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February 20, 2014
GROSSE POINTE PARK — The city has entered into what has been described as an "historic" agreement that will bring sensitivity training to the Park's Public Safety Department.

The training will come through a partnership with the United States Justice Department, the Michigan Department of Civil Rights and other local groups.

The agreement, signed at a press conference Wednesday, Feb. 12, by Mayor Palmer Heenan and Police Chief David Hiller, sets the groundwork for training public safety officers in effective community policing.

Under the agreement, the Park "agrees to develop a Cultural Competency customer service and racial profiling training program for all police personnel where public contact is required." As noted in the agreement, the training is "intended to improve cultural awareness, sensitivity and overall public safety customer service to persons with disabilities or special needs irrespective of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion or disability."

The agreement is the result of an incident that occurred in 2012 involving inappropriate interaction between Park public safety officers and a mentally impaired Detroit resident.

The incidents were videotaped and the videos were posted to social media sites, bringing a strong backlash from community and civil rights leaders.

Following an internal investigation, Hiller announced in November that five public safety officers, all members of the same shift, would be suspended without pay for periods ranging from 24 hours to 60 days, and all will remain on probation for one year. An entire shift, including command officers, was reassigned.

"We had a situation where actions were taken that needed to be dealt with," said Hiller at Wednesday's press conference. "We have worked with the Department of Justice and the Department of Civil Rights to move forward."

The non-binding agreement calls for the department to meet no less than three times in a year with "disability advocacy and disability service provider organizations such as the Northeast Guidance Center, to discuss concerns, issues of safety, and recognizing cognitive disabilities."

The agreement, signed by Heenan and Hiller, was witnessed by Daedra A. Von Mike McGhee, conciliation specialist with the DOJ.

Also in attendance were Rev. Tim Pelc, pastor of St. Ambrose Church and Marcia Fairrow, owner of Higher Grounds Coffee Café on Mack, and former pastor of the Grace Community Church.

The agreement, under the formal name "City of Grosse Pointe Park and Concerned Citizens of Grosse Pointe Park, St. Ambrose Church and the Michigan Department of Civil Rights" is described as a "Memorandum of Agreement on Community Trust, Respect and Civil Rights."

In addition to that agreement, Heenan signed a proclamation asserting that Grosse Pointe Park "will respect and treat with dignity all persons, resident or visitor – regardless of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, religion or disability – in all aspects of community life or service."

Stating the Park "at all times welcomes all ethnic groups, races, cultures and religions and values their contributions to our community."

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