Frequently Asked Questions
This page provides information and resources responding to some of the most common questions and concerns we encounter in our work.
Community-Based Solutions for Public Safety
What services should the police stop providing?
The Dearborn police are responding to calls to distribute road salt, and to address road hazards. This type of municipal work is more appropriately handled by the Department of Public works.
The Dearborn police are responding to calls to service that address situations of mental and physical health crisis, as well as being domestic violence and abuse responders. These situations are made less safe when the police are involved. People living with mental illness account for 25% of those people who are killed by police each year, and half of the people killed by police are disabled.
People with untreated mental illness 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement
Civil Traffic Enforcement
We can transfer the enforcement of civil traffic laws to unarmed personnel. These unarmed personnel would be dedicated to road safety. (However some suggest that criminal traffic violations such as reckless driving and DUI could remain under the police’s jurisdiction.) Even with the restrictions to this change, this would effectively shift 52% of all citations from the police to this new agency.
The traffic stop is the most common type of police encounter in the USA. These stops can escalate to dangerous and even fatal situations. Black people are disproportionately harmed in these situations. Instead of armed police officers using traffic stops as an opportunity to profile and further investigate suspicious individuals which can lead to escalation, an unarmed traffic enforcer would focus on doing just that- enforcing traffic laws.
Having the police address both civil traffic enforcement and criminal law creates a dual role that can result in fleeing from traffic stops in an attempt to avoid criminalization. By splitting these roles we can make traffic stops safer and reduce the instances of high-speed chases.
Whether or not you believe that police in schools keep schools safe or not (they don’t), it’s essential to think about the COST of police in schools to students of color, especially Black students, and students with disabilities, who are most likely to be abused, harassed, and even murdered by these officers. You may think police keep YOUR children safe, but if the cost is the lives of other kids - how can that be worth it? If it was your child who was tased by school police for trying to break up a fight - how would you feel about police in schools?
Police in schools creates and perpetrates violence AGAINST students (especially students of color and students with disabilities) instead of protecting students from violence:
Chokeholds, brain injuries, beatings: When school cops go bad
How strict is too strict? The backlash against no-excuses discipline in high school
Police presence does not make schools safer, here's proof:
What do non-police services look like?
Emergency and Municipal Services
If you've seen ambulances and fire trucks, you're actually probably already familiar with nonpolice emergency response teams. This nonpolice model of emergency response can be expanded to include responders for municipal issues, mental health issues, physical health crisis, and issues of domestic violence. In communities that have piloted non-police responder programs response times have not been impacted. Having the correct responders brought into a situation is more important than having the incorrect responders get there more quickly. Models like this have been piloted in
School safety is important! There are effective and humane ways to make schools safer without police. Here are some examples:
Reform vs Abolition
Can't we just reform the police? Why do people want to defund the police?
Decades of accounts of personal experience and research have proven that policing actually creates violence, reinforces inequality and segregation, and targets Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), people with disabilities and mental health issues, and labor unions. Many people would rather see the large amounts of local, state, and national resources go towards funding education, healthcare, jobs, infrastructure, mental health care, and other human services that improve people’s lives and make their communities stronger.
Additionally, decades of attempted reform have not worked. Some types of police reform actually end up giving the police more power and resources or create the appearance of accountability without real change, which causes more harm in the long run.
Additional resources to learn more
The answer to police violence is not "reform" it's defunding. Here's why.
What Does "Defund the Police" Mean? Here's the Meaning Behind the Rallying Cry
To add value to Black communities, we must defund the police and prison systems
What does "defund the police" mean?
The slogan “defund the police” means precisely what it says - people want to decrease the amount of funding going to policing in their communities. What some forget (or choose to ignore) is that defunding the police is not the end goal, it is a means to the end goal, which is reinvesting that money into services that strengthen a community and create real safety - such as jobs, education, mental and physical health care, recreation, and housing.
Additional resources to learn more:
If officers are behaving in racist ways, can't implicit bias training help?
While implicit bias training does have the impact of changing officers’ perceptions, it does not change their behaviors in the field. Officers in NYPD who received implicit bias training showed no change in their rates of bias for stops, stop-and-frisks, summonses, and arrests.
Even project implicit -- the program that designed the implicit bias test -- indicates that there is insufficient evidence that biases can be changed or eliminated and recommends implementing strategies that deny biases the opportunity to operate. Even officers who have been trained to recognize their own implicit biases can still commit racist actions, and policy is needed to prevent those actions from harming Black people. This is why we are asking for comprehensive policy change in Dearborn and in Dearborn's police department. Anti Racist policy creates an environment that makes it difficult to be racist by holding people accountable. Historic precedence tells us that policy change precedes cultural change. The work of emancipating enslaved people and dismantling Jim Crow laws occurred first, and then culture shifted in response.
Aren't current accountability measures adequate?
While many people advocate for body cameras and dash cams as forms of police accountability and many departments use them, there are actually many concerns about the efficacy and ethicality of these cameras, including:
Using body cameras is a reactive measure because the footage captured is reviewed AFTER an incident has already occurred.
Because body cameras are in the possession of the officer, they can be turned on and off with discretion and may be tampered with.
Reporting is also reactive - something must first happen in order for an officer to be held responsible.
If body cameras are out of date or damaged, it is difficult or impossible to actually understand what happened during an officer-involved interaction.
Body cameras can be expensive, whereas more proactive public safety initiatives that do not involve policing can be used instead.
Body cameras have not been shown to have a large effect on officer behavior.
Body camera procedures are not standardized and greatly impact whether they are useful at all.
Dearborn police officers are protected from randomly reviewed dash and bodycam footage being used for disciplinary purposes. Only incidents that are reported can be reviewed and impact an officer.
Body cameras may actually be being used by police to further surveil communities instead of for officer accountability
Police departments often withhold footage from the public, including in the case of fatal shooting by police officers
In Dearborn, the dashcam footage of the police murder of Kevin Matthews was inexplicably corrupted and there were conflicting reports from the department about how this dashcam footage was handled.
Additional resources to learn more:
Can surveillance technology prevent harmful outcomes?
Let’s go back to 2001. A once in a lifetime internationally developed attacked happened and all of a sudden the federal government started heavily investing in surveillance
It’s more productive and less harmful to invest in building communities that have the resources to keep each other safe than it is to impose surveillance that is often weaponized against individuals and communities of color.
Technology is built by humans with biases, these biases work their way into the technology. For example, we know that facial recognition technology is less accurate for anyone who is not a white male, increasing the risk that non-white people will be falsley accused of and arrested for crimes they did not commit. Facial recognition technology is least accurate for Black women. When combined with the fact that police already target and discriminate against non-white people, especially Black men, surveillance only serves to further the harm caused to Black communities by policing.
Furthermore, we know that our current criminal legal system does not achieve the goal that many people believe it should have - discouraging people from repeating the behaviors that led them to the criminal legal system in the first place. The criminal legal system in the U.S. focuses on punishment and does nothing to provide people with the skills and resources they need to live fulfilling lives. The system enacts violence onto people and leaves many people in a worse situation than before they received a ticket, were arrested, or went to jail/prison. So even in cases where surveillance is accurate, it is only increasing the efficiency with which people are put into an inhumane and inefficient criminal legal system.
Racism & Policing in Dearborn
Are the Dearborn Police being intentionally biased?
It’s possible to have policing practices that are both colorblind and racist. When police officers are stationed at spaces occupied by Black people in our city, they are much more likely to arrest and cite Black people. The fact that Dearborn PD chooses to have the heaviest police presence in the few spaces in our city occupied by Black people is a racist choice that doesn’t require individual officers to be biased.
Speeding tickets were one of the few citation categories where we didn’t see strong racial bias. Only about 14% of citations written for speeding were written to Black people. The highest rates of bias were actually present in categories where officers had to choose to run someone’s information in order to gain the knowledge needed to cite them -- for example driving while license suspended or driving without insurance. In instances like speeding, police officers don’t have a lot of decisions to make, they simply point the radar gun at a car and then read the number. In contrast, citing someone for having a suspended license means that officer had to be suspicious of that person first before taking action. And that suspicion is driven by internalized racial bias.
Why should nonBlack POC care about Black issues?
AntiBlackess is a product of white supremacy, and cannot exist outside of the social construct of the hierarchy of skin color. NonBlack POC communities are targetted based on proximity to whiteness, and are pitted against Black communities to uphold white supremacy. All communities need to become active in the fight to dismantle antiBlack racism. Every person and community must make a choice between being racist and being antiracist; including nonBlack communities of color.
Why non-Black people of color can face racism and still be racist
Non-Black People of Color Need to Start Having Conversations About the Anti-Blackness in Our Communities
How can Dearborn be racist? We're so diverse!
Anti-Black racism is a global phenomenon and persists in white and non-Black communities of color alike. Dearborn was founded as a city for Henry Ford’s white employees, meaning Dearborn had a 0% Black population. The demographics started to diversify once Henry Ford decided to allow Yemeni workers into his factory in the 1920s. Arab immigration really took off after European colonial powers left the region, destabilizing the economy and politics in the 1960s. Orville Hubbard, a long-time mayor of Dearborn because white residents kept voting for him, actively promoted segregation and even expressed racist disdain for Arab immigrants. However, he saw the Arab community’s tension with Black Michiganders and chose to passively exploit it by encouraging immigration.
Many immigrants have found themselves aligning with white supremacist values and culture as a way to succeed in America. This is the tension Hubbard chose to reinforce.
On paper, Dearborn is diverse, but not inclusive. In reality, Dearborn isn’t particularly diverse. The Latino, Asian, Black, and indigenous populations are either erased or non-existent. A truly diverse community is one that is safe for all types of residents with no barriers.
Perceptions of Police
How do police decide who to pull over?
There are two main types of citations issued for traffic violations: moving violations and plate violations. Moving violations are the result of observed or reported driving behaviors (speeding, erratic driving, disregarding a stop sign) and plate violations reflect that a vehicle's documentation is not up to date which are identified when an officer runs a driver's plates.
Moving showed the least racial bias. Only about 14% of citations written for speeding were written to Black people. The highest rates of bias were actually present in categories where officers had to choose to run someone’s information in order to gain the knowledge needed to cite them -- for example driving while license suspended or driving without insurance. In instances like speeding, police officers don’t have a lot of decisions to make, they simply point the radar gun at a car and then read the number. In contrast, citing someone for having a suspended license means that officer had to be suspicious of that person first before taking action. And that suspicion is driven by internalized racial bias.
Across all data, there were more citations issued for the single citation type “no proof or no insurance” (99,982) than for all moving violations combined (86,621). This indicates that in at least 13,361 cases officers identified a plate violation with no corresponding moving violation. This number assumes that all moving violations had a corresponding plate violation. Plates are not only being run after a driver has been identified as having committed a moving violation.
Can't we trust the police?
A person’s ability to trust the police could be impacted by their personal experiences with police. It could also be impacted by learning about the history of policing, how police treat other people, or watching how police respond to nonviolent racial justice protests versus violent white supremacists. Black Americans are more likely than white Americans to interact with police, more likely to experience violence at the hands of police, and are less likely to trust them. There are many documented examples of police officers abusing their power. Despite a “blue code of silence” in most police departments, even some current and former law enforcement officials have criticized many of the same issues within policing that activists have.
Two-thirds of Black Americans don't trust the police to treat them equally. Most white Americans do.
Cop sues UM-Dearborn, claims retaliation over sex crime probe
"I Don't Trust the People Above Me": Riot Squad Cops Open Up About Disastrous Response to Capitol Insurrection
"Corrupted" dashcam file muddles investigation of police-involved shooting
Is it fair to blame all officers for the actions of a few bad apples?
The origins of policing in the United State are in slave patrols, indigenous genocide, and the disruption of organized labor movements. Police officers who engage in discriminatory behaviors are being true to the origins of policing, and the role that police were designed to fulfill. When an officer targets Black, poor and disabled people, they are not working in violation of their institution, they are working in alignment with it.
In order for meaningful change to take place, we need to see policy change that supports individual accountability and divests the power of policing.
Policing in America (1 hour, 7 minute audio recording, transcript available)
Do the police have a dangerous job?
This is a really dangerous myth. Police officers’ jobs are significantly less dangerous than many professions, and the mistaken belief that officers are in constant danger actually prevents communities from holding officers accountable for harm they cause. The most dangerous municipally funded jobs are refuse collectors and groundskeepers, so we hope you push local governments to invest in their safety.
Police officers have a relatively low likelihood of experiencing an on-the-job fatality. According to the BLS, policing is 14th on the list of most dangerous jobs in the US behind refuse collection, delivery drivers, and agricultural jobs.
COVID 19 is killing police officers at a higher rate than any other cause of death in the line of duty. Comprehensive COVID response would have done more to protect police officers than any bulletproof vests.
Police officers are actually more likely to be killed by self-inflicted harm than from danger on the job. Because policing takes up so much of government budgets, police end up responding to traumatic situations that they are not appropriately trained or prepared for. Additionally, many police departments have toxic cultures around mental health, causing officers to avoid seeking help. The negative mental health culture harms police officers and community members with mental illness. Defunding the police and finding non-punitive and humane ways to address harm, violence, and trauma would be safer for everyone, including the people who are currently police officers.