.

"I have no complaints with them, none whatsoever. They're doing a wonderful job. When you call them they're always there. They're always there to help and assist and give good advice and everything," Morris said.

The state wants to see law enforcement focus on improving trust in three areas - community engagement, training and recruitment.

"We're always focusing on constant in-house training to better those relationships. We teach our officers how to deal with the community in a more positive way," Saginaw Police Det. Reggie Williams said.

He said building trust with the city's residents has been a priority for years. Williams said residents can do their part to keep a strong dialogue with police going.

"Attending neighborhood watch meetings. I think responding to our Facebook. You know we get a lot of concerns and comments on our Facebook page, which we try to respond to as much as we can," Williams said.

He also believes his officers do a solid job with response times.

As for Hamilton, he isn't convinced. He said he hopes for quick help in the event he ever needs it.

"It would mean that they really are concerned and that they care about us," Hamilton said.

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