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East Lansing Committee Proposes Police Oversight Commission To Increase Transparency

police car
East Lansing Police Dept.

An East Lansing committee is proposing a police oversight commission made up entirely of volunteer community members.

The group would be tasked with investigating incidents involving force, conducting research on police performance, and making information on police activity accessible to the public.

The goal is to increase accountability within the East Lansing Police Department and address racial inequities and use of force.

But one thing the group wouldn't be able to do is pursue disciplinary action. Chuck Grigsby is Chair of the Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission. He's also the chair of the East Lansing Human Rights Commission.

He said the police oversight commission would still be able to influence discipline through community feedback.

“And when you have community involvement, we have stakeholders involved, when you have active participants within our department, you have leadership from the government. Those are ways that will affect disciplinary actions indirectly.”

Heather Hulon is the sister of Anthony Hulon, a Lansing man who died in police custody in April of last year.

She said without disciplinary action, the group won’t be as effective.

“Part of the accountability would be on the discipline side. So what's going to happen? it needs to be reviewed by someone other than the individuals that are committing the act," Hulon said.

The draft states that out of the 11-member board, two must be licensed social workers. Another two must reflect the diverse demography of East Lansing and had adverse encounters with the ELPD. The members will serve terms staggered in three year intervals.

Members can’t serve more than two consecutive terms and they must sign a confidentiality clause and will be subject to removal if they violate it.

Grigsby believes the group will be effective in changing police culture because it would take input from people who’ve had negative experiences with the police into account.

“And I believe truly, that you can make a difference when you have that much buy-in from the community and leadership," Grigsby said.

Hulon said she’s encouraged that East Lansing is considering a police oversight commission and hopes to see information about police-involved-deaths made available to both the public and the victim’s family.

“If there's something in place, where they can be held accountable, they can be forced to have that transparency, you know, to give the information, so families aren't struggling and having to fight, and do all the research," Hulon said.

Hulon and Grigsby both hope the task force will be a starting ground for creating a shift in police culture. The study committee will present its recommendation to the city council Tuesday, June 8.

On June 15th, the East Lansing City Council will reconvene to discuss the committee's recommendation.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the council's agenda on June 15th.

Megan Schellong is the local host and producer for Morning Edition on WKAR.
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