Flint, MI–The city of Flint announced on Aug. 31 the formation of a Community Advisory Task Force to the Flint Police Department.
Mayor Sheldon Neeley asked Pastor Jeffery Hawkins of the Prince of Peace Church to chair the task force and select members for the group.
Hawkins said he personally called the individuals interested in joining the group and selected people that seemed to be the best fit based on their location in the city and their background in the community with the goal of creating a diverse group.
The task force is made up of nine Flint residents who work for the community in areas of health, social justice, education, and more.
“The idea is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community,” Hawkins said.
He said members of the community might not always know whether their complaints are being looked into and that this task force will “give an opportunity for the community to be at the table to get answers.”
Residents can submit issues, concerns and complaints to the task force email, TaskForceofFlint@gmail.com, and members of the task force will relay the messages to the mayor and the chief of police.
“Amazingly, when we first put it out there, we immediately got emails,” Hawkins said. “That’s the part where the community now feels they have a voice, a voice that has access to law enforcement.”
Hawkins said many of the emails the group has already received have to do with building a better relationship between the community and law enforcement.
“When there’s an issue, but there’s nobody consistently at the table talking about it, the issue gets lost,” Hawkins said. “This is the greatest opportunity for the community to be heard and then get some follow through.”
To ensure issues get resolved, Hawkins said once the task force meets with the police chief and the mayor, the group will go in front of city council or different boards to share what the issues are, who they’ve talked to about resolving them, what steps they’ve taken, and what steps they will take.
Hawkins said the task force is planning to meet once a month with law enforcement, with the first meeting expected to be in the next couple weeks, probably via Zoom. He said meetings will likely be made available to the public, because “the community is the one entity we don’t want to leave out.”
“The way things are going now with the death of George Floyd, we’re seeing these types of task forces arise all over the country,” Hawkins said. “It’s a great time to be able to say we want to have these conversations, these hard conversations, and hold people accountable.”