Darien Belcher, of Macomb Township, said June 10 in Mount Clemens that people are fed up and that it’s time to see real change with police reform.

Darien Belcher, of Macomb Township, said June 10 in Mount Clemens that people are fed up and that it’s time to see real change with police reform.

Photo by Alex Szwarc


Mount Clemens event brings residents, police together

By: Alex Szwarc | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published June 18, 2020

 Mount Clemens resident Eva White speaks with Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham at the event.

Mount Clemens resident Eva White speaks with Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham at the event.

Photo by Alex Szwarc

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MOUNT CLEMENS — After walking from Mount Clemens City Hall to a local park, hundreds of people converged for an afternoon of discussion about justice and equality.

On June 10, community members took part in a meet and greet with members of the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office at Shadyside Park in Mount Clemens.

The event was aimed at being a way to open the lines of communication with law enforcement, a chance for people and police to understand each other, and a way to build a stronger community.

All this comes in the month following the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota. Derek Chauvin, a white, now former police officer, has been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. Officials say Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes during an arrest.

“With all the injustices that we keep seeing over and over, this last one was so atrocious to be caught on camera like that,” said Darien Belcher, of Macomb Township, referencing Floyd’s death. “We’re all fed up and it’s been going on for too long. It’s time to see real change with police reform.”

Belcher, who also attended a June 6 Hall Road protest, said he wanted to see what the sheriff’s ideas and opinions are on what has recently happened in America.

“I believe that most police are good and recognize there are a couple bad apples that could be committing crimes, then you have a section of police that won’t address those bad apples,” Belcher said. “I don’t know if you’re good, because you’re not doing anything if you allow those things to happen.”

Belcher carried a sign that on one side read, “Do you fear each interaction with police could end in your death?” The other side addressed slavery.

Mount Clemens Mayor Laura Kropp was part of the event and said the Black Lives Matter movement is necessary.

“We need to support every person in our community,” she said.

On June 15, after press time, the Mount Clemens City Commission was set to pass a resolution for Juneteenth as a way to recognize the black community, according to Kropp. Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.

“Mount Clemens has been an incredibly diverse community for a very long time and we have existed and thrived,” Kropp said. “There’s always going to be issues that need to be worked on, and I believe elected officials from the local to state level want to work on those issues.”

Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said that especially in Mount Clemens, the office has always tried to be part of the community.

“We want to ensure the community we’re here to protect them and that our interactions will always be professional,” he said.

Wickersham received an email in May from a freshman at Mount Clemens High School who provided Wickersham with ideas of what he could do to be in the community more and bring folks together.

“One of them was a meet and greet, which I thought was a great idea,” Wickersham said.

He hopes that residents walked away from the event with an understanding of what the role of a law enforcement officer is and why they do what they do.

Wickersham noted that many officers start off as good candidates, but as time goes on, things may happen in their lives.

Asked to assess the state of police and community relations in Macomb County, the sheriff said it’s incumbent upon the office to step up and show the community what it’s doing.

“If we sit back and do nothing, then rumors and innuendos will lead to what the community thinks of the police department,” he said. “You have to get out and engage the community.”

Regarding the Minneapolis City Council’s pledge to disband the city’s police department and replace it with a new public safety model, Wickersham said a law enforcement response will still be necessary.

“The 911 calls won’t go away, so you need officers that respond, because citizens will still need help,” he said. “To do a blanket statement to defund a police department, I don’t think that’s a good way.”

Eva White, of Mount Clemens, spoke with Wickersham about a past issue she had with a couple of deputies.

“I’m so glad to see young white folks doing the right thing by protesting,” she said.

When addressing the crowd, Wickersham said law enforcement is part of the community and the community is part of law enforcement.

“You have to help us in solving crime and reporting things,” he said.

He made it clear that the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t tolerate excessive force, a statement which received a round of applause. Wickersham added that if someone crosses the line and uses too much force, the department will take appropriate actions.

Along with Wickersham, deputies assigned to Mount Clemens were also on hand.

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