Thursday, February 2, 2023

East Lansing police oversight commission looks to better understand its role

November 3, 2022
<p>Some of the East Lansing Independent Police Oversight Commissioners during the annual public meeting on Nov. 2, 2022. </p>

Some of the East Lansing Independent Police Oversight Commissioners during the annual public meeting on Nov. 2, 2022.

Photo by Zari Dixson | The State News

The East Lansing Police Independent Oversight Commission held a community input series at a meeting Wednesday. The commission took comments about their scope, role and duties, with the goal of increasing the East Lansing Police Department's accountability and strengthening the community's trust in the police.

The commission asked the public questions related to accountability, transparency, community and trust. 

Participants in the input series did not provide a full name.

One community member said the commission ought to have a clear and defined set of powers.

"As this is a relatively new body that only was formed last year, (there needs to be) a clearly delineated set of powers and ability to elevate issues in certain cases, especially if there's conflict between this body and the police department, or between this body and other legal powers locally," she said.

Commission chairperson Erick Williams said that holding the police accountable, as a commission, is difficult.

"One thing that is frustrating to me is how there is so little oversight of the police and how little power local organizations and agencies like us have," Williams said.

A non-East Lansing resident said she now has anxiety whenever she parks in the Meijer parking lot on Lake Lansing Road due to the shooting of Black man DeAnthony VanAtten that took place there in April, emphasizing the release of body-camera footage related to the shooting.

"Police every day risk their lives, and it's not an easy decision to be a police officer with a gun in a semi-armed community," the community member said. "I want to know that the police using their weapons are doing so according not to their emotional status in the moment and not out of fear, but they are making a rational decision about when to pull a firearm."

Another community member said the department can't gain the public's trust without addressing the root causes that make people distrust the police.

"Until those root causes are addressed ... we're not going to trust them. It's just not going to happen," she said.

Commissioner Robin Etchison said he has a problem trusting ELPD, citing four negative encounters with the department's officers.

"I want them to be accountable, just like they want me to be accountable. And I want to be accountable, but we all must be accountable," Etchison said. "We're not here to attack the police. We're not against the police ... I want it to be an exemplary police department because this is the community that I reside."

The Oversight Commission will meet again on Dec. 7 at the Hannah Community Center.

Support student media! Please consider donating to The State News and help fund the future of journalism.

Discussion

Share and discuss “East Lansing police oversight commission looks to better understand its role” on social media.