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MDCR Leads Berrien Co. ALPACT Panel on Racism and the Criminal Justice System

On February 1, Director James White, Anthony Lewis and Gwen Moffitt took part in the Berrien County ALPACT and Interfaith Action Zoom Virtual Meeting titled “Racism, Justice and Criminal Justice Disparities in Access and Outcomes.” Director White was one of four presenters. Other presenters included Andrew Birge, U.S. Attorney’s Office – Western District; Carrie Smietanka-Hankey, Berrien County Trial Court Administrator; and Steven Pierangeli, Berrien County Prosecutor’s Office.

Director White stressed that conscientious, systemic police reform is not an option, it is an urgent necessity. “We must work with law enforcement and find ways to reset the mindset and conditioning of those police officers who have the capacity to change, and to root out those who cannot or will not change,” he said.

In addition, Director White shared that the department will soon launch the Law Enforcement and Community Engagement Leadership Institute, which is designed to train law enforcement agencies on best practices around race and community engagement, based on more than 25 years of expertise shared and knowledge gained through the ALPACT chapters throughout the state. He also praised Governor Whitmer for issuing an executive order last June that expanded the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES), adding a seat for MDCR on the Commission.

“It was an important step forward in making sure that equity, fairness and inclusion are considerations when establishing standards for police agencies across the state. We are determined to use our position on MCOLES to effect positive change in standards for law enforcement in Michigan,” said Director White.

He also reaffirmed MDCR’s commitment to elevating the role of Citizen Review Boards in order to establish and maintain public trust, and stated that the urgent need for police reform, much-needed training for law enforcement agencies at all levels and the work to build bonds of trust between communities and law enforcement will remain his top priorities for the department under his leadership.

ALPACT, which stands for Advocates and Leaders for Police and Community Trust, aims to examine issues affecting police and community relations and ensure equitable enforcement of laws, including: racial profiling, police discretion, use of force, recruitment and training, citizen complaint processes, community partnering, and police leadership and management disciplinary practices; to develop recommendations and best practices designed to enhance the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve; and to present and recommend implementation strategies to law enforcement and community groups. There are ALPACT chapters in several communities around the state, including Detroit, Kalamazoo, Flint, Berrien County, Saginaw, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Lansing, Muskegon, and Traverse City. MDCR is currently working with community and law enforcement leaders to relaunch a chapter in Battle Creek.