LANSING, Mich. — The city of Lansing conducted a survey hoping to better understand the interactions between residents and police.
The data showed that most people in the city are happy with the police. but City Council member Kathie Dunbar said there's a problem with the survey: low minority participation.
"The reason these studies are being done, the reason that this task force has been assembled was because of accusations of racism at City Hall, in the police department, and in the mayor’s office," Dunbar said.
Mayor Andy Schor’s Racial Justice and Equity Alliance conducted the survey, but Dunbar believes it won’t help city officials understand how residents really feel about the police department because most participants were white, and most had never been stopped by police.
“You are not going to get a valid survey, or a valid read on the state of our police department, if you’re asking people who don’t meet the demographic of people who experienced racial discrimination or who have either had experience with the police department,” Dunbar said.
Out of nearly 450 participants, 75 percent were white and 25 percent were minorities. Just over half, 51 percent, said they were satisfied with the Lansing Police Department, while 26 percent said they weren’t.
When asked if they were treated unfairly when stopped by a Lansing police officer, 34 percent said yes, 8 percent said no and 58 percent said they'd never been stopped.
“My focus would definitely be inward and it would be analyzing the data that we already have to find disparities in the facts,” Dunbar said. “It would not be asking opinions of people who are not facing racial disparities to begin with.”
“Council member Dunbar wasn’t apart of the process, so I don’t know if she even knows how the surveys were done,” Schor said.
Schor said the Racial Justice and Equity Alliance made an effort to get as many responses as possible from all demographics. He said the survey was promoted online and at numerous town halls. Schor believes the survey represents all of Lansing.
“We’ve got a little bit higher than a 20 percent African American population, we’ve got a little bit higher than a 9 or 10 percent Latino population, we’ve got a 3 or 4 percent Asian American population and then a variety of others,” Schor said. “So it sounds to me the survey represents Lansing pretty well.”
Schor said he believes the survey will help develop a better relationship between the police department and residents, but Dunbar doesn’t agree.
“I can tell you, that we have mothers and fathers telling their children not to call 911 on many issues because they’re more fearful of the harm that would come to their children by calling the police , and that is a scary place to be to know that there is that much distrust in the non-white community for our police department,” Dunbar said.
Both Dunbar and Schor are running in this year's mayoral election.
Click here to view the full survey.