Representatives from all levels of criminal justice, from police to a prosecutor to a judge, had an open conversation with community members Monday night.
The Lansing Police Chief and Ingham County Sheriff each explained how his department tries to maintain a good relationship with the public, then took questions and comments from the audience.
"There's a real danger, if we don't keep talking to each other, that the community and law enforcement and the courts can become disconnected," 55th District Court Judge Tom Boyd said. "Certainly that's happening all over the country, it doesn't need to happen here."
There is misinformation about courts that circulates, Boyd said, but it's important to him to educate people on exactly how he and the court system works. "We're just trying to provide a service to help people resolve issues, differences, and to move on to a better place," he said. "The problem is that most people don't see us on a regular basis, so they don't see that that's our goal."
That's why he spoke to a group of community members about the system and their rights at the Ingham County Health Department Monday. He was joined by Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski, a prosecutor, a civil rights expert, and Ingham County Sheriff Gene Wriggelsworth. "Anything we can do to enlighten people who have questions about how we operate is good for everybody," Wriggelsworth said.
Yankowski and Wriggelsworth talked about how training in each department has changed. It now includes more education about how to recognize internal bias and understand the history of community-police relations.
Both said if you see incidents of police treating you or anyone unfairly, report it to the officer or deputy's department.
"If you feel you're being treated unfairly by police, you need to report it to a police manager in that organization," Wriggelsworth said. "If we're not told, we can't handle it."