Note: The Lansing Journal covered the June 13 peaceful protest in Lansing, which involved several speeches under the Clock Tower. That article is posted here, and we invited the speakers to submit their speeches to our “Lansing Voices” feature.
I come from a household of six children, and both of my parents always taught us to look through the lenses of different backgrounds. However, they always mentioned to us that because we are black individuals it is important for us to move 10x smarter specifically because we are bound to be racially profiled in any situation. Anytime my parents would mention things like this to me as a child, I was always a little confused. However, I quickly learned what they were trying to teach us.
My first experience being racially profiled was from a situation involving the Lansing Police Department when I was 12 years old. A party had taken place across the street from Coolidge Elementary. As I was leaving the party along with four of my friends, we were AGGRESSIVELY stopped by three LPD vehicles. We were told to IMMEDIATELY get on the ground as guns were pulled out on us and they began to search us and go through our bookbags. We were told that there had been a noise complaint, from local residents and that they were looking to see if we had a firearm or any weapons. We were all only 12 – 13 years old, so all of us were confused on why they would be searching us for these types of things. Fortunately, we all made it out of the situation unharmed, and we continued to walk home as we talked about what just happened.
Many of my other black friends have similar stories from experiences with not only LPD but other officers in general. The theme remained constant among us all: “Would our experience had been different if we were white?”
The answer was always yes because being black in America was our reality.
My friends and I are fortunate enough to be alive to talk about these experiences. However, this is not the case for Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Michael Brown, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Eric Garner, the late George Floyd, and many others who have fallen because of racial injustice.
My message to the people of Lansing is this: Systematic racial injustice, economic oppression, and police brutality all exist, and immediate change needs to happen.
Our first demand is to promote accountability. Police departments across the nation have begun to implement “Citizens’ Review Boards,” which serve to hold police officers accountable by examining complaints and community involvement. Currently, Lansing has a Police and Fire Commission, however there is no information on the LPD website about who is on this board or what they do. It’s not even clear whether the board is active based on the outdated documents on the Village website. There are many models of successful citizens’ review boards, but we are pushing for a review-focused board, which will be made up of volunteers who can make recommendations about operations to police and ensure they are responsive to the community.
Our next demand is to implement a “Duty to Intervene” policy within the Lansing Police Department. Currently, according to the LPD rules and regulations handbook, there is no clear policy that states that officers must intervene if they witness the unjust use of force by another officer. This would require officers to report these incidents to a supervisor directly after they occur.
Our third demand for the LPD is to implement a complete ban on the use of chokeholds. House of Representatives Democrats are currently trying to pass a police reform bill that would prohibit the use of chokeholds nationwide. LPD operates with a half-ban on chokeholds, as the current police handbook states, “Officers shall not use a chokehold in the performance of his or her duties, unless deadly force is justified.” Let’s get Lansing ahead of the game, and ban the use of chokeholds altogether in our department.
Finally, we demand the accessibility of resources and promotion of dialogue by both the Lansing Police Department and Village of Lansing. We demand a written statement from the Mayor and her administration, as they have been completely silent regarding the events that have unfolded across the nation. Three years ago, when off-duty Lansing cop William Mason pinned 14-year-old Jordan Brunson to the ground and screamed, “I’m going to f-ing kill you,” after he passed through the officer’s yard, Lansing made national news. After this incident, meetings with the family, the Department of Justice, and the Southside chapter of the NAACP resulted in a plan to “justify” what happened and prompt reform. However, those resources are not available to be utilized. The Department of Justice forced Lansing to form the Humans Relations Commission, an organization to address issues like police brutality in our community. The HRC has not released a statement at all during the past few weeks, and there is no documentation proving they’ve met virtually to provide resources to the residents of Lansing. Similarly, the LPD was required to collaborate with TF South studetns to create an educational video titled “Youth: Stopped by Police? Your Rights, What You Can Do, and What You Can Expect From Police.” This video finished production and released last year, but it can no longer be found on the Village of Lansing Youtube page.
What is the point of creating resources if they’re not available to our residents?
We hope you’ll consider signing our petition in support of these four demands, and hopefully, with the implementation of accountability, policy, and dialogue, we can start to prevent racial injustice in our community and seek meaningful reform.Tre’sean Hall, TF South alum
Lansing Voices is our version of “Letters to the Editor.” The opinions posted here are those of the writer, and posting them does not indicate endorsement by The Lansing Journal. We welcome input from fellow residents who have thoughtful things to say about topics that are important to our community. Send your submissions to The Lansing Journal with “Voices” in the subject line.
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