Police Chief Hart “outraged” at senior White House official’s comments about Flint Police Department

By Tom Travis

Flint Chief of Police, Phil Hart said in an email released by The City of Flint Wednesday afternoon that,  “On behalf of all the hardworking men and women in the Flint Police Department, I am outraged at this callous and unnecessary attack on our department.”

Chief of Police, Phil Hart (l), Mayor Sheldon Neeley and Fire Chief, Raymond Barton (r) at a press conference in March 2020. (Photo by Tom Travis)

Hart was responding to comments made about the Flint Police Department by the White House Deputy Assistant to Trump, Ja’Ron Smith. Smith said, in reference to policing policies, that both Minneapolis and Flint operate “under out-of-date use-of-force policies.”

Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday that limits use of chokeholds to situations when an officer is “met with deadly force.”

Ja’Ron Smith is President Donald Trump’s Deputy Director of the Office of American Innovation. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The email from the City of Flint further stated that Trump’s executive order “falls short of banning the maneuver blamed for the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and untold others nationwide.”

Chief Hart clarifies Flint Police Department’s policing policy

“The use of choke holds is banned throughout the entire state of Michigan and has been for decades. Don’t make Flint the scapegoat for your policy shortcomings,”  Hart said in the statement.

“To be clear, the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards stopped allowing police to use choke holds in the early to mid-1980’s,”  he said.

The City’s email stated that “Ja’Ron Smith, White House deputy assistant to the president, said: “When you look at Flint or Minneapolis those police departments haven’t updated their use of force policies for years.”

Mayor Sheldon Neeley also weighed in at the end of the email, commenting, “The Trump administration could learn a thing or two from Flint and the state of Michigan. Here, Flint police were dispatched to protect protesters, not silence them.”

A resolution declaring a “duty to intervene” in cases of police brutality

EVM reported last week action taken by the City Council that passed a resolution of “duty to intervene” in cases of police brutality. A resolution the council considered and passed last week was a resolution to support the implementation of a “duty to intervene” in cases of police brutality.

Flint Police vehicle parked in front of City Hall on Saginaw Street downtown Flint. (Photo by Tom Travis)

The resolution recalled recent events like the murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. It stated in part, “Whereas, these shocking and unwarranted deaths among countless others call for a reform across the Country and locally due to systemic racism that has gone without redress. The City of Flint Police Department is renewing and rededicating its solemn oath to serve and to protect the citizenry and all who enter the boundaries of the City of Flint.”

“To demonstrate this renewal and rededication and further begin to rebuild trust in community, the City of Flint Police department under the leadership of Chief Phil Hart, and in accordance with Flint City Ordinance 2-79 will adopt the Duty to Intervene as a part of its current Code of Conduct and Employee Discipline Policy.”

“The Duty to Intervene shall require sworn and unsworn employees, present at any scene where physical force is being applied, to either stop, or attempt to stop another employee, when force is being inappropriately applied or no longer required.” The resolution passed on a nine yes, zero no vote.

EVM Assistant Editor and City Beat reporter Tom Travis can be reached at tomntravis@gmail.com.

Author: Tom Travis

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