KALAMAZOO, Mich. (March 10, 2014) – Six months ago an independent study commissioned by the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety showed evidence of racial profiling.
Since that time, the department’s chief, Jeff Hadley, said public safety has made changes for the better but the problem is only going to get better over time.
Chief Hadley said when the study first came out, his officers were upset and hurt by the results but now, months later, they will to take steps towards improving a relationship with the community.
Hadley said racial tensions with the police have existed around the United States for decades.
“If you look at the major points of civil unrest in this country, over the past 50 to 60 years, generally there are two common denominators, a member of the community and a member of law enforcement,” Chief Hadley said.
Those tensions were recently brought to the surface after a racial profiling study showed black drivers were nearly three times more likely to get pulled over in Kalamazoo.
Hadley was asked by the Kalamazoo City Commission to show what progress has been made. He said one noticeable change is the way officers are interacting with the public today.
“You get to know them and they get to know you. It’s pretty simple,” said Chief Hadley. “Really, human dynamic, but it has gotten lost on law enforcement.”
Other visible changes include the number of traffic stops in general. Since the study, the number of drivers pulled over have been cut in half.
Hadley said for each less traffic stop, that is one less negative interaction with a police officer.
He said the department has gone a step further, making follow-up calls to people in the community.
“Did you get the service you asked for? Did they do what you needed them to do and all that? Really have a conversation about that,” he said.
Some City Commissioners called for more ways to measure progress in the department. Hadley said there is no timeline for another racial profiling study but if one was conducted he has confidence that the city would see improvement.
He also instituted some new guidelines about asking for consent to search people and vehicles. He said just because officers can legally ask to search something doesn’t mean they should.
The new policy is also expected to cut down on the number of negative interactions with police in the community.