At a recent Lansing City Council meeting, many concerned citizens voiced their concerns about racism within the police force, leading to them calling for the defunding of the Lansing Police Department. Former teacher at J.W Sexton High school Kyle Richard said it broke his heart when he heard of this racism from his students.
“Near the end of my second year, towards the end of the civil rights unit from the 1960s, I took a kind of moment with my class, and we had a day where would discuss,” said Richard. “The discussion was basically, now that we’ve talked about all of the stuff that happened in the 60s, what is your experience? What is your perspective? The stories of racism and of bigotry that they talked about at the hands of fellow Lansing residents, and at the hands of the Lansing Police Department, broke my heart.”
Citizens in the City of Lansing have been protesting for the government to defund the police for the past few months, and they are continuing to do so. On July 13, Lansing City Councilmember Brandon Betz introduced a resolution that would cut the budget by 50% over the next five years. The 50% figure will serve as a benchmark for future discussions. So far the police budget has only been cut by $100,000.
Richard also noted that he had recently seen the Lansing police budget, and continued by saying that he was in favor of cutting that budget in any way possible.
“The police get what looks like some new cruisers, recent cruisers, they got new riot gear, but we had to shut down Shahbaz Academy,” said Richard. “For that to be happening here, and for how long it has been happening, I just, I am in favor of any motion or resolution, or action, that moves in a direction to defund the police and reinvest in our community.”
Lansing resident Jessica Yorko said that she too has spoken to people in the Lansing community. Yorko said that all of the people she has spoken to believe that there needs to be adjustments within the police department.
“I have had a number of conversations over the last several months with friends and colleagues, and residents of the city, including survivors of violent crimes, as well as people who have lost loved ones and family to violent crimes,” said Yorko. “I asked them, what do you think about this? What do you think about this idea to relocate police funding, or restructure the police department, or realign government systems, and it is an unequivocal yes.”
Lansing Community College Board of Trustees member, Samantha Vaive, is also in favor of defunding the police. Vaive said that the police have been utilizing much of the city budget, while social programs have been neglected, and that Lansing needs opportunity, not punishment.
“For far too long the police have been expected to act in a capacity outside of their job description, simply because the police department is where the money went,” said Vaive. “While social services and schools suffered, the police were getting new equipment, and more officers. As a society we become more comfortable with fear than with compassion. We have become dependent on reaction instead of prevention. I believe this council cares about Lansing, and the people in it, and you all want to see us thrive, but no one benefits from punishment. Not even criminals. What we need, what the people of this city need, is opportunity.”