Leaders from the City of Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety today shared a preliminary report on the Proud Boys’ march through Kalamazoo on Aug. 15. The report, which was requested by City Manager Jim Ritsema and Mayor David Anderson, will be used to help guide the city’s plans for future protests, demonstrations and rallies.
“Hate has no place in Kalamazoo or in Southwest Michigan, and I strongly denounce the Proud Boys and other hate groups that promote racism and seek to instigate violence and mayhem through their words and actions,” Anderson said. “In the City of Kalamazoo, we embrace the diversity of our community and we strive to create a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment for all our residents.”
The City of Kalamazoo is conducting a full internal review and is seeking an independent investigation into how its Department of Public Safety prepared for and responded to the Proud Boys march, the counter-protests and ensuing violence on Aug. 15. The City Commission also created a subcommittee to develop a roadmap to prepare for future protests and demonstrations.
“The City of Kalamazoo is committed to an open, transparent and full review of these events with an eye toward continuous improvement,” Ritsema said. “This preliminary report is an important first step that will help us proactively plan our response to future public protests, demonstrations and rallies.”
The report identifies important opportunities for the City to implement protocols and practices regarding:
- Ensuring the community is kept safe before, during and after large public events.
- Proactively preventing escalation and violent confrontations whenever possible.
- Working in advance with the organizers of these events, counter-protesters and other groups
- Implementing a credentialing system for media and legal observers to ensure they are clearly identifiable to police so they can do the important work they need to do in covering or observing these public events safely.
- Reaching out to national experts to provide training for members of the media and our public safety officers on best practices to support the important work of the press and observers while promoting safety.
- Community relationships and communications
- Improving communications with the event organizers, the public, the media, observers, and medics, which requires communications before, during and after the events.
- Conducting community conversations about how the City and KDPS should approach First Amendment assemblies.
- Regular communications and updates to keep the citizens of the City of Kalamazoo informed.
- Making sure all people are treated with respect and dignity and that the City’s rules, policies and enforcement are applied to everyone fairly.
- Reviewing the City’s permitting process and ordinances.
- Reviewing successes and opportunities for improvement and changing the approach when circumstances on the ground dictate.
- Establishing measures and practices to ensure clear, objective accountability to policies and protocols.
KDPS made a strategic decision to try to reduce tensions and de-escalate through avoiding a heavy police presence that could spark even greater civil unrest, violence and chaos in planning for the events of Aug. 15.
“At Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, our top priority is keeping our residents, visitors and businesses safe by encouraging non-violent, peaceful demonstrations,” said Karianne Thomas chief of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety. “A thorough review of our response to the march and protests – including an extensive review of body cam footage, eyewitness accounts, social media videos and other sources – has shown several areas of improvement that will help us better protect and serve the Kalamazoo community.”
“As a member of the subcommittee and an officer who works regularly with activists and protestors, I look forward to working to improve our processes and protocols to ensure we keep residents and visitors safe, strengthen relationships in the Kalamazoo community, improve communication, emphasize the importance of equity and reinforce accountability and transparency,” said Vernon Coakley, assistant chief of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.
In the coming weeks, the City and KDPS will share updates about plans for implementing the subcommittee’s recommendations to help ensure a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all Kalamazoo residents and visitors.