East Lansing residents gathered at the Hannah Community Center Performing Arts Theater to make their voices heard on police-community relations.
“I just wanted to hear how the East Lansing police are seeing the environment and public policing; particularly with race and the amount of violence that hasn’t hit East Lansing, but I’m concerned about it,” Department of Public Health consultant Barbara Derman said.
One of the main concerns was racial profiling and discrimination.
“I’ve been stopped by the East Lansing police. Everywhere I have lived I have been stopped and questioned,” MSU english film studies professor Jeffrey C. Wray said.
Wray said he was even pulled over while riding his bike in East Lansing.
“Old men like me should not be getting pulled over on my bike,” he said.
Wray’s two sons, who are also residents of East Lansing, have been subject to racial profiling traffic stops.
“Ask your white friends how many times they have been stopped,” he said to his sons.
The chief of the East Lansing police explained that police officers are trained all the time and that they received bias training a couple months ago.
“If you’re stopping someone because of their skin color or the type of vehicle they are driving or any other reason that’s not a legal criminal reason to stop someone or a traffic violation that’s profiling and it’s discriminatory,” ELPD Chief Jeff Murphy said.
Dee Jordan, president of the Council of Graduate Students, said she was a victim of discrimination at a peaceful protest in East Lansing. She became emotional when telling the story of her encounter with the police during the protest.
After seeing a white man with a Confederate flag, Jordan and others began to peacefully protest. The white man called someone and asked them to bring a gun. In that moment Jordan became fearful.
She called the ELPD immediately. When they arrived she felt a sense of relief.
“Thank goodness you are here,” she said to the police.
Jordan said the police officer walked up close, looked down at her and said If you’re scared, go home.
“No compassion was shown to me,” she said.
The same police officer approached the white woman next to Jordan in a different manner. He asked politely if everything was OK and if she was OK.
“I as an educated black woman did nothing but exercise my civil duty,” Jordan said.
The white woman started a complaint with ELPD and Jordan sent in a letter.
Jordan received a letter in response to her complaint and it said the officer was found to have done no wrong. It was signed by Murphy.
“How could you sign off on that?” Jordan asked.
Murphy told Jordan that the police officer said she was getting irrational.
“More than likely you’re going to choose the officer’s side,” panelist Derrell Slaughter said to Murphy.
Jordan said the officer has a laundry list of complaints on him and still works for ELPD.
“No matter what position I hold I’m still just a black girl,” she said.
She then swiftly walked out of the forum and began to cry.
“There has to be a lot more done to build trust between police and the community,” Black Lives Matter Lansing Co-Founder LaShawn Erby said.
Wray credits Black Lives Matter for driving conversations like the ones at the ELPD forum.
“These forums would not be without Black Lives Matter,” he said.
Murphy and Sgt. James Campbell, two representatives from ELPD, said they heard everything the community had to say at the forum and hopes to fix these issues moving forward.