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Lansing City Council hears comments on resolution to halve police budget, chief raises concerns

Image courtesy of Lansing Police Department’s Facebook page

(The Center Square) – A day after five people were shot in Lansing, City Council member Brandon Betz introduced a resolution to defund the police budget by 50 percent over five years.

The Lansing Police Department (LPD) has $28 million in operating costs for 203 officers. The total 2019 police budget is $45 million, counting pension costs and health care.

Some people say that money would have a higher return on investment for public safety if diverted to social programs.

Betz told The Center Square in an email that the 50 percent number will set a starting point for future discussion as a committee hears community input to reinvest the money into new forms of public safety.

“This is not a time for half-measures or small reforms. We have to stand for justice and fundamentally change the way we think about public safety,” Betz said while first unveiling the draft legislation, backed by the Lansing chapter of Black Lives Matter.

“We know that policing doesn’t solve the problems [of] crime and violence in our communities and that we need real investments in public services to improve people’s lives.”

The LPD received 84,313 calls in 2019, or about 1,617 calls per week.

Some calls were for violent crime: 2,257 calls were for assaults, 1,369 were for home invasions, and 2,542 for fights.

Other responses were for less violent crime, like the 5,725 for personal-welfare checks, 1,124 for parking complaints, and 217 for fireworks complaints.

Betz argued that the number of calls police respond to don’t necessarily indicate the call was successfully handled, and that a committee would discuss alternative responses for every type of call.

Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green said the LPD is committed to working with the city to increase public safety but argued the department is already understaffed.

“However, a decision to reduce the budget of the LPD that is already understaffed by some 60 police officers would only demonstrate dire public safety consequences for residents and business owners,” Green said in a statement to The Center Square.

Green said a 50 percent budget cut likely would result in layoffs of many officers of color who have less seniority.

“In addition, training standards on areas such as implicit bias, de-escalation, and fair and impartial policing would see reductions as police budget concerns are heightened,” Green said.

The chief added that police efforts to reduce violent crime through special units would also suffer from a slashed budget.

Valerie Marchand, communications manager for the city of Lansing, told The Center Square that Mayor Andy Schor will review the proposal and looks forward to collaborating with the City Council.

Public comments at the City Council meeting was split between supporting the same amount of police funding and wanting to cut it.

Some residents argued the resolution was a misguided attempt to solve long-standing problems in only five years.

Others argued the funding was taken from taxpayers, who should be able to divert funding to other organizations.

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