Justice

Committee issues preliminary report on police mishandling of violent rally

The panel found "areas for improvement" and will present formal recommendations next week.

A three-person panel presented an initial report to the public Monday on plans to improve the way the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety handles protests and rallies like the one that turned violent two weeks ago.

On August 15, members of a far-right, neo-fascist group called the Proud Boys clashed with counterprotesters in downtown Kalamazoo. Residents criticized KDPS for their lack of presence before fighting broke out and for arresting a reporter and a legal observer.

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In a video presentation, Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema said the report is a first step to improvement.

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

Preliminary Report on First Amendment Assemblies

The report, which is available on the city’s website, outlines general steps for improvement. Among the recommendations is the development of a formal credential system for reporters and other observers.

Ritsema said the city may reach out to experts to provide training for members of the media and public safety officers on “best practices.”

The report also suggests exploring ways that officers can better communicate with people during rallies, including using loudspeakers and signage.

Such recommendations may not be satisfactory for many Kalamazoo residents who are incensed at KDPS’ methods during the rally.

Reverend Nathan Dannison of First Congregational Church organized a separate, non-violent rally prior to the incident. He told WOOD TV8 that the goal is to keep Kalamazoo residents safe from outside agitators.

“I hope this means that the Kalamazoo police will protect the citizens of Kalamazoo from neo-Nazis like the Proud Boys,” he said.

A final version of the report will be presented to the city commission during a meeting next Tuesday, September 8.

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