City Manager George Lahanas could announce as soon as tomorrow his choice of the new Chief of Police for East Lansing.
Four candidates were interviewed last Tuesday by a panel that included Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Administrator Elaine Hardy, a Michigan State University police captain, and an East Lansing fire captain, according to Chuck Grigsby, who also took part in the interviews.
Former police officer Noel Garcia also participated in the interviews, according to Garcia’s Facebook page. Grigsby and Garcia are both members of the Study Committee that will advise Council on formation of an independent police oversight commission.
The interviews were wide-ranging, lasting about 50 minutes to an hour, Grigsby said, and consisted of 15 to 20 questions.
The panel asked the candidates about police transparency and how they’d intend to work with the yet-to-be-formed oversight commission. They also asked how, if hired, the candidates would handle patrolling and enforcement of Covid-19 related laws and health orders.
Several of the questions and discussion related closely to Lahanas’ police realignment efforts, which have been under discussion since mid-July.
Broadly, Grigsby said, the interviews helped the panel gauge how each candidate sought to interact with the community. He said that “candidates were open to a lot of questions.”
After interviewing the four candidates, the panel spent time discussing the candidates and coming up with, effectively, a package of recommendations. Each panel member created a ranked list of candidates, as did the panel as a group. They also offered the pros and cons of each candidate. In total, Grigsby said, the group met from 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Then on Thursday, with the panel’s input, Lahanas did a further round of interviews with the candidates.
The position is open because in March of this year, ELPD Chief Larry Sparkes retired suddenly amid turmoil related to allegations of racially-biased excessive use of force. (The officer at the center of those allegations has been cleared of wrong-doing in several rounds of scrutiny.) Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez has been serving as Acting Chief since Sparkes’ retirement.
Several Council members have told ELi they are hoping for a new Chief to be named soon in order to bring more stability to a City rocked by recent Council resignations and a change in the City Attorney appointment. Council is expected to vote through the new City Attorney contract tomorrow, as well as to vote on an extension of Lahanas’s own contract as City Manager.
While Council hires and fires the City Attorney and City Manager according to the City Charter, the City Manager chooses the Chiefs of Police and Fire, as well as other departmental heads.
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Alice Dreger contributed reporting.