Last week, a Carbondale Spring organizer conducted an interview with Professor Micol Siegel, author of Violence Work: State Power and the Limits of Police. They discussed some of the myths about municipal police forces, the concept of violence workers, the incessant call for “more training,” and places without police at all. The interview is about 45 minutes, and well worth a listen:
As everyone who followed the recent election knows, the Carbondale Spring made the case that the current Carbondale Police budget is double what it needs to be, and that the police pension costs are too large for the city to manage in the near and long term. Mayor Mike Henry was opposed to this idea, a staunch defender of the current size and cost of the police.
On the evening before the April 2nd election, a police press release published in the local papers shocked the town. Officers on foot patrol had responded to a woman screaming. Upon following the sound, they ended up at the Mayor’s house. No arrests were made, and the incident was turned over to SIU police. The police statement contained one ambiguous phrase that stuck out to some: “there were no injuries requiring medical attention.” Did that mean there were no injuries at all? Or just that they weren’t serious enough for medical attention?
Later that evening, Mayor Mike Henry released a statement assuring the people of Carbondale that it was just a heated argument under stressful circumstances, and that “there was never any violence, or threat of violence.”
The next day, he won the election by about 200 votes.
The following week, Mayor Henry continued his staunch public support of the Carbondale Police Department’s current budget at the public hearing on the proposed FY2020 budget, in the face of tough questions from the audience. He insisted that, while he may have to apologize after being scolded by citizens for his obvious disdain for speakers at the public hearing, he would “never apologize for supporting the Carbondale Police Department.”
On April 10, a story in the Southern Illinoisan revealed that the SIU Police report directly contradicted the Mayor’s public statement on the eve of the election. In fact, there had been a physical struggle. The Mayor’s spouse, Terri Henry, reported being “struck” by the Mayor — in non-archaic language: he hit her. The Mayor had a bite wound and scratch marks. Terri had blood on her clothing.
Those are the only physical facts that have been made public about the incident, and we don’t want to pretend that we know what happened exactly — who started it, etc. There is apparently much more information, since the document received through the Freedom of Information Act was heavily redacted.
But what has come out already is enough to confirm one, very important fact:
Mayor Mike Henry publicly lied to us all the night before the election. He said it was just a verbal dispute, but it was not.
We should add that its pretty obvious why he lied. Because if the truth came out — however complicated or strange it was — then that would likely have influenced the vote on April 2nd.
That is one important fact, and one obvious inference. There is another important inference we could make:
Mike Henry very likely knew that the Carbondale Police Department, and the SIU Police Department, wouldn’t publicly contradict his lie. He knew the police were the only other people who knew it was a lie, and he knew his secret was safe with them. After all, he’s their biggest supporter.
Incidentally, if a human bite wound draws blood, it does require some kind of medical attention. Human saliva has a lot of bacteria that can cause infection. Was it the Mayor’s blood on Terri’s clothes? Was it Terri’s? Either way, first aid — a form of medical attention — is definitely required. So we can add that the Carbondale Police Department’s statement contained, at best, an ambiguity designed to steer us from the truth of the situation, and at worse, an outright lie.
Recall again that the stakes of this past Mayoral election were quite high for the police. The Mayor’s challenger, Nathan Colombo, had publicly advocated for the Carbondale Spring plan to cut the police budget by as much as half. The police, in other words, stood to gain quite a bit by keeping silent about what happened at the Mayor’s house.
To sum up:
- Mike Henry lied to the public on the eve of the Carbondale election.
- He did this because if the truth came out, it very likely would have lost him the election.
- He did this assuming that the police would allow his lie to have its effect.
- The police had a strong incentive to let him lie to us, since their budget was at stake.
Without knowing any further details of what happened that night, we know all that. And all that is enough to justify his immediate resignation. It calls into question the legitimacy of his status as Mayor, as well as his ethical fitness as figurehead of the city.
Now, you might be thinking: all politicians lie all the time. Who cares?
In which case, we invite to you let everything remain exactly as it is, forever, without any hope of things ever getting better. Enjoy.
For those of you who still have the capacity for ethical judgement, and who care about the present and future of this city, we invite you to join us in calling for Mike Henry’s immediate resignation.
On April 2nd, 20 percent of the Carbondale population cast its votes for mayor, city council, and other elected offices. The Carbondale Spring had been vigorously campaigning on behalf of four candidates who supported, in full or in part, our plan to transform the city from its current identity as a dying college town into the most ambitious city in the country tackling the social and ecological problems of our time. Two out of the four candidates we were campaigning for won; two out of the four candidates we were campaigning for lost. The two candidates who won were incumbents, and while our efforts may have helped, we can’t take too much credit for it.
Throughout our organizing, we’ve been very clear: the Carbondale Spring is a community-led, grassroots initiative that will continue regardless of who wins the election. We stand by this, and expected that our campaign to re-prioritize city spending would encounter obstacles no matter who was in office. So while its sad to see some of our candidates lose, we aren’t slowing down.
In the coming months, we aim to deepen and broaden our organizing, continuing to go door to door, to conduct meetings and public education events to develop our initiatives, and to build a broad coalition of groups from all sides of town to make the Carbondale Spring a reality. We invite you and any community groups you are involved in to continue to spread the word, publicly endorse the initiative, and invite us to come give a presentation. There will be film screenings, workshops, visiting speakers, and a host of other events that aim to build a movement for transforming our town into one of the most unique, compassionate, and ecologically restorative places in the country. A city people will want to stay in, visit, and believe in.
Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard over the past month, to everyone who has invited us into their homes and meetings, and to everyone who has allowed this vision to take hold in their hearts. We have a lot of work to do; but that’s nothing new. What is new is that we’ve taken a first step out of our isolation and out of the paralysis that comes from mere criticism of the world. We’ve taken a step toward a positive vision of a future worth living in. All we have to do is continue stepping. The road is made by walking.
Carbondale municipal elections are tomorrow April 2nd. It matters — kind of. Over the past couple weeks, volunteers with the Carbondale Spring have been out knocking on doors, talking with our neighbors about our proposals to build food autonomy, cooperative businesses, renewable energy, and a team of care workers, and to fund all this by reducing the Carbondale police budget to a size in line with the national average.
And we’ve been encouraging people to vote for Nathan Colombo for mayor, and Jerrold Hennrich, Adam Loos, and Tom Grant for City Council. But all along we’ve been clear: this is a community project that will proceed no matter who gets elected.
Door knocking has been strangely satisfying. We’ve had surprisingly deep conversations with people throughout Carbondale, speaking with hundreds of people who support the Carbondale Spring. We’ve stood on porches in the sun and the rain; been invited into homes for tea; we’ve given our pitch standing on milk crates, sitting on bar stools, and of course, over community air waves.
And pretty much everyone has been like, “hell yeah.”
So we want all the folks we’ve had the pleasure to speak with over the previous month to know: we hear you, we’re doing this, and we won’t let an election get in the way of it one way or the other.
If some or all the candidates we have been supporting lose, then we promise we’ll continue organizing for this vision. And we’ll need your help to develop our initiatives and pressure elected officials to redirect city funds.
If all the candidates we have been supporting win, then we promise we won’t assume that we’ve won and slow down. We’ll keep organizing for this visions, and we’ll need your help to develop the initiatives and pressure those elected officials to redirect city funds.
Either way, we’ve all got our work cut out for us. And either way, we’re convinced that this is what Carbondale needs.
So please: vote tomorrow. Having Nathan, Jerrold, Adam, and Tom on City council will help us in our efforts.
The Carbondale Police Department is manipulating the statistics around calls for service in order to justify their excessively large police budget. We are over-policed, they know it, and they are stretching the definition of “calls for service” to justify their numbers and budget. And it is killing the town.
3/28/19: [This blog post has been updated to correct an error. A description of the correction can be found at the end.]
We have argued at length that Carbondale is over-policed for a city of its size. In response, Mayor Henry argued that the number of police in Carbondale is based not on population, but on ‘calls-for-service.’ We responded to that argument in detail, noting that the definition of “calls for service” used by the Carbondale police department includes all sorts of things one would not normally expect: car-washing, paperwork, and other administrative activities.*
Now we’ve received confirmation of our analysis from former Carbondale police chief, Jody O’Guinn. We’ll quote O’Guinn below, but a quick disclaimer: O’Guinn left Carbondale amidst numerous scandals. Our citing him here is not praise of his actions as a police chief. Further, O’Guinn may not agree with our full diagnosis and proposed solutions. It does help, however, to have our analysis regarding the CPD’s statistical manipulation confirmed by someone on the other side of the so-called “thin-blue-line.”
In an email forwarded to us, O’Guinn begins by clarifying that most police departments make a distinction between “contacts” (police-initiated encounters like pulling someone over) and “calls-for-service” (police services initiated by a call from citizens). He explains:
“If there is no mention of contacts, then all of the interactions are being lumped into the calls for service category, which will overinflate the calls for service. Some police administrators like doing it this way because it creates the illusion that the police are really busier than they actually are, which helps in convincing council members and the public that the police are overworked and understaffed, and that crime is running rampant. That is how the CPD gets their numbers.”
O’Guinn goes on to describe how he began to suspect that the Carbondale Police Department was over-staffed:
“I found out by breaking down the calls for service and the contacts, I was able to drive down the numbers and show that officers were not as busy as they liked to publicize that they were. Additionally, the time that the officers were actually tied up on a call for service was much less than the total hours of unencumbered time during their shift. This meant that at least 60% of the time, officers were not on a call for service, and basically doing nothing.”
He notes that the statistical fudging in question — the blurring of “contacts” and “calls-for-service” — was the responsibility of then Assistant Chief Grubbs. He adds a word of caution about the situation:
“Grubbs is a master manipulator of statistical data. If he has any hand in it, you will most likely never get a true snapshot of the numbers, as he will finagle them to meet his needs.”
This is from the former police chief. You don’t need to think he did a great job to agree with what he’s laid out here. It is entirely clear from the Novak Report that the definition of “calls for service” has been expanded beyond recognition.
We’ll just make our allegation perfectly clear: the Carbondale Police Department is manipulating the statistics around calls for service in order to justify their excessively large police budget. We are over-policed, they know it, and they are stretching the definition of “calls for service” to justify their numbers and budget. And it is killing the town.
In a recent mailer, Mike Henry asserted that the police department should be “fully-staffed.” He doesn’t seem to understand the criticisms being leveled. No one is saying the police department shouldn’t be “fully-staffed,” we are saying that currently the police department is double-staffed. It should be “fully-staffed” by reducing its size by 50%, freeing up $5 million to transform Carbondale into a national leader tackling climate change, building an urban food system, and foregrounding compassionate solutions to social problems.
*CORRECTION: The first paragraph of this post originally ended with this line: “Also, each individual officer responding to a call counts as a distinct ‘call for service.’ For example, if three Carbondale police officers arrive on a scene to shoot a dog, that will be written up as 3 distinct calls for service — even if no one called for them to show up.”
This is false, and we offer our apologies for getting it wrong. Upon a closer read of the Novak report (pg. 58), the CPD distinguishes between “events” and “calls for service.” “Events” are recorded for each individual officer; “calls for service” are not.
The confusion arose from the fact that the Novak report filtered the ‘call for service’ data supplied by the CPD into “events,” and then broke those events down into “administrative,” “proactive,” and “reactive” events. It is difficult to discern how the number of events maps onto the ‘call for service’ numbers, since in the CPD’s reporting, many events classified by the Novak report as “administrative events” are included as “calls for service.”
Well, this is an honor. Ashes Ashes is one of the best educational podcasts on the ecological, social, medical, and other crises of our time. It is a strangely hopeful show about the end of the world, and we’re very excited that their most recent episode features the Carbondale Spring!
(p.s. just a note, like many people looking up Carbondale on the internet, they think we’re in Colorado….)
The Carbondale Spring has helped shape the current mayoral election debate. At the most recent Mayoral forum, hosted by Women 4 Change, numerous questions were posed to the candidates regarding the size of the police budget. We have argued that Carbondale is significantly over-policed, based on a comparison between Carbondale and the national average, as well as similarly sized college towns in Illinois. Our argument is based on the ratio of police to residents, and we use statistics from the FBI, which apparently believes that is a relevant comparison.
Mayor Mike Henry, however, dismissed population as a relevant factor in evaluating the size of the police department. During the forum, he said that the city of Carbondale paid a “handsome fee” to get an outside consulting firm to evaluate the police department, and that firm concluded that they were understaffed. The basis of their evaluation was, first, the amount of “community policing” the city wanted, and second, the number of “calls for service.”
We’ll leave “community policing” for a later post, but for now we want to focus in on this concept of “calls for service.”
When you think of “calls for service,” what comes to mind? Very likely, you imagine a 911 call, right? And it makes sense that you would imagine that, because, according to the Police Data Initiative (“a law enforcement community of practice that includes leading law enforcement agencies, technologists, and researchers”),
Calls for service to law enforcement agencies generally include calls to “911” for emergency assistance and may also include calls to non-emergency numbers.
So, calls for service usually includes not only 911 calls, but also things that might be solved by people who aren’t police. As we’ve suggested in our Care Worker initiative, many 911 calls may also be better handled by people who aren’t police. But that’s not what we want to point out here.
The Carbondale Police Department seems to have, let’s say, a very expansive definition of “calls for service.” According to the Novak Consulting Group’s report (pg 59), referenced by Mayor Henry,
Typically, calls for service could be distilled based on priority, since higher priority calls (Priority 1 and Priority 2) are reactive in nature, but that is not the case in Carbondale. Some report writing, car wash, and other administrative and proactive activities are categorized as Priority 1 in the system
That is, not only do activities like “car washing” and administrative tasks count, according to the Carbondale Police Department, as “calls for service,” but in fact they count as Priority 1! The Novak Consulting Group even notes that this is not in line with how things are typically measured.
But let’s take a step back, shall we.
In 2008, the Carbondale Police Department recorded 33,589 total “calls for service.”
In 2015, the Carbondale Police Department recorded 77,032 total “calls for service,” as cited by the Novak Report — which used “calls for service” as one of the major components for evaluating the size of the police department.
Isn’t it interesting that in the years leading up to this evaluation, the number of “calls for service” more than doubled. Those were also years, of course, during which the population of the town was very likely declining.
We’ve been told — but can’t confirm — that the Carbondale Police Department actually greatly expanded its interpretation of the concept of “calls for service” during these years. Why? That would be a good question for Mayor Henry, who seems to have not looked very closely at the consulting report he commissioned, and for which the city paid a “handsome fee.”
For what its worth, Nathan Colombo has admitted that the police department is way too big, and endorsed the Carbondale Spring as a way to right-size the police force while finding creative and compassionate ways to improve quality of life in the city.
The police also do many things that don’t have to be violence work. You don’t need a gun to deal with a pothole or a noise complaint or help a lost child or direct traffic. In talking about the police as ‘violence workers,’ I am highlighting how much work they do that they don’t need to do. — Professor Micol Seigel
Our proposal for a team of Care workers was in part inspired by the insights of American Studies and History Professor Micol Seigel, whose recent book Violence Work: State Power and the Limits of Police, unravels a series of myths about the police and points to a contradiction in what municipalities ask of their police forces. On the one hand, they are asked to be violence workers, while on the other hand they are asked to be ‘all-purpose-problem-solvers’ for situations that do not require the threat of violence.
Below is an interview with Professor Seigel on WFHB Community Radio out of Bloomington, IN. It is entitled, “The Myth of the Municipal Police Force.” Check it out:
For four years now, a previously vacant lot has been being transformed into a lush space of community food production. Dozens of dirty hands have created one of the most beautiful and free spots in Carbondale, contributing to the creative, caring, and even rebellious vibe on Washington Street. The Garden’s actions were an inspiration — maybe even the inspiration — for our Food Autonomy proposal. When you see a sliver of the world transformed into something astounding, its easier to ask yourself: what if everything were more like this?
We are very grateful for the endorsement of our project by the Washington Street Garden. They are currently having a fundraiser for this coming growing season. Please check out their website and help them out if you can!
We are pleased to announce that one of the world’s leading permaculture design experts and educators, Wayne Weiseman, has endorsed the Carbondale Spring and agreed to lead our Food Autonomy initiative.
This is a big step for the Carbondale Spring, and for the future of Carbondale. There is so much wisdom here, just waiting to be unleashed to build a city that isn’t just crossing its fingers waiting for the University to turn around, that isn’t just waiting for some industry to take an interest. We can build a self-reliant city.
We can make Carbondale a model for a compassionate, ecologically restorative form of development. But we need your help.
Wayne Weiseman has lived in Carbondale since 1995, and spends much of his time traveling the world teaching courses in permaculture and helping communities to grow sustainable food systems. His own yard in Carbondale has an orchard, a water catchment system, and numerous other ecologically friendly features. You can keep up with Wayne’s blog here, and purchase his first book, Integrated Forest Gardening, here. Wayne’s second book is forthcoming.
[O]ur communities aren’t offering us the support system that they once did. A lack of community care, crucial to providing a sense of unity and belonging, has spurred poverty, loneliness, social isolation, gun violence and rising suicide rates. Compared with people in other developed nations, Americans are dying at a younger age and quicker rate. Studies indicate that “despair deaths,” or deaths related to alcohol, drug and suicide, are a root cause. Our lack of community is killing us. Yet in a nation with less and less care, issues such as isolation are a mere drop in the bucket, quickly lost in the sea of social shortcomings vying for our attention.
Read the whole article by Eve Blossom here.
Read about our plan to respond to the challenges we face by turning Carbondale into an innovator in compassion here.