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The Yes! Report: Mid-Michigan Police working to change perceptions of law enforcement

Posted at 9:47 AM, Jul 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-28 08:04:30-04

Police officers have been in the news a lot lately, and not usually for positive stories.

"Everything that's gone on in the last couple of weeks certainly makes what I'm doing easier to do," Lansing Township Police Officer Aaron Lightner said. He is fighting to change the way people see police, on two-on-one basketball game at a time.

He was just driving by a park and saw two teenagers waiting to play basketball, so he walked up and started chatting with them. "When I said let's play, they kind of jumped up on the table and said, 'Are you serious?' and I said, 'Yeah, I'm serious, let's go, c'mon.'" He says it was a lot of fun, and the kind of community outreach he tries to do as often as he can.

"My goal is to change the perception and the image of law enforcement," Lightner said. "This is a great place, starting with young kids. If I can interact with them in a positive way and change their perception about what we do, then that's my goal, that makes me feel good."

The Michigan State Police are also helping out in the community this week. Datrice Stalling held a drive to collect accessories for women in need to wear to job interviews through the Dress for Success program. She wanted to collect enough jewelry for 100 women, but far exceeded her goal she says because of the generosity of MSP. "There is a great relationship with law enforcement and the civilians and the public, and this represents it very strongly and widely and boldly."

MSP Sergeant Joseph Austin helped make the drive such a success by telling a co-worker who collects jewelry about it. His friend brought in boxes of extra accessories he no longer needed.

"There's a lot of people out there that are in need and anything we can do to help them is definitely a positive," Austin said.

Both Austin and Lightner say it's important to see people in situations in which the police are just helping, not enforcing any laws, because it shows the community a side of law enforcement they don't normally get to see.