BENTON HARBOR, MI—The Public Safety Department of Benton Harbor, Michigan, is in need of citizen input, an independent evaluation of its services and employee practices. Public works of Benton Harbor are limited: there is poor snow removal, limited parks, civic activities, and public services. In addition, numerous questions have been voiced regarding racial profiling, police abuse and unsolved murders. It has recently been revealed that officers plant drugs and get benefits for arresting citizens, leaving residents living in a state of fear.
Nothing in Michigan compares with Benton Harbor’s police-like state and the use of tax dollars for this. Peaceful protests are surrounded with police in riot gear. The police videotape and take pictures of participants as a means of intimidation. Now Berrien County has acquired a vehicle with extraordinary military power. This 20-ton armored vehicle can be used for “terrorist-type attacks.” It is odd that Berrien County, an unlikely place for a national terrorist attack, would seek such a monolithic machine.
At the same time, African Americans have been found floating in the river in Benton Harbor. A young man of 18 years old, Karrington Penny, was found dead in a snow bank under suspicious circumstances. Such deaths leave many residents wondering why. Where is the thorough investigation and the publicity to expose and understand these horrors?
Gentrification and corporate profits underlie these events—the city sits on Lake Michigan. The corporations are raking in millions as the city is transformed around their interests. With the automation of industry and the runaway plants, the majority of residents are jobless and living in poverty. The police state aims to keep the poor community quiet and “in their place.”
What is being created is a different Benton Harbor from the small enclaves of white gentrification that has infiltrated the shoreline in upscale gated-like communities, developments that make millions for the corporations.
It is time for an impartial, non-political, and ethical service to evaluate the use of tax dollars, the need for public parks that serve the community (not the up-scale developments along the beach or the visiting golfing community), the police department, the use of racial profiling, the recreational facilities, and all the amenities needed to increase residential satisfaction and quality of life in Benton Harbor. Benton Harbor should be made comparable to St. Joseph, and any other lakeshore community.
The Benton Harbor story is important because it is a harbinger of the future of all of America. The only way that Benton Harbor, and all American cities, can be given an opportunity to develop the great community they can be is if the people unite to take over the corporations. A place to start is for the people to stand together to fight the corruption inside the city of Benton Harbor, and to recall Mayor James Hightower. His interests are with the corporations.