KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) – A Kalamazoo Public Safety Officer says he found himself the target of an angry crowd when he responded to a car crash Thursday night.
The incident took place Thursday evening after 9:00 pm at the corner of West Patterson and North Rose Street.
The officer responded to the scene of a minor accident, but says when he arrived a group of about 60 people gathered around the scene and started throwing rocks at him.
No one was hurt in the incident, and other officers came to break up the crowd.
The driver that caused the crash ran away, and police say they don't know why the crowd started throwing rocks in the first place.
On Friday Newschannel 3 sat down with the Chief of Public Safety to see what's being done to ease the tension between officers and the community.
Chief Jeffrey Hadley says he's not sure what to make of the incident.
“It's baffling to me,” said Chief Hadley. “The folks doing the rock throwing didn't have anything to do with the accident.”
About a month before the incident on Thursday night an officer attempting to make an arrest on the east side of Kalamazoo also encountered a large group, that encounter ended with people smashing out the windows of a cruiser.
The Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety has been trying to alleviate some of the tension through community policing. They say youth violence was down 20 to 30 percent in 2009, but Thursday night's incident highlights continuing frustrations.
“We are doing multiple programs to alleviate distrust,” said Chief Hadley, “more specifically youth and law enforcement. It is distressing to me.”
Some of those who live in the area however paint a much different picture of Thursday night's incident.
Deaunka Dunning says she knows why people were upset. She claims the officer got out of his car with his gun drawn, and that there were no rocks thrown at all.
The different scenarios highlight some of the tense relationships that continue to exist.
Kalamazoo City Commissioner Stephanie Bell says it's going to take awhile to change the culture. She says if rock throwing happened, she doesn't condone it. Still, she says people remain frustrated by incidents that they see as police crossing the line.
“Young people are saying enough is enough, not going to be mistreated,” said Bell.
Pastor Milton Wells heads up an east side church, Open Door Ministries. He says folks need to take responsibility for their behavior.
“It takes a whole community to police itself,” said Pastor Wells.
Pastor Wells says if there is an issue with police, the solution doesn't involve throwing rocks.
“Question is, what do I need to do, so many times, if I act a certain way, many times that change starts with me,” said Pastor Wells. “If we are behaving in a responsible manner, there is no reason to fear the law.”