The applications are in, and through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, ELi was able to obtain and review the 39 applications that were received by the deadline on Aug. 6. The application pool is varied, but it is unclear when the commissioners will be seated for the new commission to commence its work.
The legal establishment of the commission happened in July 2021 with the unanimous approval of Ordinance 1503 by Council. Of the 39 applicants, 11 will be selected to serve as members of the Oversight Commission.
At the Aug. 10 meeting of the City Council, then-Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg and Council member Ron Bacon volunteered to oversee the process of interviewing the 39 people that applied to be on the new commission.
“Obviously, this is going to be a really intense process to interview 40 people,” Gregg said at the Aug. 10 meeting. “But I also think that it is going to be worth the time.”
The application process officially closed on Aug. 6 (after being extended beyond the original deadline of Aug. 1), and Council made plans to move forward with reviewing those interested in being seated on the commission.
The majority of applicants provided detailed responses to questions that inquired about their backgrounds, expertise, and interest in serving on the Oversight Commission. (See the application form here.)
There are a few familiar faces, including three people who served on the Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission: Chris Root, Erick Williams, and Noel Garcia Jr.
Several former and active City commissioners applied, including former mayor Mark Meadows, who has shown up in applications for Planning Commission and the Senior Commission, too, since quitting Council abruptly in July 2020. East Lansing Public Schools Treasurer Kath Edsall has also submitted an application.
The applicant pool includes local educators, social workers, and service industry professionals. While many reside in East Lansing, some of the applicants come from surrounding areas, including Dewitt, Okemos, and Bath.
The ordinance allows for only two out of 11 members to live outside of East Lansing and requires two of the commissioners to be licensed social workers or psychologists. The ordinance also calls for Council to appoint a commission that “reflect[s] the city’s diverse population,” including on the basis of “race, ethnicity, national origin, income level, age, student status, gender, disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression.”
People spoke of their experience with community voluntarism, organizing, and military service as a few reasons why they believe they would make effective commission members. Though they were not asked by the application to do so, many also spoke about their or their family members’ experience with policing and/or the intersection of race and policing.
Gregg commented on the importance of seating this new commission at the Aug. 10 Council meeting: “An incredible amount of work went into the formation of this by our study committee. To honor that work that was done, and also to give us the best chance going forward to have it be successful, I think it is worth it to put the effort in to talk to the people who are interested in serving to make sure we have the strongest body possible.”
It is unclear when the appointment process will be completed, as Gregg added, “There is some urgency, obviously, to getting that board seated, but I think it’s worth it to take the time.”