By Tom Travis
The City of Flint is creating a task force so that residents can have “a seat at the table” to engage with local law enforcement, according to a press release issued Monday.
“This task force will serve as the voice of the people to help bridge any gaps between the community and law enforcement.” said Pastor Jeffrey Hawkins, chairperson of the task force.
According to the press release from the City, nine Flint residents will serve on the Community Advisory Task Force to the Flint Police Department. The Task Force members include a “diverse group of members, including some who have been working toward social justice for decades and others who are new to the fight.”
Local Pastor and Epidemiologist appointed to Chair and Vice-Chair of Task Force
The Task Force includes two officers: Chairperson Hawkins, pastor of Prince of Peace missionary Baptist Church and member of the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards to which he was appointed to by Governor Gretchen Whitmer; and Vice Chairperson Dr. Debra Furr-Holden, an epidemiologist who serves as dean of Public Health at MSU, co-director of Healthy Flint Research Coordinating Center, and co-founder of African American Council in Baltimore City Police Department.
Pastor Hawkins was appointed by Mayor Neeley, and Hawkins chose the remaining task force members. An email address has been established for residents who may have questions or concerns TaskForceof Flint@gmail.com. According to Hawkins the Task Force will meet monthly.
Diverse Task Force appointed by Pastor Hawkins
Other members of the Task Force include:
–Ralph Arellano, former member of Flint City Council, former member of the Civil Service Commission, director of the Hispanic Techonolgy and Community Center, and a social justice leader in Flint for 50 years;
–Marion DeSean Booker, a Flint native, minister, volunteer and activist;
–Brandon Ray Jamison, a radio host on Club 93.7 FM and event promoter; Sherri Miller, a social worker and juvenile justice specialist;
–Adrienne Nilesans, a former after-school site coordinator, Title I parent specialist and participant in Undoing Racism workshop by the people’s Institute;
—Holly Underwood, a neighborhood block club activist and senior center board member; and
–Estephanie Ward, a graduate of UM-Flint and Mott Community College.
City of Flint responds to protests of police brutality and racial tensions
The Community Advisory Task Force was created by Mayor Sheldon Neeley, an action taken in response to the death of George Floyd. “Together, we will continue to positively move this community forward. We will continue working hand in hand with those fighting for equality and justice.” Neeley said in the press release.
George Floyd was killed May 25 during an arrest by a Minneapolis police officer. Floyd’s death sparked protests across the country and around the world, protesting police brutality, especially against minorities. According to a National Public Radio (NPR) story, the county medical examiner listed Floyd’s cause of death as “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression”.
Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and forty-six seconds during the arrest, has been charged with second-degree unintentional murder. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
Throughout the summer the Flint area has had several peaceful protests. Some of the protests were organized by a local Black Lives Matter group.
EVM assistant editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.