Monday, July 6, 2020

Editorial: Hold police accountable, here and everywhere

For now, and for forever

<p>Protesters Liyu Mesay, left, and Anaiss Rios-Kasoga, right, hold signs toward the road at the Lansing Police brutality protest in front of the East Lansing Police Station and 54B District Court on Feb. 23, 2020.</p>

Protesters Liyu Mesay, left, and Anaiss Rios-Kasoga, right, hold signs toward the road at the Lansing Police brutality protest in front of the East Lansing Police Station and 54B District Court on Feb. 23, 2020.

Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The lack of police accountability in Minneapolis is not an isolated event. It happens everywhere, and it happens often.

We cannot condone violence, but we understand its use as a last resort to incite change. There were attempts at peaceful protests at the East Lansing Police Department in February. Protesters gathered with signs and chants demanding justice for a black man who was assaulted after filming his friend’s arrest.

Yet, the Michigan State Police exonerated the ELPD officer and reinstated the officer in May due to “inconclusive evidence.”

You do not have to be a black student to understand their anger.

The unarmed, peaceful and predominantly black protesters in Minneapolis were met with tear gas and rubber bullets. Yet the armed, predominantly white protesters at the Michigan State Capitol were met with no force from on-site police officers.

There has been an unacceptable pattern of police officers murdering black people. But, the pattern of not holding those officers accountable for their actions is worse.

As a predominantly white student paper at a predominantly white institution, we must recognize the anger and pain of the black community. When peaceful protests and violent protests do not work, what do you do to demand justice?

The lack of police accountability affects everyone. Any situation that causes a community or identity group to feel unsafe is a problem. This problem is here, has been here, and won’t go away anytime soon.

Police need to be held accountable for excessive force against the black community and we, as a community, should be the ones holding them accountable — not just the community it disproportionately affects.

No one person or entity can solve racism, but there’s a systematic problem that people can address through oversight. East Lansing’s city council recently created a study committee for a police oversight commission — despite the Police Officers Association of Michigan’s pushback — to review complaints against police officers in the area. There should be an oversight commission in all police jurisdictions and at Michigan State.

Two MSU students are voting members. The application went live on Wednesday, when we learned of the university's intention to hold in-person classes.

The Michigan State University Police Department should be subject to a similar process. Racist incidents have occurred on campus from the display at the Wharton Center to the toilet paper nooses on the doors of black students in Bryan Hall.

But instead of consequences, the black community again saw a lack of accountability for those who made them feel unsafe at their own university.

We understand why you are furious. We empathize with your pain. Something needs to change, locally, statewide, and nationally.

We stand with you. We mourn with you. We mourn for you. You deserve to be heard.

Timeline sources:

ELPD addresses teen's allegation of police assault

Protesters gather outside ELPD following alleged incident of excessive force

City council to hold special meeting reviewing ELPD excessive force investigation

Inconclusive evidence in ELPD excessive force investigation

ELPD sends internal investigation of alleged excessive force to state police

ELPD Chief Larry Sparkes retires

ELPD race data report shows African Americans over-stopped in East Lansing

Activists hope for accountability, transparency in ELPD oversight committee

State police exonerates ELPD officer in use of force investigation

Video in state police investigation of ELPD to be released as city considers oversight committee

East Lansing City Council discusses plans for police oversight commission, diversity relations

East Lansing City Council to form committee that will create police oversight commission

The State News Editorial Board is composed of Editor-in-Chief Evan Jones, Managing Editor Mila Murray, Copy Chief Mark Ostermeyer, Photo Editor Annie Barker, Staff Representative Karly Graham and Diversity and Inclusion Representative SaMya Overall. Multimedia Reporter Matt Schmucker participated in this editorial board meeting.

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