The city of Lansing is getting an assist from Grand Rapids in its efforts to address racial justice and equity issues.
Lansing held its third and final community input session via Zoom on Thursday to discuss race relations in the city. One panelist was Grand Rapids City Attorney Anita Hitchcock, who discussed her city’s efforts. She says they’ve been working on a plan for a couple of years, so they might be ahead of Lansing in some ways.
Like Lansing, Grand Rapids is hearing calls to defund police. The city charter requires Grand Rapids to devote 32% of its operating fund to police, and Hitchcock says it’s currently at 39%. She adds the budget is already set for this year. “You have to have a plan," Hitchcock explains. "You have to be able to say where you’re going to take the money from and where the money’s going, and so we’ve not had those types of discussions yet.”
During the meeting, Lansing’s police chief said body cameras are helping in the effort to stop excessive force.
Chief Daryl Green was on the panel for Lansing’s third and final public forum on racial justice and the police budget. He says body cameras have helped resolve complaints in the city since 2016. “If anyone makes a complaint directly to the police, it goes into a system called ‘blue team,’ and that blue team system funnels an investigation," Green states. "We will review all the video, we will take statements, we will reach a conclusion.”
Green says a complaint investigator from outside the department helps resolve excessive force disputes.
Other topics discussed on Thursday included possible incentives to get police to live in Lansing, and how money that might be diverted from police would be spent.
This was the last of Lansing’s planned community meetings, but organizers say the conversation will continue. The city has an online survey related to its Racial Justice and Equity Plan.