The Lansing Community Coalition
In the past weeks, many statements have been written about racial justice in Lansing, including one from our mayor. However, with so many words and much complexity, it can become difficult to keep clarity.
We write as people of the Lansing Community Coalition. That group was formed in the wake of the 2017 incident involving an off-duty Lansing police officer. We were one side of the year-long federal mediation leading to a July 2018 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) among the village, police department, and community members. Our work to improve police recruitment and hiring, among other initiatives, has continued. We remember that a police force whose diversity approaches that of the community it serves helps the police and the policed alike by building trust.
In the interest of truth, we write about two things:
First, about the formation of the Lansing Human Relations Commission (HRC). Some have suggested that our Village administration was forced to do this by the U.S. Department of Justice. That is untrue. The idea was part of the political platform of Mayor Eidam, and she promoted it while campaigning in the spring before the summer 2017 incident. The formation of that group was delayed by the time spent in federal mediation.
However, it is worth asking what real structural power the HRC has within our local government. Its bylaws specify that the HRC may make recommendations to the Trustees, but it has no structural authority. Further, its mandate is much more oriented toward intercultural community events than any government accountability to justice issues. Admittedly also modeled on other commissions, the HRC was formed this way under the mayor’s sole authority to shape the proposal for the village board. Our mayor rejected all attempts by the Lansing Community Coalition to include certain provisions about member selection, accountability, and authority of the HRC.
Second, we object to the mayor’s statement (June 16 board meeting, as reported in the June 17 Lansing Journal) that:
“Serious dialogue about race and police, community and youth relations have been taking place in Lansing through the efforts of this administration and the Lansing Police Department since the summer of 2017.”
In the paragraph that follows, there is no mention of the many Lansing pastors who assisted with the community response and were part of the federal mediation. There is no word about the involvement of the South Suburban NAACP. There is no credit given to the LNN employees who completed the LPD video project without participation by Village leadership and while also having their funding reduced in the Village budget. At least some TF South students get a mention. And the federal mediator, Ken Bergeron, without whose persistence the Village leadership would not have stayed in the negotiations, let alone come to an MOU? Omitted.
Notably, the MOU itself contains no language placing any responsibilities on the Village leadership with regard to diversity in appointments to any government boards, for example the fire or police commissions or Trustees, nor any further steps related to supposed “serious dialogue about race and policing.” This is remarkable in a village that is roughly 50% minority. We observe that the opportunity to engage Lansing’s diverse reality for the sake of our village’s unity and future was disdained, meetings delayed, language struck, and attempts stonewalled.
The MOU that was actually arrived at assigns tasks primarily to the LPD, where Chief Dennis Murrin has been overseeing and continuing to work with our Lansing Community Coalition. Meanwhile, the Mayor has never demonstrated any follow-up interest about the MOU to the Lansing Community Coalition, and we have not experienced any “serious dialogue” by the current Village administration.
In sum, credit for progress should not be taken by those who worked against that progress. That, too, is a justice issue.
The Lansing Community Coalition
Elvis Slaughter, President
Rev. David Bigsby, In the Upper Room Ministries
Rev. Daniel Roels, New Hope Church
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