City review of police response to Kalamazoo Proud Boys rally finds ‘areas for improvement’

KALAMAZOO, MI — Kalamazoo city leaders met with members of the media Monday afternoon to discuss an ongoing internal investigation surrounding the city’s response to the Proud Boys rally and clashes with counter-protesters on Aug. 15.

A preliminary report released Aug. 28, City Manager Jim Ritsema said, shows several areas for improvement by the city as it plans for the possibility of future public protests, demonstrations and rallies.

Related: Kalamazoo City Commission forms committee to guide police force in response to protests

Ritsema called the report an important first step in proactive planning.

“Our goal is to learn from this incident and create a better Kalamazoo for residents, families and visitors,” he said.

“Our number one priority has to be ensuring our community is safe during events, and that we keep them safe before, during and after. We also have to proactively prevent escalation and violent events whenever possible.”

The city, as outlined in the report, will begin implementing protocols and practices in hopes to improve safety, community relations and communications, equity and accountability — specifically as it pertains to First Amendment assemblies.

Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Karianne Thomas agreed with Ritsema that there is work to be done.

“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,” Thomas said.

Areas of improvement being considered by the city, Ritsema said, include potential changes to the permit process or city ordinances that would “help legally deter groups like the Proud Boys from selecting a city like Kalamazoo for their next march.”

“As law enforcement we have to allow for freedom of speech and that has a limitation to it,” Kalamazoo Public Safety Assistant Chief Vernon Coakley said.

Coakley added that the criminal investigation from the day’s events remains ongoing and that the department is continuing to review tapes and eyewitness accounts and continue to move forward with possible additional charges.

When asked if any of those possible charges may be levied against members of the Proud Boys, Thomas stated she did not have an answer to that as detectives had not completed their review.

“They are looking at behaviors and actions that occurred that day,” Thomas said.

“I haven’t asked them to look at which group they were from. I’ve simply asked them to look at what happened and which charges should be handed over to the prosecutor’s office.”

Also on MLive:

Citizens call for new leadership in Kalamazoo after ‘failure’ during Proud Boys rally

Police chief says Proud Boys completed their mission by causing chaos in downtown Kalamazoo

Counterprotester aggression was ‘catalyst’ for violence at Proud Boys event in Kalamazoo, officer’s report says

———

©2020 MLive.com, Walker, Mich.

Visit MLive.com, Walker, Mich. at www.mlive.com.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Continue Reading

Source Article