KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety chief says a gesture by one of his officers that caused public concern is simply the way the officer waves to people both on and off the job.
A photo posted to Facebook Friday shows a KDPS officer making a sort of “finger gun” pointing gesture at a young black man that some people interpreted as threatening. The Facebook post has been shared thousands of times and there was a community forum Saturday to discuss it.
In an open letter to the community Tuesday, Chief Jeff Hadley said the officer in the photo, Tim Millard, is a “fine officer who cares about his community.” The chief said he spoke with Millard and is confident that the gesture was not made with “ill intent or maliciousness.”
“It is, and has been his way of waving, communicating ‘hey,’ ‘what’s up,’ etc on a regular basis, even in his personal life!” Hadley wrote in part.
However, Hadley did not discount the feelings of those who said the gesture was threatening.
“I understand and respect what the gentleman who took the picture said about ‘feeling threatened’ as well as others who share the same sentiment. We do not minimize those feelings,” the letter continued. “We welcome the opportunity to sit down and discuss this with him so we can all have a better understanding of each other and our place in the world.”
>>Online: Hadley’s open letter to the community
Hadley said his department is committed to improving community relations, which he called a “continuous endeavor” for which officers and community members share responsibility.
“While I believe we have done tremendous work in changing the direction and culture of the organization this situation demonstrates there is still much work to be done,” the letter reads in part. “I invite and would love to hear all suggestions and recommendations on what KDPS can do to enhance police community relations and provide optimum service to the citizens of Kalamazoo.”
He suggested community members come out to National Night Out Tuesday evening to meet and learn about their local police officers.
The chief concluded his letter by asked people to “resist the temptation” of taking “polarizing positions that can rob officers of their spirit or leave members of the community voiceless.”