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

May 13, 2020
<p>The East Lansing City Council holds a meeting on March 11, 2020.</p>

The East Lansing City Council holds a meeting on March 11, 2020.

Photo by Jack Falinski | The State News

In a virtual East Lansing City Council meeting, Mayor Ruth Beier said all footage in relation to a recently closed Michigan State Police investigation into East Lansing Police Department, or ELPD, should be released to the public May 13.

Michigan State Police completed its investigation into two incidents regarding an ELPD officer's use of force on May 4, finding that the officer in question used appropriate procedures in both incidents. The incidents investigated included a December traffic stop and arrest and an altercation and arrest at 7-Eleven in February.

The council also considered a Police Community Relations Review Committee during the meeting. Public comment featured concern regarding both the commission and the recently closed investigation.

East Lansing Human Relations Committee, or HRC, Chair Talyce Murray called in to voice concern regarding who would comprise the committee.

Murray said HRC has held multiple public meetings to discuss the committee. She said community members are concerned about having a police representative as a member of the group.

"I have listened to the public comment brought to me, by members of the public to the HRC, and I have heard resoundingly that this is not something that will bring public trust," Murray said in regards to involving a police representative. "Which is one of the key issues that we are trying to resolve here, with this body, is the lack of public trust, the lack of social justice and the lack of ability to have racial justice in our community."

Council member Jessy Gregg specifically responded to the Michigan State Police investigation.

"I'm not particularly surprised by those results. I think that the use of force that is authorized is different than the use of force that's appropriate," Gregg said. "So, I think even if that body found that that use of force was not excessive, that doesn't necessarily mean that we don't have a problem."

Gregg said the investigation results do not absolve the city of East Lansing from resolving these incidents.

East Lansing resident Farhan Sheikh-Omar also voiced concern about the ELPD officer involved in the state police investigation.

"One of the most important things that we need to address before we even create this committee is the elephant in the room, which is Officer Stephenson," Sheikh-Omar said. "This is an officer that, for the past two years, has had 42% of public complaints against him. This is an officer that, within six weeks, has used excessive force against two unarmed and innocent black men."

Sheikh-Omar asked the council if they were satisfied with the conclusion of the investigation and how the council planned to hold the ELPD officer accountable.

Sheikh-Omar also called for the release of the footage related to the investigation.

"Mayor, you cannot preach transparency for the past four to six months and then not show it. All I hear is talking from all of you guys and no action," Sheikh-Omar said. It is time that we practice what we preach, and if we're going to preach transparency, then we can't pick and choose when to be transparent."

Sheikh-Omar has provided public comment in East Lansing multiple times and led a police brutality protest in February.

Beier said she has been working to with Ingham County prosecutors to get the video released. She said the footage should be released tomorrow with minor redactions, such as license plate numbers.

In terms of police procedures regarding the officer involved in the state police investigation, City Manager George Lahanas said when ELPD turned over the investigation to Michigan State Police, ELPD also turned over some authority.

"One of the challenges now, is for us to take action after the Michigan State Police, which is supposed to be an expert agency that can look at these types of things, found no wrongdoing on the behalf of the officer," Lahanas said. "I think from that perspective, from a labor perspective, that issue has been decided."

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