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East Lansing pledges commitment to diversity and anti-racism practices

June 10, 2020
<p>The East Lansing City Council holds a meeting March 11, 2020.</p>

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

Photo by Jack Falinski | The State News

East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas issued a statement Tuesday pledging to open conversation on matters of race, equity and inclusion following the national conversation on racial inequality.

“We categorically and unequivocally denounce racism, injustice and discrimination in all forms,” Lahanas said in the statement. “We are committed to dismantling the systemic inequalities in City government and working with staff and the community to make East Lansing an inclusive, welcoming and affirming place to live, work and do business.”

Lahanas said the city plans to listen to and address all concerns with empathy, compassion and respect and to facilitate open dialogue for staff and the community. They will lead a full “organizational cultural realignment” that promotes diversity and inclusion in both hiring and government policies and will incorporate anti-racism and anti-discrimination as an ongoing strategic priority.

According to the statement, the city will create a full-time position for a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion administrator. This individual will focus on building a relationship with the LGBTQ community, immigrants, refugees, students, persons with disabilities and Black, Indigenous and/or People of Color.

Communications Coordinator Mikell Frey said in an email staff is still working on the official job description at this point, but they hope to have the position filled sometime this summer.

Moving forward, the entire city of East Lansing workforce will undergo anti-bias and diversity training and the city will work with the Independent Police Oversight Commission to evaluate police and policing practices and ensure they align with city values.

East Lansing City Council approved a resolution May 26 to form a committee that will research the relationship between police and the community and eventually create the East Lansing Independent Police Oversight Commission based on recommendations to the council.

A concluded investigation into two incidents of excessive force by East Lansing Police Department Officer Andrew Stephenson has heightened public conversations of the committee at recent city council meetings.

This follows February and March data showing about 20% of officer-initiated contacts were with African Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, African Americans comprise only 7.8% of East Lansing’s total population.

“We pledge to advance diversity and inclusion in the workplace and with those doing business with the City of East Lansing,” Lahanas said in the statement. “We will hold ourselves accountable for the humane, respectful and compassionate treatment of all persons.”

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