East Lansing’s Independent Police Oversight Commission has still not examined the East Lansing Police Department’s use-of-force reports from October or November despite meeting twice already, but did press ELPD on issues of racial bias, transparency, and cooperation during a presentation given by Captain Chad Connelly and Lieutenant Chad Pride at the Commission’s second meeting on Dec. 13.
At its first meeting in November, the Commission did not discuss the contents of ELPD’s October use-of-force report and instead asked for ELPD to present its data in a more legible manner. The Commissioners also invited ELPD to send someone to speak at the next meeting on how the use-of-force policy is applied in East Lansing.
The second meeting of the Commission, held on Dec. 13, opened with a nearly hour-long discussion about the utility of forming subcommittees within the Commission, followed by a presentation by Captain Chad Connelly and Lieutenant Chad Pride on “response to resistance” policies within ELPD (the term the department is adopting instead of “use of force”).
Chair Erick Williams then adjourned the meeting, which by that point had run approximately three hours, before discussion of the use-of-force report agenda items.
The Commission agreed to form two of four proposed subcommittees.
Williams proposed creating four subcommittees: one that would focus on gathering relevant data and research; one that would look into 911 responses; one that would start developing a complaints system; and one to handle Commission organization and logistics.
He said he believed these groups would be “tremendously useful” for getting work done between meetings. The subcommittees could meet and gather information between the Commission’s monthly meetings.
Not everyone agreed. Commissioners Benjamin Hughes and Shawn Farzam opposed the creation of subcommittees until the Commission has more information. After a long debate and guidance from Mayor Ron Bacon, the Commission passed a motion that created two of the four suggested subcommittees: on complaints and organization.
The Michigan Open Meetings Act (OMA) will not apply to meetings of the subcommittees since the membership would not reach commission quorum and would not have the ability to make decisions.
Commissioners pressed ELPD on Response to Resistance training.
Connelly and Pride presented ELPD’s “response to resistance” policies, and Connelly told the Commission that Chief Kim Johnson was adamant that ELPD share any information they have on their procedures.
Connelly said that Johnson is “very, very committed to that.”
The presentation turned into more of a discussion as Commissioners intervened with questions and comments throughout.
Dr. Sharon Hobbs, a psychologist on the Commission, asked why “race” isn’t included as a variable that police consider when responding to a person that is allegedly resisting and referred to the abundance of data that shows Black people are more likely to be stopped by and have negative encounters with ELPD.
Connelly responded that, in a perfect world, no one’s race should determine how the police interact with them, but that he understands that it does happen.
“I don’t discount that that has happened,” Connelly told the Commission. “Not one bit.”
Connelly and Pride also faced questions about ELPD’s responses to individuals experiencing mental health crises. Amanda Morgan, a social worker on the Commission, said that the training the police receive to handle these situations, in her opinion, was not enough, and that handcuffing individuals in these situations could be harmful.
ELPD emphasized the department’s training is focused on listening and empathy, and Connelly assured the Commission that officers that don’t follow the rules will be held accountable.
Connelly and Pride also spoke about the “early warning system” that will be “going live” on Jan. 1, 2022. Early warning systems compile a variety of data from officers and offer the potential to alert superiors to problematic trends, including with individual officers’ behaviors.
ELPD has contracted with Guarding Tracking and the system will collect data related to officer accidents, pursuits of suspects, complaints (both internal and external), and uses of force. Connelly told the Commission they can have access to this data.
“We have nothing but cooperative intent,” Connelly said. “Whatever you want, I’ll do.”
The next meeting of the Independent Police Oversight Commission is scheduled for Jan. 10, 2022.
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