New city of Flint Chief of Police Terence Green took office in September. Courtesy photo
New city of Flint Chief of Police Terence Green can speak with some authority about what the needs of Flint residents are, because he is one. He grew up in the city and -- like all Flint natives -- has immense pride in his hometown. Green took office in September after previously serving as chief of police in Mt. Morris Township, answered a few questions from Flintside about his role, how he sees Flint Police building trust with the community, and what advice he has for new officers entering the profession.
Flintside: Earlier this summer, Mayor Neeley announced he'd be creating a Black Lives Matter advisory group to create a dialogue between community members and the police department. How important is it to you to seek out community input into how Flint and its residents are policed?
Chief Green: "Seeking community input, creating open channels of communication, and finding new ways to work together are important, both to me personally and to the Flint Police Department. I am from Flint and still live in Flint. I know that we have a lot of work to do to earn community trust. This is an issue that goes back generations and the fact is that Flint police can only be successful if they have the support of the community. The Community Advisory Task force led by Pastor Jeffery Hawkins creates an important bridge between the community and the police department and I look forward to working with them."
Flintside: As a Flint native, how does that shape how you approach the job of chief of police? Do you think officers being from the city they work in helps with understanding the community's needs?
Chief Green: "There is something very special about being able to serve the community that raised you. I think being from here helps me to be able to prioritize my work and recognize immediate needs. For instance, I know that one of my top priorities is to hire more police officers to fill the vacant positions within the department. It’s neither fair to the community nor to our officers that we are so short-staffed.
"I think being from here also helps me to know and understand better what our residents have been through. Yes, we are resilient, but we are also weary. It is incredibly valuable to have both the knowledge and true understanding of those scars. I hope my history in this community also will help to build trust."
Flintside: The city of Flint recently announced that there were hundreds of candidates for openings in the Flint Police Department. What advice would you give new officers entering the profession in this particular moment in time?
Chief Green: "Remember to listen.
"On every call and every assignment: Listen. Know enough to know what you don’t know. Know enough to understand who you are and what you represent. Listen so that you can truly understand. Only then, can we truly protect and serve."
Flintside: This summer, there have been protests around the country in response to the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. What are the best ways that police can build trust with the communities they serve in the face of that anger?
Chief Green: "First, police officers must always do what’s right and nothing less can ever be acceptable. We need to acknowledge and enforce that unilaterally. Until we do, we cannot even ask for the public’s trust. Good officers must have the courage to say what happened to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor was wrong.
"Second, like mentioned before, we need to listen. Fairness and understanding are the building blocks for a trusting relationship. I am proud of the way Flint handled protests. Our officers were dispatched to protect protesters, not try to stop or silence them. We need to work together more for the betterment of all."
Flintside: Flint has an amazing history of producing talented entertainers, athletes, business leaders, and creative people. What does it mean to you to be from Flint?
Chief Green: "Being from Flint helps to define who I am as a person. There is a special pride that comes along with being from here. There is also a special support system that I dare say doesn’t exist in other communities. When you’re from Flint, you’re family. I consider myself so very blessed to be able to serve my hometown. Becoming the City of Flint police chief truly is the pinnacle of my career and a dream come true."