YPSILANTI, MI – The Ypsilanti Police Advisory Board has invited new Washtenaw County District Attorney Eli Savit to its February 25 meeting to discuss his priorities as a prosecutor.
Savit took the opportunity to talk about mental health, COVID-19 and racial disparities.
The Gail Wolkoff commission, who works with Ypsilanti youth, questioned the type of message Savit has for students in the community.
Savit said he was worried about the mental health of young people after the pandemic.
“One thing that frankly keeps me awake at night is that I think we are going to see a second pandemic after the COVID pandemic which will be a pandemic linked to mental health issues and trauma, especially since we let’s start to re-engage, and especially for young people, ”said Savit.
A University of Michigan Healthy Minds study found that 47% of those surveyed tested positive for clinically significant symptoms of depression and / or anxiety, up from 44% last year and the highest since the start of the investigation in 2007.
“I’m particularly concerned about this for young people and teens because if you look at brain science, teens in particular are wired for social connection,” Savit said. “This is right where the teenagers are in their lives, and we took that away from them and we had to do it to save lives, but I think we need to be aware of the second-order fallout from this pandemic.”
He further said that historically for teens if someone is dealing with mental health issues it was seen as something to be ashamed of because of the stigma surrounding mental health. He wants young people in the community not to end up in the juvenile system because of the trauma and mental health problems that may arise from the pandemic.
Wolkoff said she had already seen an increase in the number of young people in the community using marijuana because they had nothing else to do during their day.
“This is how a lot of kids self-care… It’s on the rise,” Wolkoff said.
Savit has already started discussions with the Washtenaw County Youth Advisory Board on the topic of mental health, and would like to reach out to the community to better harness youth leadership.
“As adults we can talk to them whatever we want around this stuff, but it’s not going to land if it’s not something that has peer support,” Savit said. . “The concern for stigma is the concern of their peers, so that’s something I would really love to work on with young people. “
Ypsilanti City Council member Anthony Morgan has expressed concern over how Washtenaw County exhibits some of the biggest disparities in wealth and income.
“How do you try to change the systemic structure that is in place, whatever the new face, to get them to buy into some of these open-minded perspectives in a place like Washtenaw County that has a face of inclusion and diversity, but the belly is clearly not that according to the arrest statistics and all the other statistics, ”Morgan asked. “So how do you get the structure that stays the same to buy into your new ideas?
Savit said his office has partnered with the ACLU and the University of Michigan Law School on a project that is the first of its kind in Michigan – reviewing all of the attorney’s cases and identifying cases of disparate racial treatment.
“I see a real responsibility on our side to delve much deeper into these disparities and identify the points in the system where they occur,” said Savit. “Without it, I don’t think we can really understand how this is perpetuated by the prosecutor’s office.”
A recent report by the Citizens for Racial Equity in Washtenaw (CREW) suggested that blacks are about four times more likely to be charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance than whites in Washtenaw County, Savit said.
“There are a number of potential reasons for this, one may be that we get four times as many black law enforcement warrant requests as we do for whites … we might disproportionately deny requests. indictment concerning whites. but we bring in more as far as blacks are concerned… But we have to get this under control, ”Savit said. “So this is the first step in the partnership that we are leading, it is really to understand why we are seeing these disparities. Where does it break down? “
Savit has promulgated a dozen new policy guidelines aimed at shifting the county to a more progressive form of criminal justice, saying he will not prosecute cases involving consensual prostitution or drugs like magic mushrooms. More recently, Savit announced his office will not coordinate with federal immigration law enforcement efforts, nor will it report non-citizen civilians, survivors of crime, witnesses or defendants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), by issuing a new policy direction on how its office will deal with cases where a person’s immigration status would previously be in question.
To review all of Savit’s policy guidelines, Click here.
The commission also spent time reviewing a presentation of the Ypsilanti Police Department’s monthly statistics presented by Chief Tony DeGiusti.
DeGuisti said there were no complaints from citizens during the month of January.
There have been six cases identified as cases involving physical force, he said. Four suffered no actual physical force, but the weapons were deployed and not unloaded. Of these six cases, no suspect or officer was injured.
DeGiusti also said the police department may start a project to upload biographical videos of police officers and community members to the city’s webpage so residents can see the human side of the officers.
The Police Advisory Board serves as a liaison to improve relations between the community and the police. The commission is made up of seven members and a non-voting youth, all appointed by the mayor.