In July 2018, the Lansing Community Coalition (LCC) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Chicago Far South Suburban Branch (NAACP-CFSSB) entered a Department of Justice Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) five-year agreement with the Lansing Police Department (LPD) and the Village of Lansing. The primary goal of the MOU was to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the LPD to reflect the Lansing population’s increasing diversity, which has shifted significantly between 2010 and 2020.
However, Lansing leadership has witnessed no significant shift despite a dramatic change in its population over the years. After the MOU creation and signing, there have been many missed opportunities to establish a police department that reflects Lansing’s ethnic and racial diversity. About 80 percent of active LPD full-time officers are white. The mostly white police force’s ethnic makeup contradicts the community’s ethnic makeup, with its large percentage of black and Latinx community members. Blacks are the largest population.
Six African-American and Hispanic police candidates in 2018 and 2019 were left on the eligibility list without offering them employment, against the MOU goals. That two-year police eligibility list was also terminated a year earlier to produce the 2020 police eligibility list. During the LPD’s recent recruitment of officers in 2020, there were no minorities hired, even when 40 percent of LPD police test-takers were African Americans and Latinx in 2020. The administration also changed the hiring procedures for police officers in 2020 and failed to timely notify the LCC 60 days before announcing employment opportunities for police officers, as agreed in the MOU.
Between 2017 and 2020, whites have been appointed to all Village boards, whereas African Americans were only appointed to the Human Relations Commission (HRC). Lansing records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show that whites have been retained and reappointed about 95 percent of the time to boards. The major recipients of the bulk of contracts since 2017 were white businesses, and whites have been hired three-to-one over African Americans with higher-paying jobs. The mayor also missed the opportunity two times to appoint an African American, the largest population for several years, to a vacant trustee seat during her first administration. This led to no African-American representation.
The LCC has helped point out several areas in which hiring bias is likely to have manifested to keep out more officers from diverse backgrounds. These include poor recruiting throughout the Village, including the fire department; potentially racially-tinged personal interviews; overlooking eligible, qualified, minority police candidates; hiring whites three-to-one over blacks with higher-paying jobs (although the blacks are the biggest population); and inaccurate data collection and recordkeeping. These are all problems the right commitment to act can fix easily.
We thought the Village’s signing of the MOU reflected a commitment to work toward racial equity. But the Village’s actions have shown no such commitment. The Village should honestly dialogue with stakeholders, including the NAACP, Concerned Citizens of Lansing (CCL), and the LCC. The LCC, CCL, and NAACP are committed to honest dialogue or justice repaired before any future peaceful direct actions take place at Village Hall, scheduled events, and the Mayor’s and other elected and appointed officials’ residences.
For more information about future peaceful direct actions against the Village of Lansing, contact LCC at 708-365-9510 and [email protected].
Elvis Slaughter, President—Lansing Community Coalition (LCC)
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