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ELPD made 98% fewer stops during COVID-19 shutdown

July 2, 2020
<p>An East Lansing police car is pictured on July 6th, 2017.</p>

An East Lansing police car is pictured on July 6th, 2017.

Photo by Jon Famurewa | The State News

East Lansing Police Department (ELPD) experienced a sharp decrease in officer-initiated contacts throughout the months of April and May, according to recently-released data from the department.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" order March 23, which ordered the closure of schools, businesses and community areas, as well as began the stark decrease in ELPD's officer-initiated contacts.

Between February and March, ELPD officer-initiated contacts totaled at 2,253. In April and March, stops totaled at 45, marking an approximate 98% decrease in officer-initiated contacts.

Officer-initiated contacts are defined as any contact with a civilian an officer self-initiates without dispatch to a call, according to ELPD Interim Police Chief Steve Gonzalez. This can include contacts such as traffic stops or pedestrian interactions.

City Council requested that ELPD gather race data on officer-initiated contacts, for which ELPD began gathering data in February.

Subsequently, data released in February and March showed African Americans experienced a disproportionate amount of officer-initiated contacts.

Current data shows African American individuals made up 17% and 12.8% of officer-initiated stops in April and May respectively, despite making up 7.8% of East Lansing's population according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In April, Asian individuals were not stopped at all, while making up 12.8% of East Lansing's population and white individuals made up 83% of stops, while making up 74.9% of East Lansing's population.

The decrease in stops overall is in direct relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gonzalez said.

"In line with best practices, our officers have been not contacting people or not initiating officer-initiated contacts in an effort to maintain a good level of social distancing," Gonzalez said.

ELPD is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the International Association of Chiefs of Police on limiting unnecessary contacts, Gonzalez said.

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