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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Take back Detroit: Improving Response Time for the Police and Fire Departments. Incentives for City employees living inside the City of Detroit

A conversation between Retired Detroit Police Officer Sgt. Roscoe L. Thomas and State Representative George Cushingberry Jr.
Mr. Roscoe L. Thomas served as a Sergeant, Chief investigator for the Homicide Division and Steward to fellow officers. He is a lobbyist for the Michigan Association of Retired Police Officers. He has over 25 years of experience with the department and retired with full honors.

State Representative George Cushingberry Jr. is serving as the chairman of the House Appropriations committee and has served in the legislature for over 20 years. We sat down and had a conversation regarding maximizing police response time to incidents and keeping Detroit safe with Detroit’s finest. On this one Thursday evening, we talked about the New Detroit we see that will revitalize the community. We begin the question and answer conversation below:


Rep. Cushingberry:
How can we decrease the response time from Detroit Police and Fire Departments to its citizens? I get constituent complaints regarding this issue. Do you have any ideas that can improve this situation?

Sgt. Thomas:
I am always the optimist and believe that things can get better when we work on innovation and ideas brought forth by concerned citizens and Law Enforcement personnel.

When I started we had 5000 officers under Coleman Young and at one time we were considered the murder capital of the world. The department has evolved over the years and has flexed well given the current economic times.

Restoring the Police precincts in the neighborhood is a good idea from Chief Barren because it puts the Department closer to the community. As an incentive to live in Detroit I would propose to the Chief and the City Council to allow city employees a property tax break of %15 when you live within the City Limits. Police and Fire department members will get an additional %5 property tax break for living in the City. When we have a lot of empty homes and thinking about re-vitalizing the City, welcoming Polices and Fire Department members with a financial incentive will re-vitalize the neighborhoods.

I would even consider the placement of Cameras in high crime areas and, encourage a program to have residents purchase and install security video equipment on their property. Residents will be able to monitor your property from anywhere they have access to the Internet. This program will help residents keep track of the activity on their property when they are not there.


Rep. Cushingberry:
That sounds very technical to the average person Sgt. Thomas. And what about the legality of having a camera on your property pointing out the window?

Sgt. Thomas:
Actually, some of the children with high tech phones don’t think so and can’t wait to operate the equipment. For us “Senior Citizens” it is a slightly different story. The ideas that I am proposing will allow the heat temperature to be monitored with sensors and, if it gets too hot (flame conditions, smoke density, etc...), the Fire Department is notified of a potential hazard and will take steps to avert a potential problem. The steps will include the installation of video equipment mounted on existing Radio Towers and tall buildings in the City to allow them to zoom in on a home to see what the Fire Emergency is before sending additional equipment.


Rep. Cushingberry:
You know how our parents and neighbors used to do it in the backyard. Now I see First Lady Michelle Obama with a garden in the White House lawn. I am considering running for State Senate in District 4, Police and Fire department response is one of my top priorities, along with Urban Farming. What can I do to help my fellow Detroit Citizens from Lansing?


Sgt Thomas:
Currently, the Homicide Division is currently handling 800 murders a year and does a good job given the number of personnel remaining in the Department. We have discussed your position on the Senior Citizens in Detroit regarding response time and community involvement. When I meet Chief Barren, I ask him about restoring the Community Block Club police and citizen participation program. If one exists I will express your concern to him regarding our golden citizens. We have worked together to get the standards and statistics for police response time placed on the Department’s website and updated each month.

When the residency requirement was in effect, the servants of the city lived in the city. The city became an investment to a property owner and the neighborhood was a little safer. Police officers drove City Cars home and when that happened, NOBODY did anything stupid on that street, that day. By their presence in the city, the response time would be decreased because your neighbor was always looking out for you.


Rep Cushingberry:
Sgt. Thomas, I have asked the Department of Community health to produce numbers regarding the addiction comparisons between, Marijuana, Heroin, Cocaine, and Meth. When we take these numbers and compare them to arrest records of the Detroit Police Department, what kind of results do you think that we will get?

Sgt. Thomas:
I believe that those numbers will show some interesting results in the area of addiction and law enforcement. With the passing of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Law of 2009, the usually high numbers of marijuana arrests will be reduced by up to %50. A large number of arrests are for people who belong in mental hospitals and are in need of continued medical treatment. Closing mental facilities and pushing the burden onto Local Law Enforcement resources at the City and County level may bankrupt an entire city or county if not checked and managed properly.

I am extremely concerned at the gun violence because no one is considering the path of the stray bullets that unfortunately hit innocent citizens that had nothing to do with the altercation. I would encourage Firearm education to children so that they are taught the consequences of using and firing a weapon. They have the N.R.A.; we have the memory of Harriet Tubman who was a responsible gun owner.

Finally I would encourage all citizens to report crime and testify against it. The only way to put crime to an end is to show compassion and the passion to persecute the few people who drag down the quality of life.


Rep. Cushingberry:
Well Sgt. Thomas, thank you for this moment to have this conversation. I will consider your thoughts and strive to implement some of your ideas. Blending the wisdom of the Older Detroiters with the freshness and youth of the Young generation will be the beginning of a new day. I feel that Detroit will be the first City to come back from this depression that we are in. Thank you again.

Sgt. Thomas:
Thank you for the opportunity to share this vision for the City of Detroit with you.

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