Saturday, October 24, 2020

Lansing hosts 2nd community input webinar focused on Lansing Police Department budget

August 7, 2020
Lansing Police are seen at the protest against police brutality at the Michigan State Capitol on June 10, 2020.
Lansing Police are seen at the protest against police brutality at the Michigan State Capitol on June 10, 2020. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The Mayor’s Racial Justice and Equity Alliance (MRJEA) held their second community input webinar with a focus on the Lansing Police Department’s budget Thursday.

The second webinar ran in a similar Q&A format to the first, which was focused on racial justice and equity in Lansing. Host and Community Services Director Kim Coleman opened the dialogue with questions from the community and panel members present had the opportunity to “raise their hand” and deliver their input.

These webinars are a part of Lansing Mayor Andy Schor’s Racial Justice and Equity Community Action Plan, which includes three phases of both long-term and short-term steps. The final webinar is scheduled for Aug. 20.

The city of Lansing said that following these webinars and some internal research, the next step is developing community-inspired action plans and revising use of force policies to ensure racial justice and equity. 

Last month, Schor declared racism a public health crisis in Lansing, and his past steps have included creating an anti-racism and racial equity fund, where $100,000 was taken from the police fund from this past fiscal year that ended on June 30.

Public reaction to the fund and the amount being invested wasn’t all positive. Several members of groups that have protested daily in Lansing spoke openly about their disdain toward the amount proposed and Schor, continuing to call for his resignation.

This webinar provided an opportunity for open discussion on the budget between all involved parties.

An outlook on Lansing’s general budget

Thursday’s seminar began with several presentations on the Lansing Police Department's (LPD) budget in order for the community to get a better look at the process and thought behind budgeting heading into the discussion.

Chief Strategy Officer Judy Kehler broke down Lansing’s general fund budget for the 2021 fiscal year, as well as the month-by-month city of Lansing Budget Adoption process.

In September and October, the City Council presents city-wide budget policies and priorities to the mayor. Schor then has until March to submit the budget back to City Council. Following the submission of the initial budget, it is reviewed by the council of the whole and public hearings are held for review.

The budget has to be adopted by May 3 and goes into place at the start of the next fiscal year on July 1.

Lansing Police Department’s budget manager Joe McLure followed with an analysis of the police budget in Lansing’s general fund. McLure said that the general fund isn’t Lansing’s only fund, but the others are powered by donations and grants, which are less consistent than the general fund.

For the 2021 fiscal year, the city's general fund is $136,692,294. Of that, Lansing Police Department receives $46,493,846, an increase of over a million dollars from last fiscal year and 34% of the general fund.

Of the $46 million that LPD uses, just over $22 million is used on the patrol bureau. Just under 84% of that goes into non-legacy and legacy personnel, with the rest going to both equipment and operating costs.

Legacy costs include pension and healthcare while non-legacy spending umbrellas feature overtime, medicare and training.

Currently the LPD has 206 sworn officers, including 12 community police officers and 41 Civilian FTEs, which include one social worker.

Operating fees for the entire fiscal year are $7.2 million.

Community calls to defund, Police Chief Daryl Green offers rebuttal and alternatives

Calls to defund the police have rung through Lansing for months now. From Lansing’s chapter of Black Lives Matter and the NAACP to the newly founded We the Free People of Lansing protest group, the push has remained consistent: They want the police defunded and the funds reallocated and invested into the community.

Prior to the open discussion between community members and the host panel, Police Chief Daryl Green gave a statement that strongly opposed the defunding of the police budget.

“Understandably so, there has been a lot of conversation about the budgeting of police departments across the country and most recently here in the city of Lansing,” Green said. “While there are no confirmed immediate decisions regarding LPD’s funding, ... I want to be objectively clear with our community that any decrease in funding will have a drastic and lasting impact on the safety of all people that visit, work and reside in the city of Lansing.”

Green said there would be lasting challenges on public safety’s ability to protect businesses and other city and private infrastructures, conducting investigations and recruiting new diverse talent to the department.

Abolishing police, or reducing the budget isn’t the right direction, Green said, since the department has been under budgeted for the majority of his time at LPD, dropping from over 260 officers to 206.

Green also said that lessening the police budget would negatively impact socioeconomically-challenged and marginalized communities. Defunding the police would mean they would be restricted to emergency 911 calls and would have less of a chance to help build and strengthen communities. 

Although Green stands against budget cuts, he also wanted to make it clear to the community that he was open to re-imagining the police department in a way that better serves and addresses public safety issues.

“While much of the impact of a major budget cut proposal remains unknown, I attest there will be a clear, urgent and complex series of public safety issues that result from many significant budget cuts to the Lansing Police Department,” Green said. “However, I welcome the opportunity of engagement with city leaders, residents and others seeking to re-imagine public safety in a matter that transforms policing in a way that addresses many of the current governmental gaps in infrastructure that police have accepted responsibility for throughout the years.”

Community members suggested public safety facilities and more social workers to fill the same gaps and Green is on the same page but doesn’t believe that police resources should be placed against social resources, because they go hand in hand.

Finding change in real conversations and connections

It was made clear by both members of the community and the panel that they want the same things: an end to racism, injustice and inequity and a safe environment with the opportunity to prosper.

No immediate decisions were made about the police budget during the webinar and likely won’t be until the next fiscal year.

Community member Maxine Hankins-Cain reminded those present at the webinar that everyone was fighting for the same goal and that understanding would be key to accomplishing it.

“I think we have to realize that all of us want to live,” Hankins-Cain said. “Every policeman wants to go back home to their mother, their father, sister, their brother. Every citizen in Lansing — every young Black boy, young Black girl, every white child — all of them want to go back home to their parents. Nobody wants to be killed. … If we don’t have real people in deep conversations face to face with each other so they can actually see in their eyes (and) listen to each other, until we are face to face with each other, we will never understand each other.”

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