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Community asks for changes, and levels new accusations against police officer in Muskegon

Dustin Dwyer
Michigan Radio
Mickey Wallace, left, and Ebony Davis speak during a meeting of the Muskegon city commission Tuesday.

Muskegon residents called for a public apology and more transparency from the city’s police department at a commission meeting Tuesday night.

Those calls came after the city placed a senior officer on leave when an old KKK document was found in the officer’s home.

The officer, Charles Anderson is on leave while the city investigates.

But at Tuesday night’s meeting, members of the community say they want more of a response.

“As the community we feel we’re stepping up because, unfortunately, we don’t feel that our leaders are stepping up for us,” said Ebony Davis, during the public comment session at the commission meeting.

Davis said she was part of a group pushing for change. Another member of the group, Mickey Wallace, read a list of six “asks” for city leaders:

  1. A public apology.
  2. Transparency on the Muskegon Police Department’s racial bias training.
  3. Body cams for Muskegon police officers
  4. Transparency on incentives for officers
  5. Higher standards and better pay for police officers.
  6. More data on policing and crime in the city.

Wallace said he hoped there would be more communication between law enforcement and the community about the requests.
“But notice how number one we did ask for a public apology,” Wallace told commissioners. “Because we cannot have a healthy sustainable community without that buffer of trust between our community and law enforcement.”

Threats made

Also at the meeting, community members said threats had been made against the family that first made the allegation of finding a KKK document inside Anderson’s home.

Rob Mathis first posted photos of the document on Facebook last week. He says he and his wife Reyna Mathis toured Anderson’s home with a realtor. They say they saw confederate flags and a framed “Application for Citizenship” in the KKK in the home. The application looked old, and had never been filled out.

"This has gotten way bigger than we ever thought it would."

Reyna Mathis cried as she spoke to city commissioners last night.

“This has gotten way bigger than we ever thought it would,” she said. “I’m emotional because of the threats.”

She said she sent her daughter away from their home because she didn’t feel safe.

Mathis added that no one from the city had contacted her as part of the investigation into Anderson.

City commissioners and the mayor told people at the meeting that they can’t comment on the investigation until it’s complete. Anderson couldn’t be reached for comment.

New allegations

Others at the meeting raised new allegations about Anderson’s conduct on the force.

Lowell Kirksey is a former city employee. He says Anderson used to drive to work with a confederate flag displayed on his truck.

"We trust our officers. We believe in our officers. We want to support officers," said Lowell Kirksey. "But if you've got a racist intent, we can't have you around. It's best to just get rid of him."

Kirksey says other city employees complained, and eventually they stopped seeing the flag. Kirksey says he’s not sure if the incident was registered as an official complaint with the city, or if it was just handled through a conversation.

“But for many of the black employees of the city at the time, it was very disturbing for us to see that,” Kirksey said.

He added that he still supports the department.

“We trust our officers. We believe in our officers. We want to support officers," he said. "But if you’ve got a racist intent, we can’t have you around. It’s best to just get rid of him.”

Another man told commissioners he was beaten by Anderson more than a decade ago during an arrest.

“I was officer Anderson’s first victim,” said Marcus Robertson.

Records from the Michigan Department of Corrections show Robertson was arrested in Muskegon County in 2006 and served 12 years in prison. His charges included resisting an officer and fleeing.

Robertson says Anderson is the officer who made the arrest.

“That man called me the N-word and everything while he was beating me with that baton,” Robertson told city commissioners. “I told the judge this and everything. They didn’t do nothing about it.”

Robertson says he still gets headaches from the incident, which he says happened 13 years ago.

“For those individuals that may experience a negative event with any of our staff and specifically our police department, it’s incumbent upon you to get a hold of command immediately,” said Muskegon mayor Stephen Gawron.

At the end of the meeting, commissioners reiterated that they can’t comment specifically on the investigation, but they thanked community members for speaking up at the meeting.

“Your city leaders are doing something,” said Vice Mayor Eric Hood, who also serves as head of the local chapter of the NAACP. “We can’t speak on this at this time, but I guarantee you that we are looking into this and we’re making sure that something be done.”

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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