East Lansing Police adjusting to challenging year

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Police are under pressure this election year from calls that they be defunded, for training reforms and the challenge of COVID-19 on a major college campus.

Even so, East Lansing Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez said he is optimistic.

Gonzalez said shifts in law enforcement policies often come with elections. He said it remains to be seen how the election will affect the department.

Gonzalez said that Obama implemented the 21st century policing model, which focused on the community level.

Gonzalez also said East Lansing is hiring two social workers to help people who have mental health issues. He said he hopes it will  reduce use-of-force tactics and situations.

He also said the department is looking to add neighborhood resource specialists.

“These would be a voluntary, non-paid role that would be filled by civilians that would help monitor the community,” said Gonzalez.

Defunding of police is on the minds of not only the department, but the people. 

Alyssa Briones, an East Lansing citizen who has been speaking out for civil rights and the defunding of the police, said, “I think we should defund the police in order to start over. We need to create new specialized kinds of jobs for people to handle situations in different ways than they are currently being handled.”

“Correcting the training of police to handle people with mental illnesses is also very important,” said Briones.

Gonzalez said instead of defunding the police, it would be better to create initiatives to expand their resources. 

COVID-19 hasn’t escaped the minds  at the East Lansing Police Department.

While there haven’t been any outbreaks with employees, the struggle to limit public health violations in a college town is seemingly never ending.

“We have worked closely with the MSU Police Department, especially since the beginning of football season,” said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said the departments work together when protecting and disciplining those who break the public safety rules.

While Gonzalez said crime has “most likely decreased during COVID,” there is plenty of work for the police.