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Posted on June 11, 2020 at 10:21 PM by Jessica VanderKolk
Our community – rightfully so – wants an explanation for recent police actions, but I cannot explain the inexplicable related to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. The nine minutes is inexplicable, and so is the lack of response from the officers present. I am disgusted, and these actions at the Battle Creek Police Department would be unacceptable.
Understandably, we hear calls for police policy review. Policy has never changed culture; if an agency with great policies suffers from an out-of-date culture, it will not achieve the results communities demand and deserve. An agency with dated policies, and a poor officer development program, performs even worse.
Policies should be fluid, dynamic, and reflect the community’s values, to uphold the highest levels of ethics and professionalism, while protecting the community and its police officers.
Just over one year ago, in March 2019, the BCPD became one of only 16 law enforcement agencies across the state (24 agencies today) to achieve full state accreditation with the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police. This two-year process affirms that the BCPD voluntarily meets best practice standards, and complies with 105 MACP required professional standards.
During this process, we modified department policies, developed necessary procedures, and provided evidence to the MACP to show that the BCPD meets the required standards. They result in great accountability within our agency, reduced risk and liability exposure, increased community advocacy, and more confidence in our ability to operate efficiently and respond to our community’s needs.
To keep our state accreditation, we review our policies each year. We engage our community through programs like the Citizens Police Academy, Police Explorer Program, Cops and Clergy meetings of our faith-based leaders, Neighborhood Planning Councils, and others. Unfortunately, some of these programs are on hold, as we face budget challenges related to COVID-19. We know we need further and continued review by our community.
We have created excellent programs to serve our community outside the criminal justice system, like the Crisis Intervention Team for mental health crises, the Fusion Center, Trauma Informed Policing, the Domestic Violence Unit, and the Victim Advocate and Violence Intervention programs.
Our openness remains one of our greatest strengths, as well as our willingness to learn, grow, and try new and innovative approaches. A discussion about police use of force requires more discussion than a statement. I look forward to an open dialogue continuing in our wonderful Battle Creek community.
Chief Jim Blocker
Posted on March 10, 2020 at 4:43 PM by Jessica VanderKolk
The City of Battle Creek is an entitlement community and, in this case, it’s good to be entitled.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development started this grant program in the 1970s, and that is when we first met the designation requirements.
What this means is that Battle Creek automatically receives a share of grant funds that help us do important work related to community needs, largely around housing.
Our eligibility for this program hangs on the fact that we have a population of at least 50,000. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Battle Creek’s 2018 population at 51,247. This is a story to demonstrate why it is critically important that we remain above 50,000. To get that on record, we need every household to complete the 2020 Census this spring!
The census count happens every 10 years, and is essentially a head count of every person living in the United States. The Census Bureau uses this data to compile statistics about our population that inform government programs and their funding – including the HUD entitlement grants.
Battle Creek benefits from a number of these grants, determined by a formula:
Entitlement also makes us eligible to apply for other, competitive, grants through HUD and the State of Michigan. We have received:
The work we do with these funds benefits low- and moderate-income neighbors in Battle Creek. We do work to revitalize neighborhoods, improve economic development, and improve public infrastructure and services.
We do a range of activities to promote those goals, like inspecting and registering thousands of rental units in low-income areas, which helps ensure the properties are safe and liveable. We have rehabilitated hundreds of low-income senior citizens’ homes, and we run a Minor Home Repair Program for low-income homeowners who cannot otherwise afford repairs required to meet housing code standards. That program helps up to 50 households per year with health and safety, accessibility, and roofing projects.
We also have demolished vacant and blighted buildings around the city, and have purchased foreclosed homes and rehabilitated them to sell to low- and moderate-income families, thereby helping restore the market vitality in our core historic neighborhoods.
We are a responsive city government, working hard to understand our challenges and work on our strengths. These federal resources help us achieve a healthy and thriving community. If every person in our city is counted in the 2020 Census, this will help Battle Creek keep our entitlement status, and ensure that we can keep our momentum on efforts to revitalize our neighborhoods, making them strong, safe, and attractive places to live.
Posted on March 5, 2020 at 11:11 AM by Jessica VanderKolk
Our Battle Creek Transit system provides public transportation to the community with fixed-route buses, the ADA and advance-scheduled Tele-Transit, and the on-demand weekend BCGo.
Our transit system is classified as “small urban,” since we have a population of 50,000-199,999. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Battle Creek’s 2018 population at 51,247. This is a story to demonstrate why it is critically important that we remain above 50,000. To get that on record, we need every household to complete the 2020 Census this spring!
The census count happens every 10 years, and is essentially a head count of every person living in the United States. The Census Bureau uses this data to compile statistics about our population that inform government programs and their funding – including funding to operate community public transportation.
Our status as a “small urban” system places us in a Federal Transit Administration formula allocating us about $1.4 million that we use for operating expenses – staff and the services we mentioned above. This helps with our $4 million operating budget.
As part of this current distribution, we also receive a state reimbursement of 39 cents per dollar we spend on operations.
If our population drops below 50,000, we become a “rural” transit system. We no longer would receive federal funds directly, but would become one of at least 83 agencies across Michigan to share a pot of about $24 million. We estimate this would provide us with $740,000 for operations – half of what we currently receive.
Because we would have to spend less on operations under that scenario, we would receive less state reimbursement, a double hit to our already-tight Transit budget. You may know that this year we are recommending to the City Commission the first bus fare increase in 17 years – moving from $1.25 per ride to $1.75. We don’t want to burden our riders, especially those who have limited income; we believe this increase will better keep our community riding, than if we were to cut service.
That being said, a drop in population – or undercount on the 2020 Census – that gives us “rural” status, could potentially mean cutting Tele-Transit to service only those passengers who are ADA-eligible – a small percentage of the current list of passengers who use this service for work, medical appointments, and much more.
If that did not cover the funding cut, we would look at cutting service hours, probably starting our services later in the morning, and ending them earlier in the evening. Right now, buses run weekdays 5:15 a.m. to 6:45 p.m., and Tele-Transit runs 5:15 a.m. to midnight. They also have Saturday hours, and BCGo covers additional weekend hours.
Especially since our community lost taxi service last year, we know how critically important it is to continue providing – and improving – our Battle Creek Transit services. Please help us in that effort by completing the brief – just nine questions – Census survey this spring.
Battle Creek Counts, and we are counting on you to help us stay 50K strong.
Tag(s): census, 2020 census