Huntington Woods seeking input on anti-racism plan

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published August 11, 2020

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HUNTINGTON WOODS — After previously condemning acts of racial injustice and police brutality in June, the city of Huntington Woods announced that it would be developing an anti-racism plan.

The city recently released a framework for the anti-racism plan, in which it will focus its efforts on various departments within the municipality, including the library, recreation, city administration and public safety.

“Our city recognizes the need to take action to ensure equity, inclusion, and diversity in our community. We will now take the next steps to enact this commitment. This begins with a plan, demonstrable actions, and measurable outcomes,” the city’s statement read. “Stating we are not racists is simply inadequate; we must be anti-racist. To be anti-racist is to understand that society has internalized and normalized racism and then be willing to examine and change public policies that may give rise to racial injustice and inequity.”

“The impact of policies that, actively or passively, led to the institutional oppression of people of color throughout our nation’s history must be changed or eliminated,” the statement continued. “Our actions may seem small, but every act is a step forward to a better future. We are all partners in a mission to help build a community that is sensitive to the issues of racial injustice and committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.”

The draft for the plan was put together with city staff input, said City Manager Amy Sullivan. The current framework for Huntington Woods’ plan aims to have the city start work this month after the City Commission adopts it at its Aug. 18 meeting.

“We adopted the original statement on June 5, and we wanted to do more than just say this is what we support,” she said. “We wanted to walk the walk in addition to talking the talk. So we took a look at all the opportunities that we have when we have interactions with residents and when we develop policies, looked at where we could make changes or modifications or add new programming so that we could address this issue.”

Before taking up the final plan, the city is looking to get input from residents on the current framework, which can be found at www.hwmi.org. Comments can be sent or voiced to Sullivan at either her email, asullivan@hwmi.org, or by calling her at (248) 581-2632.

After the plan passes, between August and December, the city will begin staff education and training while also putting its focus on benchmarking by looking at what other communities are doing and seeing if they can come up with other ideas they hadn’t thought of to implement.

At the beginning of 2021 and through June, the focus would then turn to strategic planning with Huntington Woods’ master plan update; the Public Safety Department’s work with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA; and community collaboration. July 2021 would center on implementing its initiatives at the library, Recreation and Public Safety departments. The city would then continue to measure and evaluate its initiatives.

Current ideas in its framework would call for the library and Recreation Department to expand the library’s Read Woke program for children in third grade and above, curating lists of anti-racist library materials for each age group that teach how to recognize and combat racism, and encouraging the city’s Teen Council to create programs dedicated to anti-racism education for young people and including them in other programming efforts.

City administration plans include implementing ongoing racial equity and awareness training for staff and elected officials; exploring diversity, inclusion and equity with residents during next year’s master plan update process to include community-wide meetings; and advocating for legislation that would eliminate excessive fees and fines that unfairly impact lower-income individuals.

The Public Safety Department’s efforts would see it maintain its CALEA accreditation and adopt recommended policies and procedures from the organization, publishing a description of department policies on the use of force and other relevant policies, and continuing ongoing training for public safety officers in the use of force, bias in policing and police accountability and transparency.

“We wanted to focus on education for our community, as well as look at our city staff and our practices as a city to make sure we’re anti-racist, especially when it comes to the Public Safety Department,” said Mayor Bob Paul. “We’re putting this together and reaching out to the community to get their input on the best way to go forward. We’re trying to be as inclusive and open in the whole process as we possibly can to get to an example for all cities, hopefully, in the end.”

Even after the framework passes, Paul said it would continue to be a work in progress.

“It really is something that’s going to change and be perfected over time,” he said. “It’s not like we’re putting a policy out there and saying, ‘OK, we’re done.’ It’s something we’re gonna work on for a while.”

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