EAST LANSING, Mich. — Black residents of East Lansing are nearly three times as likely to be stopped by police as white residents, according to new data from the city's police department.
Officials are saying it's an issue that needs to be fixed.
“The numbers that we found certainly bring some cause for alarm for us,” said East Lansing Police Deputy Chief Steve Gonzalez. “We will continue looking into the numbers.”
Officials say they started looking into police stops to help with reform.
“We’ve been tracking officer initiated stops since last year,” Gonzalez said. “The data includes the reason for contact, the type of contact, and also the demographics of the individuals that the officer contacted.”
In January, the department compiled the data and it showed that from September to December, 68% of the city residents stopped by police were white, though white people make up 72% of the population.
More than 17% of the East Lansing residents stopped were Black, though Black people make up less than 7% of the population.
“There is evidence, long standing evidence from the Department of Justice that Black and brown communities are over policed,” said East Lansing’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Administrator Elaine Hardy.
Hardy said the numbers reflect underlying issues . She’s one of the city employees who works with the police oversight committee, and she said her aim is to realign the goals of the police department with the goals of the community.
“We really hope it would provide an opportunity where there is more transparency with the department and come up with ways that the department can be realigned with the needs of the community.”
In a memo sent out to the Human Rights Commission, Chief Kim Johnson said he is highly concerned about the numbers and plans to address the issue through consistent diversity training for offers, community gatherings and more.
Hardy said it all starts with addressing inequality in the city.
“If we don’t address or take accountability for the racism in our society, we’re going to keep reliving it,” she said.