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'This is a first step. A necessary step'; East Lansing could establish a police oversight committee

Posted at 7:33 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 19:33:34-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The City of East Lansing could soon have a police oversight commission made up of members from the community.

On Monday, the study commission held a meeting to get input from the public. At the meeting, committee members went over the four pillars of the commission which are accountability, transparency, community and trust.

“Police have a mistrust of people of color, particularly African Americans, black people," Kelli Ellsworth-Etchinson, a member of the study group said. "And there’s a mistrust black people have with the police. So, we wanted to make sure we got some community input as the study group of this oversight commission.”

East Lansing Police
East Lansing Police Department.

The plan is to provide a group people can go to and file a complaint.

“Making sure that we’re making it so that people don’t necessarily have to go to the police department to file a complaint,” Ellsworth-Etchinson said.

Other responsibilities the commission will have include:

  • independence from the police department
  • reviewing complaints
  • community initiated recommendations
  • researching and reporting information
  • making information available to the public
  • community outreach
  • building cooperation and clear rules for sharing information
  • allocating adequate resources
  • a step towards greater police accountability

Ellsworth-Etchinson said she hopes this commission can start rebuilding trust between people of color and the police department.

“This is the first step, a necessary step," she said. "It’s not the solution. There’s a lot of different approaches that will have to happen to change the culture of policing in East Lansing and America.”

Deputy Chief of East Lansing Police Steve Gonzalez said this committee comes from a larger, national conversation about police accountability.

“Not only providing outside independent oversight to law enforcement services here in East Lansing, but it also goes to the national and local conversation of creating different police reform measures that are proper and tailored towards our community,” he said.

Gonzalez said this commission is much more than just overseeing what the department is doing.

“Not only will it be an oversight commission, but it will also be a body that can make recommendations to how police services are delivered in East Lansing,” he said.

The next step will be presenting the report to the city council in June for the final decision of creating an oversight committee.

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Mikayla Temple

Mikayla Temple

1:39 PM, Jan 05, 2021

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