Data released by the city of East Lansing shows that the East Lansing Police Department, or ELPD, over-stops African Americans.
According to a city press release, City Council requested that ELPD gather race data on officer-initiated contacts, for which ELPD began gathering data in February.
Officer-initiated contacts are defined as any enforcement or interaction taken by an officer, including traffic stops, according to the release.
Data from February in the release shows 20% of contacts were with African Americans. March contacts with African Americans total at 19%.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, African Americans make up 7.8% of East Lansing's population.
“No matter how impartial we think we are, the data shows that we over-stop African Americans, which is not acceptable,” East Lansing Mayor Ruth Beier said in the release.
In response, City Council plans to analyze race data as it relates to use of force.
The city will also create a Police Oversight Commission.
At the city council's next business meeting, Beier said, the council will appoint a group to gather the commission.
"When the committee that's going to put together the independent task force starts its work ... one of their mandates is going to be to engage the community, especially the affected communities." Beier said.
Beier said that the idea for the commission has been a part of the council's plans since the summer of 2019, though it wasn't implemented until now because the original draft wasn't going to have the effect the council wanted.
"It was much more of a surface level kind of commission," Beier said. "This commission will actually, hopefully, the intention is to, have a huge impact."
According to the release, additional measures taken by ELPD Interim Police Chief Steve Gonzalez include:
- Data demonstrating officer-initiated contacts in relation to race will continue to be released monthly. Senior command will give feedback to officers based on the data.
- The entire police staff will attend the Michigan Police Fair and Impartial Policing Training this summer.
- Eight command and police officers will attend the 17th Annual Images and Perceptions Diversity Conference in Detroit.
- All sworn personnel will attend a proctored visit of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University by the end of 2020. The visit will focus on how the United States' history of racism impacts communities and policing.
- 10 police officers will attend the Conversations about Race series, sponsored by the Michigan State University Police Department.
Gonzalez became the interim police chief after Chief Larry Sparkes retired.
Sparkes had been in the center of controversy after Uwimana Gasito made a Facebook post alleging the use of excessive force by ELPD.
Initially, ELPD's internal investigation into the alleged incident found inconclusive evidence.
Charges against Gasito were dropped after city officials released that the officer who allegedly injured his face had a prior complaint under similar circumstances in a December arrest. The officer was placed on paid administrative leave.
ELPD has sent the pending internal investigation of alleged excessive force to Michigan State Police.
Beier said the next discussion-only meeting will be publicized in order to include the public's insight into fair policing.
The meeting is currently unscheduled due to COVID-19.
“We are committed to making these changes and any other changes needed to make sure that everyone feels safe and welcome in the City of East Lansing,” Beier said in the release.