East Lansing taking steps toward new police oversight commission

 East Lansing is creating a police oversight commission.
East Lansing is creating a police oversight commission. (WILX)
Published: May. 29, 2020 at 5:05 PM EDT
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The City of East Lansing is making several changes after one of it's police officers was accused of using too much force in February.

East Lansing's mayor is making it even easier for people to file complaints against officers, by creating a police oversight commission.

"We've learned over the last few months in East Lansing, which is true in a lot of cities in the country, is people of color typically don't trust the police," said East Lansing Mayor Ruth Beier.

East Lansing's city council created a study group Tuesday that is tasked with coming up with guidelines for a new police oversight commission.

Beier said having an outside commission could help the public trust police and city leaders more.

"They'll have access to the body cameras and the reports so they can make an independent assessment rather than just the police make an assessment," she said.

The idea for the commission came up after video of East Lansing officer Andy Stephenson putting Uwimana Gasito on the ground during an arrest in February went viral.

Now complaints against East Lansing officers are made with the department or other city leaders.

Gasito never filed a formal complaint with the East Lansing Police Department, but deputy chief Steve Gonzalez said ELPD acted based on the complaints posted on social media.

"That information travels lightening fast. We need to be able to understand what's being transmitted or shared," said Gonzalez.

Stephenson was cleared in that incident and another one in December where he used a similar technique as the officers in Minneapolis where George Floyd was killed. Stephenson put his knee into the suspect's upper back, not his neck.

Beier said even though the officer did things correctly, the city isn't waiting for an oversight commission to make changes.

Once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, every officer on the elpd force will go through more training.

"There has to be something we can do to not always have to put hands on people," she said.

The new police oversight commission is expected to be created in the next six months to a year.

Lansing already has an independent police commission that investigates


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