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The Lansing Housing Commission rowhouses of LaRoy Froh in south Lansing have a lot of turnover in residents, but some still remember a community police officer who served there more than 15 years ago.
“D. Green? He’s a good person. I met him when I was a teenager,” said DeShawn Portee, a healthcare worker and Army National Guard veteran. “He could be strict at times, but that’s good. He’s fair. He liked to learn both sides of a story.”
From the mayor on down to the City Council, the police union and the man on the street, everyone seemed to have the same take on the consensus pick for the new police chief, Daryl Green.
“You could search the whole country and not find someone more qualified,” said Lansing City Council member Jody Washington, who’s married to a retired Michigan state police officer.
Green has worked at almost every level in the Lansing Police Department: patrol officer, community policeman, internal affairs and administration. More unusually, he also has a Ph.D. from Western Michigan University in public administration.
“I had a professor who said I couldn’t do it,” Green said last week. “I said, ‘I’m going to prove you wrong.’”
Green has a compact frame, a light brown complexion and closely cropped hair. He grew up in a military family, moving from base to base, and points out that he’s spent more years in Lansing than any other city — 22 years on the police force. Despite his time in Michigan, he’s retained an East Coast accent, dropping his R’s as he speaks.
Mayor Andy Schor had earlier mentioned he would go to the expense of a national search, but he stuck with the 51-year-old Green, who became acting chief to replace the retiring Michael Yankowski on July 31. The Board of Police Commissioners will vote formally on his approval for permanent chief on Aug. 20.
“I’m proud of everything he’s done in Lansing. I am confident that Daryl Green is the best chief for us. I don’t believe we have to go through a thousand people to find the right one,” Schor said.
Green wanted the permanent job, but he said he was still surprised Schor picked him.
If approved, Green will be the second African-American to head the Lansing Police, and the first since Robert Johnson left in 2000. Green lives outside the city in Holt with his second wife, Malinda. They have three children, 17, 19 and 20.
Green talks openly but carefully about police matters and areas the force can improve, without an excess of words, hitting the right notes about investing in youth and focusing on more community policing.
He roots the focus of his whole career in his three years as a community police officer at LaRoy Froh. His first night on the job there was a stabbing, and he felt dropped into chaos.
“That really built up my interest in policing because I was searching for answers to what is policing? When I first got to the Police Department, what I was really instructed to do was an enforcement model,” Green said.
“But when you are thrust into a community, you have to solve some really systemic issues like poverty, watching kids eating potato chips, not wearing coats in 20-degree temperatures. When you’re a community police officer, you’ve got to guide parents, you’ve got to guide kids.”
Green said he felt like the mini-police chief of LaRoy Froh, with responsibility for what happened there. He engaged the youth and even coached basketball for middle school kids in the Police Athletic League, which connected officers with underserved youth.
Bob Merritt, the Lansing Police public information officer, coached an opposing team back in those days. He said he saw Green as a leader moving up in the police community even then. Green still mentors African-American youth as a volunteer with the Turning Point of Lansing.
“Before that, I really took the enforcement model — write as many tickets as you can, make some arrests, treat people with respect and the day is done, and that’s just not how policing really is,” Green said. “I’m glad to see policing has evolved to deal with some issues like homelessness, chronic and persistent mental illness, substance abuse in a different way. As a community police officer, I felt we were on the front end of dealing with a lot of those issues.”
He’s taking over a Police Department with a lot of young officers who recently faced questions about overuse of force when a black teenage girl resisted arrest. The department’s relationship with parts of the African-American community can sometimes seem frayed.
“Obviously there were some negative assessments about that situation. As a department, we’ve done a lot of things good. As a department, we still have a lot of things to do to move forward with juveniles. Chief Yankowski listed a host of recommendations. I do think we could do more as far as our training platforms to give our officers more and better tools. There’s some updated research, some additional training our entire department can learn from.”
“I have 22 years of experience. I have done my due diligence around youth. Kids cognitively are little bit different than an adult. We have to have an internal action review to mitigate this from happening again. It’s unfortunate. I wish the young lady the very best. As a department, we’ll try to see that something like this does not happen again.
Tom Krug, the executive director of the Capitol City Labor Program, the union representing Lansing police officers, said Green is well liked among the rank-and-file.
“Most police officers would like a chief who came up through the ranks,” Krug said. “The mayor looked and saw we had somebody in house who could do the job. If you have someone, why not appoint them?”
His support from the police officers’ association comes despite having to make some tough decisions to punish officers who step out of line.
Last year, Green overruled a lower-ranking officer and insisted that Officer Leonel Rangel be fired and not just suspended for making racist jokes about a black officer and the Somali community. Green’s involvement was made public only last month in the Lansing State Journal.
Green told the Lansing City Council on Monday that he would wait to roll out any big changes to police operations, believing he needed a chance to look at public safety from his new perch, and mine the data that shows how to best allocate officers.
He’d like to see a community police officer in every neighborhood but says there’s no way Lansing could afford that. The city has 10 such officers and an 11th should be deployed soon. “What’s more important is the philosophy of community policing,” he said. “I’ll do the best I can to strengthen our community policing model.”