Lansing Police Chief finalists submit their cases on the online forum

The last two candidates for the next Lansing Police Chief presented their visions for the department in a virtual forum on Tuesday evening.

The city announced its two remaining candidates last week, current interim chief Ellery Sosebee and Captain Jason Matson of the Bakersfield Police Department in Bakersfield, California.

The two finalists came from an original field of 18 candidates. Board of Police Commissioners vice chairman DeYeya Jones said last week the board initially narrowed the field to six candidates, including one woman, two black men, one multiracial man and two white men. After another round of interviews, the group was reduced to three, then to Sosebee and Matson. Officials did not say who the other candidates were.

The search began about five months ago after former chief Daryl Green stepped down to accept a position as chief of staff for Michigan State University Police Chief Marlon Lynch.

On Tuesday, Sosebee and Matson came together online to answer questions about gun violence, police recruitment, officer mental health and more. The forum was moderated by Gary Peterson, President, CEO and Chief Recruiter of Public Sector Search & Consulting, the national company that conducted the search.

The forum started with the introduction of the candidates.

Sosebee, a graduate of MSU and Lansing Community College’s Mid-Michigan Police Academy, has been with the Lansing Police Department since 2002. Before he was promoted to interim chief, he was captain of the patrol department.

Matson has worked for the Bakersfield Police Department since 2002, initially as a patrol officer. He is a two-time graduate from California State University at Bakersfield, where he now teaches at the School of Business and Public Administration.

Mayor Andy Schor will interview both candidates before recommending recruitment to the Board of Police Commissioners.

Here’s what the two finalists were asked.

Police recruitment

Peterson’s first question to the finalists was whether they believe the police recruitment problems were related to concerns about systemic racism.

Both men admitted that Lansing Police Department does not reflect the demographics of the city.

In 2020, about 75% of Lansing officers were white. Meanwhile, around 54% of Lansing’s residents are white, according to 2019 census data.

More:How diverse are the police stations in the greater Lansing area?

“The only way you can really have a real and strong bond is for the agency to reflect the community,” said Matson. “Compared to other agencies in America (Lansing) is actually doing well … but there is still room for improvement.”

Sosebee said the number of applicants for vacant officer positions has recently decreased. He also suggested that recruiting the best possible people to become police officers would help alleviate systemic racism.

“Once we have the best people we can get, the thought of systemic racism will stop,” said Sosebee. “It’s not in the near future. I am a realist. But there is a way, a way to get there, and that’s through education. “

Youth gun violence

Peterson also asked the men how they would approach Lansing’s increase in gun violence among youth.

Sosebee attributed the increase in violence to several factors, including the cancellation of schools and activities due to the pandemic and an increase in gun purchases. He said it was imperative to identify the root causes of violence and create “open lines of communication” with the community to educate young people about the consequences of their actions.

“They don’t think of consequences,” said Sosebee. “What you do now, you don’t care what happens tomorrow. They don’t care what happens to Grandma – what mom and grandma and dad, brothers, sisters and cousins ​​have to deal with if they pull the trigger now. It’s too comfortable. “

Matson also stressed the importance of “finding the cause” of the gun violence.

“The root cause is breaking the cyclical pattern of intergenerational violence … higher unemployment, lower education rates, lower school participation, and the like,” Matson said.

Matson also blamed “a lack of parental support” for instilling “a lack of accountability”.

More:“Children kill children”: Lansing breaks the 2020 record for the number of murders in the city

More:Ingham County: Lansing Gun Violence Program stalled due to poor response from nonprofits

Social worker

Both candidates said they were open to the idea of ​​hiring more psychologists and social workers to answer wellness calls.

“Why did we put our officers in this position?” said Matson. “Why put our community in this position when there are better resources and better trained people to deal with where an officer never has to be there?”

More:Lansing Police Department uses full-time social workers to help the mentally ill and the homeless

Officer wellness

Both candidates also supported strengthening mental health support resources for police officers.

“Our officers, all officers, see things every day that some people cannot understand,” said Sosebee. “You can’t be the tough and tough cops of yore and say, ‘I’m good. I got it. ‘ That is simply no longer acceptable and we have to understand that. “

Currently, Sosebee said LPD workers must undergo an annual mental health assessment.

Matson said the Bakersfield Police Department allocated significant funds to the well-being of the officers, including mental health, physical health and financial advice, among others.

“You have to have a very robust program if you want to have a real, meaningful officer who is out there and who is mentally and physically sound to be able to ignore any situations he may find himself in – or to underreact ”, he called.

Contact reporter Jared Weber at 517-582-3937 or [email protected]

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