Police in Flint Michigan have been preying on people’s hopes for clean water, by showing up with filters, then arresting people who have outstanding warrants. Now, the Chief of Police has been fired, without warning, and many believe it is because of the controversy that ensued when the original report went viral.
Local WJRT 12 News confirmed that Flint Police Chief James Tolbert has in fact just had his employment terminated. But police officials would offer us no explanation as to why they fired him. But Chief Tolbert told WJRT that he met with Mayor Karen Weaver and was told “your services will no longer be needed.”
After 5 p.m. today, he will no longer be employed with the City of Flint.
“I have mixed feelings but at the end of the day it is all part of the job,” Tolbert said.
But it isn’t part of the job – it’s part of losing your job.
Recently, the Genesee County Health Department declared a public health emergency for the City of Flint. They told residents that they should immediately stop drinking the city’s tap water due to the high levels of lead that had been coloring the water a muddy orange.
It was another two months before the mayor of Flint declared a state of emergency. The mayor explained that all of this was due to the city’s pipes leaching lead, and the water was unsafe to drink for the foreseeable future.
Since then, the National Guard began distributing of bottled water to Flint residents. The state had received the bottled water a full year earlier, but they didn’t start handing them out until this January.
Police saw an opportunity in this crisis: they could join in the door-to-door deliveries, but they could also use it as a pretext to get people to identify themselves, who otherwise might be hesitant to talk to the police. Specifically, police were interested in getting people with outstanding warrants to identify themselves.
Here’s how it works: the police officer shows up with bottled water or filters. They tell the resident that they are there to give the bottles and/or filter to them… “but first, we have to cross you off of our list. What’s your full name?”
In a recent interview with Democracy Now!, former inmate Jody Cramer said that many inmates landed behind bars after being tricked by deputies.
The deputies came to their homes claiming to be passing out water filtration systems. But when people opened the door, and their names were confirmed, the deputies served warrants to the people on the spot.
“Here’s your water filtration system. By the way, you have a warrant for your arrest,” Cramer said.
Does it seem right to you that Flint police officers and Sheriff’s deputies are preying on people’s hopes for clean water, using this crisis as an opportunity to lock people up?
It certainly has to many, prompting the Flint Police Department to formally stated that they will not do this (any longer), just days before firing the Chief. Do you think these are related?