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Flint, MI–The Flint City Council took a leap of faith in voting to extend the state of emergency due to gun violence, during a special meeting on July 28.
“Just like with the helicopter, we have hope that it will work,” said Councilwoman Eva Worthing. “And in this case, I think we have to just come together, think about our constituents. … I think it’s absolutely worth a try.”
Councilwoman Monica Galloway echoed that sentiment.
“I don’t believe everything I’ve heard here today, but I believe that we should try everything we can at this point to give the residents some comfort in at least knowing we have made a step in the right direction,” Galloway said.
On July 23, Mayor Sheldon Neeley declared that the city was in a state of emergency due to an uptick in violence, as Flint saw an 80% increase in nonfatal shootings, and a 30.43% increase in homicides compared to this time last year.
Once Neeley announced the declaration, he had seven days to get approval from the city council to extend it past July 30. An extension of the state of emergency, he said, would open up funding resources including the American Rescue Plan Act funds and the Genesee County’s mental health services millage.
When he announced the state of emergency, he also announced six executive orders to implement various tactics to combat the rise in violence.
During the special meeting on July 28, he did not get into many specifics of the executive orders, and said they were “pieces of a plan” that were still shaping up.
The council discussed some of the orders and asked questions, but Neeley often reminded the council that modifying the executive orders was not on the council agenda, and that their only “action item” was to approve the extension of the state of emergency.
The council voted 6-1-1 to approve extending the state of emergency “indefinitely.”
Councilman Eric Mays abstained and Councilman Maurice Davis voted against it.
Both Mays and Davis cited concerns about the legal implications of the state of emergency and executive orders. They questioned how funds were going to be allocated, and whether or not the council would have a say in how various things were done. While other council members had questions and concerns as well, they said they were willing to try anything to combat the rise in crime.
Here are more details about each of the six executive orders:
- Establish the Emergency Response Team (ERT) for traumatic events and coordinate services between the Flint Police Department and mental health professionals to serve the community.
This executive order specifies that the teams would be made up of medical professionals, child advocacy professionals, resource coordinators, social workers, community liaisons, and clergy as appropriate. The teams would be dispatched to situations as deemed necessary, tasked with handling mental health crises, de-escalation, and preventing retaliation.
In the document for this executive order, Neeley requests that funds from the county’s Community Mental Health Millage be allocated for establishing these teams.
Councilman Davis asked how much these people would be paid. City Attorney Angela Wheeler said she didn’t have all of the details, but that she did know that the money would be coming from the millage.
Councilman Mays asked who was appointing these people, and Wheeler said the teams would be under the authority of Police Chief Terence Green. Mays said he felt this was a “multi-member body,” and that it should be up to the city council to legally approve the appointments in these Emergency Response Teams, but Wheeler disagreed.
Chief Green said he was not “appointing” anyone, and that the department would simply call and enlist the help of various professionals to assist in situations that need it. He gave the example of calling in a mental health professional for a mental health crisis, or calling in a family specialist if a child is involved.
Mays asked Green if this was something the police department was already capable of doing without this executive order and Green said it was. When Council President Kate Fields asked if there were already protocols in place for these situations, Green again said there were.
- Establish partnerships with grass roots and community outreach programs to combat gun violence.
This executive order also includes that police mini stations be “activated and created” throughout the city, and that community crime watch grants be established and available to neighborhood organizations.
- Establish partnerships throughout the community to create opportunities for positive engagement for youth.
This executive order mentions the creation of skill-building and job opportunities for youth, as well as “positive, year-round programs,” playground improvements, and assigning “safety operators” to playgrounds.
At the press conference on July 23, Neeley said he would be authorizing dollars to go to Flint Police Activities League (PAL) and activating the Haskell Community Center, as well as giving dollars to other organizations as they arise.
- Provide financial incentives to increase and maintain certified law enforcement officers in good standing for gun violence prevention.
When asked about what specifically the incentives were, the city’s Director of Communications Melissa Brown said that they were “financial incentives.”
This executive order also includes that Human Resources create additional police officer positions as needed, obtain electronic surveillance equipment, expand the police department’s “investigations into recent homicides interconnected to cold cases.”
It also includes that law enforcement officers will work to get illegal guns off the street and out of the hands of “dangerous people,” and destroy all confiscated weapons. Mayor Neeley and Former Police Chief Phil Hart announced that the city would do these things last year with the creation of the Special Investigative Unit, and ending the auctioning of confiscated weapons.
- Hire dedicated attorneys and victim advocates to partner with the Flint Police Department on gun violence prevention.
This executive order also includes mention of creating additional attorney and victim advocacy positions.
- Create crime suppression grants for small businesses.
This executive order document does not provide any other details or specifics of what these grants may look like, how much they will be for, and how businesses can apply.