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City commission rescinds formation of Citizen Advisory Board

Members of the Mount Pleasant Police Department speak at the city commission meeting on Dec. 10 in Mount Pleasant City Hall.

A unified group of current and former law enforcement officers moved the Mount Pleasant City Commission to rescind the formation of a Citizen Advisory Board with a 5-2 vote at the Dec. 10 commission meeting. 

Commissioners Kathleen Ling and William Joseph voted in support of the Citizen Advisory Board. 

City Commissioner Tony Kulick proposed the rescinding of a CAB, arguing there would be a “great deal of overlap” between the duties of a CAB and existing oversight groups which include the Isabella County Human Rights Committee, the City and Central Michigan Liaison Group and the Mount Pleasant Area Diversity group, which proposed the idea of forming the Citizen Advisory Board.

  • The Isabella County Human Rights Committee — provides programming and education to the county on issues related to enhancing interaction between diverse members of Isabella County; serves as a liaison between the county and other local diversity and minority organizations; collects data regarding discrimination and harassment within Isabella County and shares the analysis of the data with recommendations for action; monitors the actions taken by appropriate government bodies regarding acts of discrimination and collaborates with other organizations whose goal is equality. 
  • The Mount Pleasant Area Diversity Group — employs a community-based inclusion approach to foster and promote acceptance and appreciation of diversity. The group is committed to actively challenging the obstacles inhibiting the community’s ability to respect, value and be sensitive to diversity. 
  • The City and Central Michigan Liaison Group— serves as a vehicle for ongoing dialogue between students, residents, city officials and university officials. 

In his resolution, Kulick recommended the Department of Public Safety Director Paul Lauria meet with the three groups to increase community transparency, which was the main purpose of the advisory board. 

“Even if you knew you eventually wanted a Citizens Advisory Board, to create one two weeks after it was proposed was not a decision that gives your citizens confidence is your leadership,” said former Mayor Bruce Kilmer in an email to the city commission. “Your rush to cater to the demands of a small group of people was not wise.” 

Kilmer advised the commission to slow down, take their time and listen to those entrusted to be city manager and police officers. 

During the public input section of the meeting, Mount Pleasant police officers Dan Gaffka and Brandon Bliss stood on either side of Officer Chuck Morrison as he gave a rousing speech to the commission members. Morrison represented members of the Mount Pleasant Police Department who believed their voices were not considered when the commission moved to approve the formation of the advisory board at a Nov. 26 meeting.

Since 2015, seven complaints have been made to the city about police enforcement, and none of them revolved around gender, race or discrimination. Morrison said in the same time period there have been more than 71,000 calls made to the police department requesting service, 17,000 written police reports, 8,000 traffic citations and 9,400 people arrested. 

“Many of the statements made during the Nov. 26 meeting revolved around vague accusations and outright lies that are not a problem in our community,” Morrison said. “To say that there is corruption here because it exists in other places is no different than judging people by their appearance.

“Accountability is a required backbone to the law enforcement profession." 

On behalf of the Mount Pleasant Police Department, Morrison said the department was insulted there was questioning regarding the decision-making abilities of law enforcement. 

Major Allison Quast-Lents apologized for any misunderstanding and not appropriately defending Mount Pleasant police officers. 

“People come into this community with preconceived notions of what police officers do, say and are, and that is not what our police officers are (in Mount Pleasant),” Quast-Lents said. 

Lauria was the last person to speak on the topic. 

“I am pledging to this community that no acts of discrimination and police abuse will be tolerated,” the public safety director said. “I get the fears ... we will work on that and I do not need a directive to do that.”