In the summer of 2020, the city of Flint created an advisory task force to bridge gaps between the community and law enforcement. Flintside is regularly talking to members of the task force to share their reasons for joining and what they hope to accomplish. Other task force member profiles: Jeffrey Hawkins | Debra Furr-Holden | Mario Booker | Ralph Arellano
FLINT, Michigan -- Estephanie Ward’s motivation for joining the city of Flint’s Community Advisory Task Force on Public Safety was simple: she wanted to take action.
“I am here to do real work,” said Ward, 29. “I want to get sh-t done. I am so sick of sitting in my house and doom scrolling and feeling like the world is falling apart and there are no adults to take the wheel. It is infuriating.”
She is passionate and has a vision to create real solutions for the future of Flint and its police department. Ward remembers having an awakening in herself after the election of Donald Trump in 2016. She wanted to be directly involved in politics to make a positive impact locally.
“People just want to deal with the surface, the symptoms of the problem.They never want to deal with what is causing the illness. What is causing the illness here in Flint?,” Ward said. “Poverty. Poverty is causing the illness. If poverty wasn’t an issue, the city of Flint would be one of the brightest jewels in the country. Look what poverty has done to this city, it could happen to any city.”
Ward received her bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Michigan-Flint and plans on using her knowledge base to make tangible financial improvements to the way the community and the police department find unity.
“We know that the Flint Police and Flint Fire Department are (some) of the most constantly underfunded departments here in the city,” she said. “What I would like to do, big picture-wise, is see if we can get grants from the state of Michigan to run proto-programs where we give X amount of dollars for police to come and live here. If they agree to live in the city for five years they won't pay taxes or get tuition reimbursement, the sky's the limit. That’s the kind of stuff I want to do.”
Ward also hopes to explore the potential idea of promoting free education through partnerships with local universities for Flint residents who want to become officers. Ward recognizes that schooling is a class barrier but that education is too essential to write off.
“To be an officer and to occupy that position, maybe it wouldn't be bad to have a psychology or sociology degree,” she said. “And maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea for anyone that wants to be a police officer in the city of Flint to get a degree for free (offered through local universities as an incentive to the community) and then become a police officer. This could be something available for Flint residents.”
Ward is passionate about fixing poverty in Flint, offering greater access to education resources, creating a demographic in the police department that represents the community accurately, and finding funding to help deal with root issues in the city.
The task force has been meeting regularly since Fall of 2020, preparing their mission and vision statement. This week, the task force plans on having their first meeting with the community through a zoom webinar. Community members can register for the webinar here.
Their recently adopted mission statement states, “Our mission is to bridge the gap between law enforcement and the greater Flint community to foster equity, peaceful resolution and systemic change to ensure the equal protection, fair treatment and safety of all people. We believe our city will benefit from honest communication and respectful engagement between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to protect and serve. To meet the challenges of battling implicit bias, systemic racism, police violence and faltering community trust we will work in partnership with the City of Flint and local law enforcement to elevate the voice and concerns of the community, drive decision making, policies, practices and procedures to create a long-lasting infrastructure to build safe communities.”
Their vision statement is: “To foster a just and equitable society nurtured by the collaboration of our community and the Flint Police Department.”
“We need to have nuanced conversations,” said Ward. “People like to think this and most issues are black and white. It is not. It is not evil cops versus everyone else. Cops are people too and they need to be included in this conversation."