When I arrived at LCC last summer, our country was in the height of protests and unrest following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Amidst the conflict and turmoil over equity in policing, I found myself taking the helm of a public institution with a sworn police department. I knew one of my early tasks was to continue LCC’s tradition of community leadership during this national reckoning with institutionalized racism. I firmly believe the first step in leadership is looking in the mirror. As one component of this important self-reflection, LCC engaged Baker Tilly, an external auditing firm, to conduct a review of our Public Safety department. The auditors reviewed all of our law enforcement data for the past three years. They analyzed every recorded officer-initiated contact, citation, and arrest in an effort to help us understand our current state and improve. Today, I am publishing the results of this audit for our internal and external stakeholders in the interest of equity, transparency, and continuous improvement.
The audit has a number of key findings and answers a range of important questions. Critically, our auditors found that LCC officers did not appear to show racial bias in conducting arrests or citations. This is a positive and welcome finding, but it does not mean we can relax and assume other people are the problem. Equity in policing is without question one of the top issues facing our country. It is our responsibility to confront this issue directly, and this audit has provided several suggestions for how we can continue to do that.
First, the audit noted that LCC uses the Michigan State Police’s Statewide Records Management System to store data. This system includes several optional fields, and filling them in would make analyzing cases more efficient, therefore making it easier to spot any problems in the future. Second, LCC could require officers to begin recording racial information in their reports of citations and arrests, with the understanding that this information would only be the officer’s own observation of another person’s race. Third, we will need to continue to adapt as our State’s legislators and local lawmakers enact much-needed criminal justice reforms that improve the equity of our legal system. Michigan has enacted several bipartisan bill packages during the past few months to provide a chance at a new beginning for juvenile offenders, expand opportunities for past offenders to get a job in licensed professions, and increase access to benefits like SNAP.
One of the most critical legislative changes, signed into law in January 2021, will directly impact the work of our colleagues who serve as Public Safety officers. Our audit showed that one of the most common reasons arrests were made during the past three years was for driving on a suspended or revoked license. People can have their license suspended for dangerous driving, but they can also have it suspended if they do not have the money to pay a parking ticket or other fine in a timely manner. Such suspensions can have a dramatic and disparate impact on people’s lives. If an individual’s license is suspended, they cannot get to work, go to the grocery store, or travel to the doctor. If they choose to drive on the license anyway, and then come across a police officer, a simple parking ticket can spiral into an arrest. This was a vicious cycle that in some sense criminalized poverty, and I am pleased that these much-needed reforms will diminish the practice.
I appreciate these suggestions for improvement from our audit, and we will work to implement them. We will also continue to work on other ongoing improvements that have been underway for some time. This audit was not our first step in addressing the issue of equity in law enforcement, nor will it be our last. Our look in the mirror has been an expression of our college’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is now reflected in the Board’s Ends Statements. LCC has taken several measures to lead on racial justice in law enforcement during the past year. In June 2020, for example, our Board of Trustees passed a Resolution Addressing Racial Injustice through Equity and Inclusion.
In December, we presented our Equity Action Plan and immediately began the work to implement it. Our Police Department and Office of Diversity and Inclusion are also engaged in an ongoing partnership to implement broad improvements and participate in Courageous Conversations with the community. These efforts include our Chief Diversity Officer as an Inclusion Advocate on all full-time public safety hiring committees. Our officers also complete ongoing implicit bias and de-escalation training, as well as training in crisis intervention and mental health. Further, we are pursuing accreditation from a national organization dedicated to policing best practices. All of these efforts are part of a comprehensive strategy to ensure equity in law enforcement procedures, policies, and behaviors—a specific requirement of our Board’s resolution and governance policies.
From the moment I arrived on campus. I have always been incredibly impressed in my interactions with LCC’s sworn officers. I live on our Downtown Campus, and I see many of our officers every day, patrolling and helping students and visitors. They are steadfast professionals, and I have every confidence that they are invested in their mission of helping the community. Our officers take great pride in their service, and they have addressed this work with integrity and courage.
In that vein, it is my sincere pleasure to introduce our new Chief of Police, Daryl Gaines, who was recently selected in a nationwide search. Chief Gaines has more than 20 years of experience with the Baltimore Police Department, including positions as patrol officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant and major. He also brings a strong focus on diversity and community relationships.
I invite our internal and external community to meet Chief Gaines during a special Courageous Conversations event about equity and policing at LCC. Continuing our strong tradition of such conversations facilitated by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, this event will be held from 1-3 p.m. June 17 via an LCC Webex Event. In addition to introducing our new Chief, this conversation will afford participants with a chance to talk to me, the Chair of our Board of Trustees, members of our college leadership team, and many of our Public Safety officers about policing and racial justice at LCC.
In addition to the results summary linked above, a longer version of the review with appendices is available by sending a request to Director of Risk Management & Legal Services J.R. Beauboeuf at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to thank our auditors, our Board of Trustees, our LCC Public Safety officers, and everyone else involved in producing this report and developing positive changes for our community. Thank you for helping us lead by example and be part of the solution for better policing and better community relationships.