GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The head of the local NAACP says the city of Grand Rapids should not consider the lone minority candidate for police chief.
Cle Jackson says it can’t be ignored that retired Milwaukee Police Department Inspector Jutiki Jackson killed a suspect in 1997 in what was determined to be an accidental shooting.
“Where we are right now in this country in terms of overpolicing of communities of color, it’s just unacceptable,” Cle Jackson, the president of the Greater Grand Rapids NAACP, said. “If I were the city officials, I would honestly not consider Mr. Jackson as a viable candidate.”
According to published reports from the time, in November 1997, then-Milwaukee Officer Jutiki Jackson chased 22-year-old James Rey Guerrero, who ran away from a traffic stop. Jutiki Jackson claimed the two struggled and his gun accidentally went off, killing Guerrero. While there was conflicting testimony from witnesses, the shooting was ruled accidental.
The NAACP’s Cle Jackson said questions surrounding the case and the damage done across the country by the deaths of people of color at the hands of police should force City Manager Mark Washington to reject Jutiki Jackson as a candidate for chief of police in Grand Rapids.
“I’m not saying that Mr. Jackson was at fault or did anything wrong. But again, the subject is too sensitive and there are just, in my opinion and in our opinion, just some things that are questionable,” Cle Jackson said.
“I think it’s just unfair to him, it’s unfair to the community to even spend a lot of time in this type of a candidate,” he continued. “And here’s the deal: I would assume that there are many, many, many other individuals, not only here locally, but across this country, that could probably be much more of a viable candidate and that doesn’t have that type of blemish on their record.”
Jutiki Jackson is one of three finalists recommended to the city by a California-based search firm. Of them, he is the only minority. The city paid Public Sector Search and Consulting $32,000 to recruit and vet the candidates.
“It seems like they would be hypersensitive to something of this magnitude and of this nature,” Cle Jackson said.
The city released a statement Monday saying the consultant had informed leaders of the 1997 incident, and adding that it “did not hinder Mr. Jackson from having a distinguished 27-year law enforcement career where he was widely praised for his community centric approach to policing.”
But will the community agree? The NAACP’S Cle Jackson is hoping people turn out in person or virtually for Wednesday’s public forum with the finalists to voice their opinions.
The public forum runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. If you can’t go in person, you can watch on Comcast Channel 26 or on the city’s Facebook page or YouTube channel.
“At the end of the day, fundamentally, it is extremely important for a community voice to be at the forefront of this process,” Cle Jackson said.