A firm conducted an analysis of how the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety handled the unrest of 2020. The report notes some pros, some cons, and some communication issues. As was reported by WOOD, “one core issue was the erosion of the public’s trust amid a breakdown in communication.” The report and study was conducted by the OIR Group, which has conducted similar reviews in Oregon, California, and others.
The report specifically touched on situations with “anti-racism” protests and a Proud Boys protest that took place in Kalamazoo. They analyzed the department’s response and the tactics used and offered 40 recommendations for the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety to consider and implement.
According to the report, when dealing with the May and June civil unrest, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, “in its concerns about disorder and the potential for looting and property damage, it imposed a blanket enforcement strategy that failed to give appropriate space to the sincere (and primarily peaceful) protest movement as it unfolded on Monday and Tuesday.”
The report also details its disagreement with the decisions of law enforcement to use non-lethal means of crowd dispersion to enforce a curfew order, saying, “The ‘curfew violators’ in the intersection were indeed technically breaking the law, but their protest and activity, at least at the time of the tear gas deployment, was much more in line with classic First Amendment expression than the dangerous disorder that had marred the previous evening.”
The report also compared the police response from the May and June unrest to the police response for the Proud Boys march in August. The report says that the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety did learn that “the presence of police can act as a catalyst for confrontation and violence, particularly in a crowd protesting the impacts of policing in its community.” However, they took issue with the “hands-off” approach that influenced its policing decisions as it led some to believe that the department was favoring the Proud Boys march over the Black Lives Matter protests.
The conclusion of the report says there were truths to the way that many people saw what occurred. Some believed that the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety was too aggressive and militant when it came to policing Black Lives Matter protests and others believed that the department handled the protests and riots well and used force when necessary. The report states it “found elements of validity in both characterizations while coming to the conclusion that the ‘truth’ was somewhere in the middle.”
The report also concedes that it was a “genuinely challenging” time for the department and the public. It goes on to say that, “KDPS did many things creditably and without a discriminatory motivation, and that room for improvement certainly existed.”
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Hayley Tschetter is a reporter with The Minnesota Sun | Star News Network. She graduated with a degree in Communications from the University of Northwestern-St. Paul. Send news tips to [email protected]