Outside investigator will look at KDPS’s handling of protests

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — In addition to dropping curfew violation citations against those arrested last week, the city of Kalamazoo says it will bring in an independent investigator to look into how Kalamazoo responded to recent protests.

On May 30, there were two peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd and calling for police reform in Kalamazoo. During one of them, a line of officers in riot gear pushed their way into the crowd to allow two cruisers surrounded by protesters to drive away.

Late June 1 and early June 2, KDPS repeatedly used tear gas to break up groups downtown after vandals broke the windows of several businesses. As a result, the city instituted a curfew. When people broke that curfew on the evening of June 2, an assistant police chief tried to reason with them to get them to go home; when they didn’t, officers again deployed tear gas. At least two people were arrested for curfew violations.

Kalamazoo City Attorney Clyde Robinson told News 8 Friday that the curfew violation citations against those arrested June 2 were dropped, saying his office “determined that clemency was a better approach as opposed to prosecution.”

The independent investigator will look into whether KDPS followed its procedures in its response May 30 through June 2 and whether those procedures are appropriate. The investigator may also recommend changes to policies to improve equity.

“We recognize that many in the community had concerns about the events of the last couple of weeks and in order to openly and fairly address these concerns we are taking concrete steps,” City Manager Jim Ritsema said in a statement.

He’s also ordering an updated study on KDPS traffic stops (the last one was in 2013), more equity training for officers and city staff, a review of how the Community Public Safety Review & Advisory Board is utilized, and planning public meetings for residents to share their experiences with KDPS.

Ritsema will go over his plan (PDF) with city commissioners during their Monday meeting.