Across the country, people are standing up and demanding major changes to our policing system in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. Lansing has to take bold action to address the problem of police violence and support our Black and brown communities. We are facing a crisis of leadership on this issue. There is a lot of information circulating and I want to clarify our position on what we need to do going forward.
Cities across the country are looking at bold actions related to the institution of policing, cities like Minneapolis are working on plans to disband the police force and establish an entirely new public safety agency. New York and Los Angeles have committed to major cuts in funding to their police departments. All options are on the table.
Defunding police departments may be an unfamiliar approach to many, but this approach is common sense. In the last three years in Lansing, we’ve increased the police budget at double the rate of our public services and have decreased our human services and parks budget. We have to reinvest in programs that improve people’s lives, particularly in our Black and brown communities. Instead of increasing spending on punitive approaches, we need to address the root causes of poverty and crime by investing in our people.
A majority of us on city council have expressed support for or are open to ideas about changing our funding priorities. We have to take this issue seriously and put forward bold solutions. Thus far, we have not seen the leadership needed on this issue. Mayor Schor has only committed to a tiny amount of funds to reinvest, has authorized the use of tear gas on protestors, and has had a troubling record of racial discrimination revealed by former employees.
We are committed to working with local Black organizations like Black Lives Matter to create major changes to our police department, including reducing our police budget and reinvesting in our communities. Now is the time for action and we are calling on the mayor to clean up his act and get to work with us on real solutions. If this does not take place in the immediate future, Mayor Schor needs to step down.
(The writer represents the First Ward on the Lansing City Council.)