The Public Safety Department of Benton Harbor, Michigan is in need of citizen input, an independent evaluation of the services, and of employee practices. Numerous questions have been voiced by citizens regarding racial profiling, unsolved murders and numbers of citizens feel they have not been treated fairly, at best. Recent history revealed officers planting drugs, getting benefits for arresting citizens, and an obvious police oppression that leaves Benton Harbor residents living in an unusual and unreasonable state of fear.
Peaceful citizen protests have historically been surrounded with police in riot gear video taping, and police taking pictures of participants as a means of intimidation.
Fear tactics have been the norm in an unprecedented fashion in Benton Harbor. Even the mostly white neighboring community across the river has public safety signs that read, "Video Surveillance," as another means of intimidating residents of Benton Harbor. White visitors in St. Joe will be cautioned about going over the bridge. Nothing in Michigan quite compares with the police-like state, the racial divide, and the use of tax dollars, to that of Benton Harbor.
Karrington Penney Morrow
One only has to spend time in Benton Harbor to realize the effect that public safety has on the residents. More recently, individuals of African-American descent were found floating in the river in Benton Harbor. A young man of 18 years old, Karrington Penny Morrow, was found dead in a snow bank this week under suspicious circumstances. The publicity and investigation of these deaths leave many residents wondering why. Where is the thorough investigation, and where is the publicity to expose and understand these horrors?
Another odd and apparent scare tactic was the acquisition of a vehicle with extraordinary military power by Berrien County. This 20-ton armored vehicle can be used for terrorist-type attacks and is not something even large metropolitan areas would have. Odd that Berrien County, an unlikely place for a national terrorist attack, would seek such a monolithic machine.
Public works of Benton Harbor seem limited: poor snow removal, limited parks, limited civic activities, limited public services such as recreational areas hospitable to typical Benton Harbor residents. Gentrification continues to be the apparent goal as the city sits on Lake Michigan. The actual residents who have been born and raised in Benton Harbor, with their entire family connection, continue to pay a price by the funds being used in citizen intimidation, limited services for the people, oppressive tactics, and ultimately creating many questions as related to democracy and use of tax dollars. This is a different Benton Harbor, the real Benton Harbor; not the small enclaves of white gentrification that has infiltrated the shoreline in upscale gated-like communities.
It is time for an impartial, non-political, and highly ethical service to evaluate the use of tax dollars, the level of satisfaction of Benton Harbor residents, the need for public parks that serve the community (not the up-scale developments along the beach or the visiting golfing community), the police department, the use of racial profiling, the recreational facilities, and all the amenities needed to increase residential satisfaction and quality of life in Benton Harbor. Make it comparable to St. Joe and any other lake shore community. Perhaps a university, a citizen driven group, and a survey of the citizens via confidential poling would be a place to start. Kalamazoo and other communities have hired evaluators of their police departments. It's time Benton Harbor be given this opportunity to begin developing the great community it can be (and once was).