Washtenaw County, MI – In response to a series of tragic gun violence incidents that resulted in the shooting deaths of young men in Washtenaw County in the Summer of 2021, a diverse group of people, including community members with lived experience of gun violence, representatives from community groups, and local policymakers came together to focus on addressing gun violence to save the lives of young people. Last night, the Board of Commissioners heard from and unanimously accepted a list of recommendations from this group and set a clear goal of saving lives by stopping violence.
“Our team was intentional in lifting up the decades of lived experience navigating, surviving, and even perpetuating gun violence in our community,” said Justin Hodge, the Commissioner for District 5 who has been participating in the group. “By doing so we built a community-focused list of recommendations to interrupt the cycle of violence and trauma and saves lives.”
The passed resolution highlighted a list of 14 recommendations for local governments, community organizations, and community members to collectively adopt. In addition to formally adopting the goal of saving lives by stopping violence as a top priority, the resolution also highlighted work already starting at the county in line with these goals.
“Many of these recommendations focus on addressing root causes of violence and focus on evidence-based paths to healing,” said Sue Shink, Chair of the Board of Commissioners, Commissioner for District 2, and another participant in the group. “While there is much to do, I am proud of the strides already happening, like our recent investment in community violence intervention work as part of the Community Priority Fund we created using American Rescue Plan Act dollars.”
In addition to accepting recommendations and formally adopting violence intervention as a top priority, with their action, the Board started to act on the recommendations. Specifically, the board instructed county staff to begin exploring how to fund the second recommendation: an in-depth problem analysis and asset mapping process. This foundational work is critical to creating a shared understanding of the violence impacting our community and guiding collaborative efforts focused on solutions.
“We have seen the devastating impact of gun violence on our community,” said Derrick Jackson, Director of Community Engagement for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office, who has served as facilitator for the group. “For lasting impact, we know it won’t be easy and it will take all of us working together. Steps like the community team coming together and the Commissioners prioritizing and acting on these recommendations represent the first of many steps we can take to ensure we do everything in our power to save lives.
In the resolution, the Board notes that not every organization or individual will be able to act on each recommendation, but instead it represents a systems level approach that requires partnership and collaboration. To that end, the resolution closes with the Board of Commissioners encouraging all cities, townships, and villages in the County to accept the list of the recommendations as a high priority.
“We will do everything we can to make progress on each of these recommendations. We also recognize that as county government, we can’t impact this core issue if we only look internally,” said Gregory Dill, County Administrator, who has also participated in the group. “We look forward to working with other local governments and critical community partners to do the work of interrupting the cycles of violence.”
You can view the presentation given by the group to the board at the 1 hour, 4 minute, and 28 second mark of this video.