Lansing Police Department trying for more diversity on force

Posted at 7:21 AM, Aug 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-19 07:21:52-04

The Lansing Police Department is having a hard time forming a force that reflects the community it serves.

It doesn't help that fewer people are looking to join the force with the department seeing a big drop in applicants. Less than 20-percent of the department's hires in the last two years have been minorities.

"There's no doubt that the landscape in the law enforcement profession is challenged right now," said Chief Mike Yankowski.

Chief Yankowski says minorities aren't applying for positions. Next week, 15 recruits are joining the force but only one of them is a minority.

Yankowski pins that problem on negative perceptions of police.

"All the negative comments that are being made towards law enforcement are not always fair," he said.

The Chief is trying to change that by doing outreach in both schools and neighborhoods.

"Our police officers do so many positive things," Cheif Yankowski said. "Our police officers get it right a lot of the time and when they don't it is our job to hold them accountable no matter what."

Bishop David Maxwell, who heads the city's Office of Community & Faith-Based Initiatives, has been part of that effort.

"If you're going to have a successful police force, that police force must and I say must, look like the community that it polices," Bishop Maxwell said.

He says it's going to take help from the community, changing the perception that you shouldn't join the police.

"You're not going to solve this problem with a quick fix," Maxwell added. "It takes consistent and persistent pursuit of taking those barriers down."

With 5 more spots to fill, the department is hoping to narrow the gap.

"It's a dangerous job. Not many professions have to put on a bulletproof vest to go to work," Chief Yankowski said. "It takes a special person to be a police officer, but we've gotta get it right."