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City commission approves proposal to establish citizen advisory board

The Mount Pleasant City Commission listens to comments from the public at the meeting on Nov. 12 in the Mount Pleasant City Hall.

“Would the people in the audience who came to support this proposal please raise your hand,” said Mount Pleasant resident Joyce Hendricks during the public input section of the Nov. 12 Mount Pleasant City Commission meeting. 

Around 30 Mount Pleasant community members and Central Michigan University students raised their hands in unison, showing the significance of a proposal that would enhance the communication between police officers and the community. 

The Mount Pleasant City Commission went on to formally receive and approve the proposal to establish a Citizen Advisory Board (CAB), making it an item on the upcoming Nov. 27 agenda. 

There have been between one and five complaints filed against the police department in each of the last four or five years, said City Manager Nancy Ridley.  

“This could mean three things: there are no conduct issues, people do not know how to file complaints when they have them or people are fearful of filing a complaint,” she said. “There is probably a combination of all three.” 

The CAB would be composed of three members – the first appointed by city commission, the second by the Student Government Association at CMU and the third by the Mount Pleasant Area Diversity Group.   

Ridley described the establishment of a CAB as a “good first step.” She said it would enhance dialogue between local law enforcement and Mount Pleasant minorities and would investigate how complaints are handled and where they come from. 

A member of the Mount Pleasant Area Diversity Group said the proposal was made in response to the Black Lives Matter movement and rising tensions between police officers and minority communities in the nation.  

Australyah Coleman, president of the NAACP at CMU, spoke on behalf of the students. 

“If we can work from outside our campus toward the inside of campus and have the influence, it would greatly affect Central Michigan University,” Coleman said. 

CMU has embraced diversity by recruiting people of color from different parts of Michigan and other states, said CMU faculty member April Burke. 

“In the same way CMU has taken steps in a very positive direction, Mount Pleasant has a very similar opportunity,” Burke said. “There is a national crisis because of the lack of police oversight.” 

Establishing a CAB is one way Mount Pleasant can be a leader in taking initiative to try to prevent the types of problems existing on the national scale, she added.  

Isabella County Commissioner James Moreno attended the meeting to speak to the commission. 

The Mount Pleasant Police and Public Safety conducts a police academy, which Moreno said he has taken part in. Moreno said the academy was for regular citizens to experience different aspects of being a police officer.

“(While riding along with a police officer), I discovered that (Mount Pleasant) is very different at 2 and 3 a.m. -- quite spooky,” Moreno said. “It put things in perspective.” 

Although financial concerns constricted the police academy until it no longer existed, Moreno said the police academy would be a good additional component of the CAB. 

Over the previous few days, the comments received by the city commission were mostly positive, Commissioner William Joseph said. 

Commissioner Tony Kulick however, strongly opposed the establishment of CAB. 

“There is an advantage in increasing communication, but I feel like this is a solution looking for a problem that does not exist in our community,” Kulick said. 

Kulick’s comments warranted scoffs from members of CMU’s Office of Inclusion and Diversity. 

The proposal passed 6-1. 

Next, the commission will take the appropriate steps to re-word the proposal so that expectations are met and acted upon, Ridley said.