Flint, MI– Members of the Flint Community Advisory Task Force on Public Safety say the group will focus efforts on racial healing through educational training and community engagement. 

The task force, which was created in August of last year , held a virtual public meeting Feb. 18, to discuss their plans and gain input from the community.  The meeting can be viewed on their Facebook page.  

The first three items the task force will be focusing on are:

  1. Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT)
  2. Implicit bias training
  3. Community engagement activities

Social Worker and Juvenile Justice Specialist Sherri Miller explained TRHT as a “comprehensive national and community based process to plan for and bring transformational change.”

Miller discussed the ways that racism is evident all around us, and how people experience the effects of racism all the time–when they take their kids to school, apply for jobs, try to rent or buy a home, shop, and interact with the police. 

The TRHT framework for combating racism includes changing the narrative, building relationships between the community and law enforcement that promote racial healing, bringing people together, changing racist policies, and improving economic opportunities. 

The Community Foundation of Greater Flint created the TRHT fund which will fund racial healing initiatives of local nonprofits. Flint is one of 14 communities nationwide using the TRHT framework.

Miller said the Flint Police Department and the task force have already begun TRHT training. She told the community to be on the lookout for opportunities to become involved in the training process as well.

Task Force Co-Chair Dr. Debra Furr-Holden called the training “a transformational experience.”

“It was just amazing, so I can only imagine what will be possible as we open up engagement opportunities for the community to do that with the public safety officers,” Furr-Holden said. 

Furr-Holden said she has also participated in the Implicit Bias Training, and is certified in the Implicit Association Test. 

She compared the training to learning to drive and getting your license.  

“They talk to you about this thing called your blind spot…and if you don’t look in your mirror, and you don’t see that car in your blind spot, you can cause a major pileup on the highway,” she said. “Well, implicit bias training is about helping people to uncover those blind spots.”

Furr-Holden said everyone has implicit biases, and that we can unknowingly impact others by not working on them. Still, she reminded everyone that there is explicit bias too, and that they’d be working on that as well. 

“We’re really excited to be partnering with the Flint Police Department and other public safety officers and sectors in this community, to make sure these people…have access to good resources to give them that training,” she said. 

Task Force Co-Chair Pastor Jeffery Hawkins shared a few community engagement ideas which include fireside chats, block clubs, police ride alongs, and reopening the mini police stations throughout the city. Residents tuning into the meeting were able to share their questions and suggestions as well.

Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tammy Phillips from the prosecutor’s office offered her contact information to viewers and said if neighborhood group leaders were interested in having a dialogue with the prosecutor’s office, they could contact her at tphillips@geneseecountymi.gov.

Phillips also suggested holding sessions with cadets early in their careers, that would allow them to speak to survivors of domestic violence to gain a better understanding of their perspectives, and how to have a successful interaction with them. 

Michael Milks of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services suggested the department use social media forums, like Facebook live videos, to introduce the community to other officers in the department. 

Chief Terence Green was in attendance and said he thought that was an “excellent idea.” 

The task force will hold these virtual public meetings on the third Thursday of every month. The next meeting will be March 18 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. 

Furr-Holden encouraged the community to tune in to the meetings, check out the task force website, and send emails to info@flinttaskforce.org with any questions, concerns, problems, or feedback. 

“We are not trying to…replace anything that already exists. We’re a task force. We have a task at hand,” she said. “Our goal is to help elevate the conversation, make sure that the mic is all the way in the hands of the community.”

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...