Deborah Burke

Candidate Statement Deborah Burke

Each candidate was sent the same questions. This is Deborah Burke’s response:

Deborah Burke
Deborah Burke

Campaign Mailing Address: 21141 P.O. Box, Detroit, MI 48221

Campaign Phone Number: 313-687-4485

Campaign Email:




Education (and relevant experience): Masters in Psychology with an emphasis on research study design and analysis, Full-time faculty in Psychology & currently serving as Dept. Chair.  Five years + labor union contract oversight including discipline and grievances, negotiated 2 labor union contracts (2015 and 2018). Certified Civil and Domestic Mediator.



Please provide any biographical information and experience, and explain why you are running for this office.

My educational background is in research study design and analysis.  I’ve worked at Schoolcraft College for 15 years as a faculty in the Psychology Dept. and currently serve as its Chair.  In 2018 I was honored to receive the Faculty Teaching Excellence Award.  I’ve also taught college courses at Women’s Huron Valley Correctional Facility, the only women’s prison in Michigan. Part of the job of Police Commissioner is to review data and ask the right questions, my background has prepared me to do just that. If elected, my skills as a professional academic will strengthen the make-up of the commission.

Education is one of several lenses I’ve come to think about interrupting systems and institutions that are not working equitably for everyone.  As an example, I’ve created a Critical Race Theory unit in my Educational Psychology course, a course for K-12 teachers in training. I’m currently creating a entire psychology course dedicated to Racism and Discrimination, with the goal of getting Schoolcraft’s Education, Nursing and Criminal Justice programs to require it.  I was able to initiate a change in the criminal justice associates at Schoolcraft that requires Introduction to Psychology for all students enrolled in that program.  I believe leveraging curriculum is one path, to educate future police what it truly means to serve the communities they work in.

While at Schoolcraft I’ve negotiated 2 faculty union labor contracts, one in 2015 and one in 2018.  I also conducted the oversight and enforcement of those contracts, managing all grievances and representing faculty for over 5 years. In 2019 I was recognized by peers with the Faculty Union Service Award.  I’m proud of the work our Union Executive Team did to secure good working conditions and wages for our members.  Police Commissioner provides an opportunity to write, review and enforce policies which make policing and our community safer.

I believe in the power of restorative justice and am a certified civil and domestic mediator.  I’ve been a volunteer at the Wayne Mediation Center since 2013.

I belong to and/or have worked directly with national, state and local organizations which include:

National Org. of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE) and the Michigan Round Table Advocates and Leaders for Police And Community Trust, also known as ALPACT.  I have worked on Michigan United’s sub-committee on criminal justice reform and was honored to be appointed to the Schoolcraft College Diversity Equity and Inclusion Task Force.

This is a time of reckoning and a reexamination, a time to re-imagining public safety.  It will require understanding the history of racism in this country, looking at the research, best practices and national trends, which are all important variables when participating in any oversight practice. But most importantly, public safety is a partnership.  Getting input from my community and centering those voices is paramount. I’m ready to engage in whatever dialogue is needed for the health and safety of both police and our community.  I’m running for Police Commissioner because I believe in the power of community to drive change.  I’m running because I believe in community oversight, accountability and transparency and I’m running because I want DPD to have the best policies and practices possible for the benefit of both the department and the community.

Describe policies you will champion to give Detroit residents greater confidence that their complaints are taken seriously, and that they result in policy and behavior changes in the department that improve community relations?

One of the first things the BPOC needs to do is make a concerted effort to regain/renew seek/get the public’s trust. The community needs to know that they are the first priority of the BOPC.  A civilian oversight body that does not answer to the residents is broken.

BOPC’s response to complaints is the beating heart of the oversight commission.  The BOPC has the authority to oversee behavior, gather evidence, issue subpoenas and mandate discipline.

One way to make sure resident complaints are taken seriously is by addressing them directly during the BOPC meetings, the community should know the status of the complaints as it moves through the process. The public should also be made aware whenever complaints result in DPD policy changes.  That way the public understands that their complaints are being taken seriously and that they are having a significant impact on the process

Another thing that would help the community have confidence that their input is being taken seriously is if the processes for receiving communications from the public is streamlined and efficient. For example, the Detroit Disability Power Network sent a list of really important issues to the BOPC in June of this year, which they felt needed to be addressed regarding issues of implicit bias training, de-escalation training for all emergency medical services, crisis intervention specialists, and community engagement services, with an emphasis on disability and mental health support. These are very important issues that impact a lot of people in our community, but BPOC never responded to this list of concerns.  Not even an email or phone call of acknowledgment.  Thus BPOC missed the chance to examine them and potentially work with DPD to improve policies and procedures related to disability needs in our community.

Specific policies would include but not limited to banning facial recognition, eliminate use of no-knock warrants, review of warrant execution processes, increase transparency of BOPC resident complaint process, review of use of force continuum and training reform. I also think we should take a look at increasing the age of recruitment based on brain development.

How would you ensure that officers (who have problems with excessive force) are appropriately disciplined or kept off Detroit’s Police Department?

The BPOC needs to make sure the police contract specifies that there are violations for which an officer would be automatically terminated with no arbitration or progressive discipline including excessive force, falsifying records, lying and making inaccurate statements. That will help eliminate officers who exhibit misconduct. Regarding discipline, the DPD needs to enforce the disciplinary policies across the board, consistently.  BOPC should be monitoring this through regular reporting.

These processes will help insure accountability and making them public will enhance transparency.

What policies would you support to alert other jurisdictions of abusive offices to prevent them from harming civilians elsewhere?

DPD needs to commit to mandatory documentation of the circumstances of every officer’s separation from the DPD, and commit to share that with any police department who seeks information in the process of hiring that PO.  BPOC needs to receive a quarterly report of all police separations that documents the circumstances of their leaving.  For example, if someone retires but also has an ongoing investigation on them, this should be included in the report.

Equally importantly, DPD must thoroughly vet any potential police officer hires and investigate the circumstances of their separation from any other police agency, whether they left voluntarily or not, and commit to not hire anyone with documentation of excessive force, falsifying records, lying, making inaccurate statements.

What level of participation in the 1033 program do you support?

Police and military serve different purposes.  I do not support any further investment in the 1033 program.  Further, an inventory of current equipment and review of policies and practices governing the use of this equipment is essential to determine what militarized equipment is in the possession of the DPD such that its deployment can be at best eliminated or at worst minimize and monitor.

BOPC needs to receive a report when any of this equipment is used to determine why it was used and to insure that community members were not put at risk. Policies dictating the use of this equipment should prioritize the safety of our community members.

To what extent (or under what circumstances) should police use military or experimental technology like sound cannons and heat rays on civilians?

Police and military serve different purposes.  Military is designed to fight wars against foreign nations.  The Police work for and serve the public. You cannot and should not use the military against the american public, therefore military technology should not be used by police in our communities.


Under what circumstances should police use facial recognition technology?

Oakland, Boston, San Francisco Portland and others have banned the use of Facial Recog. Pittsburg, New Orleans and Jackson Miss all considering banns.  As of June this year, Microsoft, Amazon and IBM refuse to sell Facial Recog. Software to police departments.  ACLU has made a formal statement against this technology.

A week ago Tuesday, city council tightened its grip on facial recognition technology by renewing the Dataworks contract.  Two representatives from the ACLU of Michigan spoke as well as many of you against this racist technology, both at this meeting and weekly at the BOPC meetings.

Facial recognition technology has an error rate of 94%, which is completely unacceptable and amoral.  In addition to it being ineffective it is costly, millions of dollars spent on technology that does not work.  This money could instead be used in the community on mental health programs, job training, diversion programs, after school programs, summer school programs, just to name a few. Facial recognition technology is a colossal failure and should be abandoned immediately.  It has already caused irreparable harm to two men that we know of……Mr. Robert Williams and Mr. Michael Oliver.  Its failure rate in identifying Black and Brown faces exposes the racism ever present in our nation.

To what degree should police surveil citizens with cameras?

Surveillance does not equal safety. The over surveillance of communities is not a new phenomenon.  Technological advances are just the new version of an old narrative that some of us need to be “monitored” more than others.  Policies and laws addressing issues of privacy follow the technology, it should be the other way around, if at all.  Meaningful discussions about what public safety really looks like typically do not include surveillance.

This is just another example of people being over policed and under protected.

To what extent (or under what circumstances) should police use cell phone spying resources like “Stingray” or “Base-station.”

The abuse of any surveillance technology is always a concern.  BOPC needs to be constantly on top of these technologies to evaluate whether their use is consistent with the values of our communities.

These technologies are controversial and their efficacy should be evaluated against public interest and the public’s right to privacy.

For example, the American Civil Liberties Union has been critical of these spying devices, indicating that when they are used to track suspects’ phones, they can also gather information from phones of nearby bystanders. Gathering cell phone data from uninvolved, innocent citizens is inappropriate and unacceptable.

What would you do to see that the Detroit Police Department close loopholes in contracts that enable arbitrators to usurp commissioners’ authority on matters of discipline, promotions, and dismissals?

It is clear, all across the country, that one of the most effective ways to influence police behavior is when the police contract is up for negotiation. The BOPC needs to strongly encourage the city to eliminate arbitration for termination. If police officers are deemed unfit for duty by the police chief or their commanding officer, if they have used excessive force, falsified records, lied or made inaccurate statements against our community, we do not need an arbitrator restoring their jobs or giving them promotions.

Would you support making BOPC committee meetings and minutes accessible to the general public?

Absolutely. One of the key responsibilities of any civilian oversight body is to increase transparency of the police department to the community it serves. The BOPC works for the people, therefore, minutes, videos and meetings should be easily accessible to the public 100% of the time.  Residents need to have a sense of all the work the commission is doing on their behalf.   Therefore, the BOPC documents and processes need to be available to the public for scrutiny, criticism or support.

 Many retirees and veteran officers lost benefits as a result of Detroit’s bankruptcy.  How would you use you authority over the DPD budget to prioritize restoring some of those benefits to disenfranchised officers.

I think raiding the police pension fund for the sake of a bankruptcy agreement is highly problematic. A solution is required to remedy the harm done to retirees, because their ability to support themselves was impacted through no fault of their own. As a member of the BOPC, I would advocate for the city of Detroit to restore the lost money to the pension fund.

Is it a conflict of interest to accept campaign contributions from DPD contractors or the DPOA?

I have not and would not accept a donation from DPD or the DPOA.  Each candidate, whether for Police Commissioner or any elected office for that matter, will need to make their own individual assessment and decision.

 What policy should the DPD have concerning no-knock raids?

I do not support the use of no-knock warrants and would work to eliminate the use of them.

All policies on the execution of warrants should be reviewed, including but not limited to no-knock.  No-knock warrants have resulted in the murder and harm across the nation and right here in our community.  In May 2010 Aiyana Jones was murdered when DPD was executing this kind of warrant.

Unfortunately, we find that even though someone was hurt or even killed, policy supports the actions of officers and departments.  That is what needs to change in order to get justice for victims like Breonna and Aiyana.

What changes would you support in the DPD use of force policy?

Reexamining the use force continuum, how can it be improved by creating a more Scenario based continuum verses the current model which is essentially “what you think (more like feel)” in any given moment, with little or no training in physiology of stress and decision-making processes.

How do you get to lethal force, what’s the measurable justification?  Determining what factors MUST be in place to use force.

Training reform with an emphasis on better understanding the stress response of self and community they come in contact with.

If the policy is violated, officers must be fired and prosecuted.

Adjust policy title to “response to resistance” to better communicate to both officers and the public the true meaning.


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