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East Lansing City Council swears in Garcia, addresses high school tensions

Noel Garcia Jr. recites an oath of office in front of East Lansing City Clerk Jennifer Schuster.
Arjun Thakkar
Noel Garcia Jr. recites an oath of office in front of East Lansing City Clerk Jennifer Schuster.

East Lansing City Council is back to having a full group of five members. The city swore in former Lansing police lieutenant Noel Garcia Jr. and addressed recent school safety concerns at its meeting Tuesday.

Council members chose Garcia out of over a dozen eligible applicants for his experience in public safety. He served in the Lansing Police Department for more than 20 years and was on East Lansing’s Independent Police Oversight Commission.

A crowd of family and friends came to the Hannah Community Center Tuesday to see him sworn in. Garcia said he’s going through training to be prepared to take on responsibilities of the council, including the city budget.

He told WKAR he’s eager to help strengthen the police department’s relationship with the community and to implement recommendations from the independent report on policing in the city.

“Morale is not good at the East Lansing Police Department," Garcia said. "I know that that policing community relation has to improve.”

Garcia says he plans to run for a full term on the council in the city’s November elections.

The council also spoke about ongoing school safety concerns at its Tuesday meeting.

East Lansing High School students sheltered in place for two hours Tuesday morning due to reports of a weapon on campus. That followed a tense school board meeting Monday that included discussion about a firearm found at a school fight last week.

Garcia has two sons that attend the school. He said he pulled them out of the school the day of the shelter-in-place.

"I wasn't really happy with how things have been going lately, and I just had a gut feeling," Garcia said. "Gut feelings in law enforcement is probably one of the reasons I'm standing in front of you right now: you go with your gut."

He said the city needs to work with the police department to keep students safe, adding that their education is being affected by the violence.

“Our students can't learn, they can't be in an environment of learning, if they're afraid to be there," Garcia said. "And I really believe that's what's happening. I know that because I have many conversations with my own boys.”

Mayor Ron Bacon noted the city is holding a listening session Friday evening to let parents share their concerns and develop solutions for school safety.

Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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