Lansing mayor forms new ‘Racial Justice and Equity Alliance’

Appointed committee tasked with eradicating racism and violence

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THURSDAY, June 23 — In the midst of a nationwide movement on racial justice and police reform, Lansing Mayor Andy Schor has launched a community taskforce to examine policies, practices and racial biases with the goal of eradicating racism and violence in the capital city.

As part of the mayor’s plans to assemble the city’s first long-term diversity, equity and inclusion plan, Schor announced today the formation of the Mayor’s Racial Justice and Equity Alliance. More than 40 people — all appointed by Schor — are now tasked with further developing policies at the Police Department and a community-inspired “Racial Justice and Equity” plan.

“This type of examination requires widespread input and advice from a diverse range of people who live and work in Lansing, as well as those who visit Lansing,” said Teresa Bingman, a Lansing-based attorney hired by the city to help coordinate the ongoing planning process.

“This committee will examine policies, practices and biases to gain a deeper understanding of how to eradicate racism and violence in Lansing through systematic, fair treatment of all,” Bingman said, labeling the upcoming plans as a “roadmap” to level the city’s racial playing field.

Schor first announced the review and reform efforts last month and provided more details today.

Among the more significant steps detailed in Schor’s latest proposal are plans for the city to hire a diversity officer and to initiate Lansing’s first diversity, equity and inclusion plan — including an “environmental scan,” with help from Bingman, who also specialized in municipal consulting.

The idea: review policies and procedures, spot weaknesses and implement solutions, he said.

The newly formed alliance will be led by Schor, Bingman, Police Chief Daryl Green and Human Relations and Community Services Director Kim Coleman. Representatives from the mayor’s cabinet, the boards of Fire and Police Commissioners, the Human Relations and Community Services Board and the existing Diversity and Inclusion Council will also pitch in.

Additionally, an “advisory committee” of 34 mostly Black community members have been appointed to one-year terms. A full list is provided below, but members include Lansing NAACP President Dale Copedge, Ingham Co. Health Officer Linda Vail and developer Joel Ferguson.

“Information and data obtained will be used to inform the revision of community-inspired police use-of-force policies and also develop a community-inspired racial justice and equity plan,” Bingman said, noting brainstorming efforts would eventually develop into meaningful changes.

The mayor’s appointed Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Council first pitched the diversity officer idea to Schor several months ago. After sitting idle for months, the plan will be finalized this year. Schor has also agreed to participate in implicit bias training and committed to additional training on deescalation and implicit biases for officers at the Lansing Police Department.

Additionally, city officials plan to host a series of “listening sessions” over the next few months to collect community input. The first of those online meetings is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. today. The Police Department and the Police Board of Commissioners are also actively reviewing use-of-force policies.

Schor said those conversations will eventually lead to a discussion on the budget, with the possibility that resources could be allocated away from LPD and toward community services that address substance abuse, mental health and other “social safety net” types of issues.

Bingman said “Phase One” will continue through September and will consist largely of researching police data, gathering community input and developing policy changes. “Phase Two” — which begins in October and concludes in January — will focus on prioritizing public input and translating those plans into policy reforms and other meaningful adjustments.

“We are very excited about the work that will be done to make strides toward Lansing becoming a more equitable and just city — a city where all of its citizens, workers and visitors will feel welcomed, comfortable and proud,” Bingman said a press conference today.

Schor pledged last month to reaffirm existing police policies geared toward deescalating violence, exhausting non-lethal alternatives and reviewing all instances of police force — all efforts that Green and Schor recognized have already been in place at the Police Department.

Police Chief Daryl Green also rolled out at least two policy reforms in the wake of recent social unrest. Local cops will no longer pull over drivers for minor infractions like broken taillights in an effort to curb unnecessary police contact. No-knock warrants have also been entirely banned.

But with secondary equipment violations only accounting for about 15% of traffic stops, and only three no-knock warrants included among 284 searches conducted over the last five years, the reforms made to date have only left a growing desire for truly meaningful operational changes.

Green spent several minutes touting the high standards his officers are held to at LPD, but recognizes that improvements can — and must — be made to ensure Lansing remains safe.

“We will continue to renew the compact between the Lansing Police Department and its citizenry for the purposes of restoring trust and accountability, enhancing police legitimacy and to reimagine policing in the city of Lansing,” Green said at this morning’s press conference.

Advisory members of the Mayor’s Racial Justice and Equity Alliance are Lural Baltimore, Elizabeth Battiste, Berton Brown, Melik Brown, Dr. Delsa Chapman, Dale Copedge, Susan Cancro, Bryan Crenshaw, Elissa Crumley, Paula Cunningham, Pamela Davies, Gregory Eaton, Joel Ferguson, Joseph Graves Jr., Adam Hussain, Stanley Jenkins, Calvin Jones, Rev. Melvin T. Jones, Alane Laws-Barker, Olivia Letts, Lorenzo Lopez, Angela Mathews, David Maxwell, Michael McKissic, Bill Reed, Jonathan Rosewood, Carrie Rosingana, Alfred P. Singleton II, Dr. LeKeeya Tucker, Carmen Turner, Linda Vail, Willard Walker and Randy Watkins.

Visit lansingcitypulse.com for previous and further coverage on the mayor’s latest equity plans.

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