Lansing Police Department pursues statewide accreditation

Certification provides ‘extra layer of defensibility’ amid social unrest

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TUESDAY, Aug. 11 — The Lansing Police Department is looking to hold itself to higher standards as it continues to review policies and procedures on police accountability. The next step: accreditation from the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, officials announced today.

“While law enforcement accreditation is a voluntary initiative, as a Police Department we maintain a responsibility and a duty to the city of Lansing to successfully engage processes that support the highest level of professionalism for those community members that reside, work and visit the city of Lansing,” Police Chief Daryl Green said at a press conference at City Hall.

Green said LPD will pay $4,800 to the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police in a newly launched bid to become a “State Accredited Law Enforcement Agency.” The goal is to increase professionalism, bolster efficiencies and establish more standards for better policing.

The process begins with a thorough “self-analysis” — one that has already begun — to determine how existing policies and procedures can be adapted to meet more than 100 statewide accreditation standards, many of which the department is also already meeting.

Those standards are simple guidelines that include writing, implementing and updating written objectives on professionalism and police conduct. Among the listed benefits: “political support.”

“Agencies will meet standards that address and reduce liability for the agency,” according to MACP officials. “In short, law enforcement is under greater scrutiny than ever before. Accreditation provides your agency with an extra layer of defensibility following an incident.”

MACP launched the accreditation program in 2016. It has since spread to 36 other states and more than 50 Michigan police departments are either accredited or pending accreditation.

The accreditation has been billed by MACP as “easier than you think” to achieve, noting that most police departments are probably already doing a lot of what accreditation requires. A formal MACP seal largely allows cops to validate and document what is already being done.

“Accreditation is just the latest measure we’re taking to ensure that we have the best and most professional police department, further strengthening the trust between our community and the department, which is vital now and always as we move forward,” added Mayor Andy Schor.

In nearly 28,000 traffic stops in Lansing over the last three years, 33% of drivers were Black despite African Americans making up about 22% of the city’s population. About 15% of Black traffic stops involved a search. White traffic stops only involved a search about 5% of the time.

Local cops are also about three times likely to arrest Black drivers and passengers. About 3% of Black traffic stops ended in arrest. White suspects were only arrested in about 1% of the stops.

The pursuit of accreditation is at least the third in a series of noteworthy policing shifts geared to address those disparities as LPD continues a systematic review of its practices and policies.

Green announced last month that officers would only pull over drivers for traffic violations related to public safety and cease all traffic stops for minor violations like broken tail lights.

Officials also announced they’d no longer bust down doors without knocking when they perform search warrants at homes within the city. Minor traffic stops only account for about 15% of LPD’s annual stops, however, and only three no-knock warrants were conducted since 2015.

Like the other announced reforms, Green said accreditation is more about ensuring that good police protocol is cemented in city policies rather than introducing wholesale internal changes.

“These are the best standards available throughout the country,” Green added when asked what accreditation would do to actually curb racism. “We want to be on the right side of that, and certainly accreditation is one of our best efforts for engaging this process.”

Accreditation lasts for at least two years and includes routine reporting to MACP as well as on-site inspections to ensure that statewide professionalism standards are kept up to date. Green remains confident that his department will have no problems with a final certification.

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