Monday, October 26, 2020

State police exonerates ELPD officer in use of force investigation

May 4, 2020
<p>Michigan State Police Col. Joseph Gasper speaks during a press conference on Feb. 21, 2019 at the G. Mennen Williams Building in Lansing.</p>

Michigan State Police Col. Joseph Gasper speaks during a press conference on Feb. 21, 2019 at the G. Mennen Williams Building in Lansing.

Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

Michigan State Police completed its investigation into two incidents regarding an East Lansing Police Department, or ELPD, officer's use of force, finding that the officer in question used appropriate procedures in both incidents, according to a city of East Lansing press release.

The incidents investigated include a December traffic stop and arrest and an altercation and arrest at 7-Eleven in February, according to the release.

In February, Uwimana Gasito posted to Facebook alleging the department's use of excessive force.

In his post, Gasito said ELPD assaulted him when he was recording the officers who he believed were unlawfully arresting his friend. The post has since been removed.

In response, former ELPD Chief Larry Sparkes began an internal investigation into the incident.

ELPD found the investigation to be "not sustained," meaning there was insufficient evidence for the claim to be proven or disproven.

However, during the investigation, Sparkes found that the same officer was involved in both incidents in question, the one in December as well as Gasito's arrest.

The officer in question was placed on paid administrative leave immediately and the investigation was sent to Michigan State Police.

The officer will now be reinstated upon the conclusion of Michigan State Police's investigation, according to city of East Lansing officials.

Though ELPD's use of Response to Resistance Policy and department approved training guidelines were deemed appropriate, ELPD leadership is reviewing the technique of "head stabilization," according to the press release.

Head stabilization is a method to gain physical control over a resisting subject during an arrest, according to the release. All ELPD officers will be re-trained on this technique this summer.

"The technique of head stabilization has come to the forefront of our attention," ELPD Interim Chief Steve Gonzalez said. "And so, our use-of-force staff, who are trained in multiple versions of use of force, everything from firearms usage to empty hand control techniques and intermediate control techniques, will be taking a look at that method and will be working to try and see if there's any room for improvement to using that method."

The East Lansing City Council plans to move forward with provisions for a public safety citizen oversight commission, which will be further discussed at a meeting this month, according to the statement.

In the release, Mayor Ruth Beier addressed this investigation as well as data released in April that showed African Americans are over-stopped in East Lansing.

“We will continue to work to make all necessary changes so that everyone feels safe and welcome in the City of East Lansing," Beier said in the release.

The internal investigation documents have been released to the public.

The investigation into excessive force at ELPD has now been closed with an exonerated disposition, according to the statement.

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