LANSING, Mich. — A Florida law firm hired to conduct a review of the Lansing Police Department’s policies and procedures found the department needs to work on transparency and it said it should be better prepared for civil unrest.
Legal Solutions, part of the Blue Line Law Firm, was chosen by former police Chief Daryl Green because they specialize in these types of reviews. This is the firm’s first time working outside of Florida.
“The reason why that's important, and that's critical, is because you definitely want a neutral outside party doing these assessments,” said Ann Charleus, executive director and spokesperson for Legal Solutions—Blue Line Law Firm. “Obviously, the police community is a small community. And so to go to an organization that is local to Michigan, there may have been potential concerns about neutrality, and really coming to the table with an open mind and this assessment.”
This review cost $24,000. Lansing Mayor Andy Schor says the money came from a Department of Justice coronavirus grant and from the police training budget.
The 45-page report outlined three primary challenges the police department is facing: technological and safety challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department’s handling of protests and civil unrest and the recent increase in homicides in the city.
“It became very important for the city as well as the police to do an assessment of what's working well, what are some areas of opportunities,” Charleus said. “What are some threats and you know, what are some weaknesses?”
Other challenges included transparency in the department.
“A lot of the stakeholders had concerns that their voices were not being heard,” Charleus said. “And they wanted to actively participate in solutions that can help their community as it relates to law enforcement.”
Finally, budgeting and short-staffing are an issue unique to capital cities.
“Lansing is a city, but it is also the capital of Michigan,” Charleus said. “And very similar to other cities that are also capitals… not only are they dealing with the traditional things that each city or municipality would have to deal with, they're also being used as an almost overflow of law enforcement for state law enforcement concerns.”
The report detailed several recommendations to combat these issues. It recommended the police be prepared, instead of reactionary, in the face of protest or civil unrest. To increase transparency, the office of the public information director should be more easily accessible, and public information should be available without delay. The review also recommended the department balance its budget to deal with staffing needs unique to the state’s capital.
There is no clear timeline for implementing these plans, but Schor said the city is dedicated to making the necessary changes outlined in the report.
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