Dannison denied reappointment to Kzoo public safety review board

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

Nathan Dannison, a Kalamazoo pastor, during his last Citizens Public Safety Review and Appeals Board meeting as a member. (Sept. 22, 2020)

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo pastor who organized a counterprotest to the Proud Boys march has been denied a request for reappointment to the Citizens Public Safety Review and Appeals Board.

Deputy City Manager Patsy Moore informed the board that Pastor Nathan Dannison will be leaving the board when his term expires on Sept. 30.

Board Chair Vernon Payne then gave Dannison a chance to address his leaving the board at the end of the month.

Dannison told the board he was notified Tuesday morning that he would not be reappointed.

“It’s been a pretty hard day,” he said. “(It’s a) good thing to bring new voices to municipal boards, but I was alarmed by the reason.”

Dannison says he was told by the City Manager’s Office that officers who come before the CPSRAB need an expectation “of impartiality” and it’s believed he cannot be impartial.

Dannison has been an outspoken critic of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety’s handling of protests this summer.

He got a permit for Arcadia Creek Festival Place in an attempt to prevent the Proud Boys from holding a rally in the park last month. The Proud Boys marched down Water Street and were confronted by counterprotesters where violence broke out in the street.

In an interview with News 8 last month, Dannison said he believed public safety underestimated the “number of neo-Nazi’s that were going to come to town.”

“I’m very confused. You need a permit to park a food truck in this town. I don’t know why these guys were allowed to come here from Indiana, block off streets downtown with their own private vehicles and just march around and disrupt my event,” Dannison said.

He says KDPS should have known the history of the Proud Boys and prepared a different plan.

“In the future, I hope that the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety decides to protect the residents of Kalamazoo first,” Dannison said.

Dannison told the CPSRAB Tuesday night that he was concerned about his removal from the board.

“If people are removed from the police board simply for voicing their concerns about police action, it risks looking like the board is a sham or a rubber stamp for police,” Dannison told the board.

Payne told Dannison the board looks forward to his involvement in the community in the future.

“We do not have an expectation you’re going to go away from the passion and the mission you’ve been on for all people,” Payne said.

Dannison concluded his remarks by saying he needed to say something “for my own conscious,” telling the board if police are worried about “their review being biased against them, perhaps they should examine their practices.”

Dannison made a recommendation at the end of the meeting to appoint Jacquis Robertson to fill his role of vice chair of the board. Payne pointed out the filling of that role is up to the city manager.

The board agreed to make that recommendation to the City Manager’s Office.

Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema released the following statement:

The Citizen-Public Safety Review and Appeal Board fosters accountability and transparency and builds credibility, community trust and confidence that Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety complaints and inquiries are handled seriously and appropriately. CPSRAB bylaws require that a board member not have demonstrated bias for or against a particular party that is sufficient to impair impartiality. For this board to function properly, both the officers at KDPS and the citizens who bring forth complaints must have confidence that board members are impartial and perform their duties without bias. Recent events, along with actions and words by Pastor Nathan Dannison, have led me to conclude he cannot be impartial and serve without bias. He is entitled to the freedom of expressing his point of view and engaging in political activism, however we must hold our citizen board members to the highest standards as detailed in our bylaws so all complaints are handled fairly, impartially and without bias.

Tuesday night was Dannison’s last CPSRAB meeting before his term expires. He was appointed to the board of Oct. 2017.

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