June 14, 2016 (Flint) – Mayor Weaver called a press conference Tuesday morning to speak to local media about what she called irresponsible news coverage about the City of Flint. Weaver told reporters there are positive things happening in the City of Flint but it seems mainly negative stories make the front page of the paper or lead the evening news.
“I have a duty and a responsibility to the City of Flint and so do you all,” said Mayor Weaver. “I’m asking you to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”
The Mayor held up a recent issue of The Flint Journal where an article titled “Chief not a certified police officer” is on the front page. According to the article, the revelation that Flint Police Chief Timothy Johnson is not a certified police officer “raises concerns about liability and the Mayor’s vetting process”.
Mayor Weaver said when the reporter contacted her office asking about the issue, she was informed that Chief Johnson was vetting thoroughly, and that a police officer certification is not a requirement for the position of police chief. The article includes comments from Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton confirming the police chief doesn’t need to have the certification. So, Mayor Weaver questioned why media and a city councilman quoted in the article, still chose to make a big deal out of the chief not having a certification that isn’t required for him to do his job.
“I am not going to let people say we have a police chief who is not qualified,” said Mayor Weaver. “I refuse to let people think that, and no one should want our residents to think that. Public safety has been a big concern for the citizens of Flint and Chief Johnson has taken steps that are making a positive impact and making the city safer. He’s re-instated the “CATT Squad” (Crime Area Target Team) and crime is going down in Flint. Statistics show shootings have decreased 22 percent since this time a year ago and homicides are down 13 percent, that’s what we should be focused on.”
Chief Johnson, a law enforcement veteran with 30 years of experience, was also at the press conference. He said his police officer certification expired after he retired from the Flint Police Department. Johnson re-joined the department as police chief in February of this year. He said he planned to take the two day training class needed to renew his certification once things in the department calmed down a little.
“But now I’m going to take the class in July to get certified,” Chief Johnson said. “Hopefully, that will help calm everyone down.”
Mayor Weaver also mentioned that Flint’s former police chief, James Tolbert was a certified police officer. Tolbert is now facing a legal battle in Detroit where he worked before joining the Flint Police Department. Authorities there say a testimony Tolbert gave led to the wrongful murder conviction of a 15 year old boy in 2008. Tolbert could now face criminal charges.
“My question is was Tolbert vetted,” Weaver said. “No one has said the mayor made a good decision in getting rid of him, because had he still been with us today that would have been a big news story!”
Similar to the story about Chief Johnson, Mayor Weaver said when she was falsely accused of unethical conduct that too was blasted in the media. But when findings of an independent investigation cleared her of wrongdoing this week, she stated the story didn’t get nearly as much attention and the people of Flint deserve better.
“We need some healing here in the City of Flint,” Mayor Weaver said. “We are trying to rebuild. We are trying to keep residents here and keep businesses here. We’re not trying to keep people away. It’s time for us to look at the positives in Flint. We need to talk more about how to move the City of Flint forward. I’m not trying to be your enemy and we’re not asking you to not do your reporting. But, we need support from you guys. There are good things happening in Flint so report on those things too and give the positive stories the same amount of attention as you do the negative ones.”