Even routine stops can be trouble, explain East Lansing councilmembers

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Ben Muir

Tuesday’s East Lansing City Council meeting, a shorty one, turned into a discussion of police procedures.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, 77-year-old Jim Manderson described a time he saw an East Lansing police officer talking to an elderly man sitting on a park bench, with two East Lansing police cars, blue lights flashing, parked on the side of the street. Two officers were on the scene. Manderson said he has often seen two or three officers and cars appearing at routine stops.

Manderson challenged the council to investigate police procedures in such cases and the actual risk of police work. “We need this city to be run with absolute maximum efficiency, especially with police work.” said Manderson. “Police work is not even close to being on the list of the top 10 deadliest jobs.”

City councilmembers were consistent in backing up the police. City Manager George Lahanas said, “The standard procedure for any stop in our city is and has been for many years one cop per car, while the second car and cop is there for backup. Our city has seen two deaths of cops in what was seen as routine lines of work, so the standard put in place is needed and makes sense.”

Manderson was unswayed. After the meeting he said the council, “did not show any sign they took the challenge I laid out.” Council Member Susan Woods intervened and said that “you need to look at data from both sides, though.”

Mayor Mark Meadows said the meeting was “very quick. With a very light agenda, nobody on the council or in the audience wanted to talk about much within the agenda.” The meeting lasted abut 30 minutes.

Council Member Erik Altman agreed, saying the agenda was passed through quickly and, to one of Manderson’s points, efficiently.