Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
The City of Lansing is looking for a new chief of police. Former Chief Mark Alley left the post in February to join Emergent BioSolutions. Alley, who lead the department for a decade, leaves a powerful legacy of cooperation, outreach and community development with Lansing’s LGBT community.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, who makes the final selection after the Lansing Police Board makes recommendations, should make sure whoever fills Alley’s shoes continues that cooperation and relationship with the LGBT community.
But being community-driven should not be the only skill of the new chief.
It is essential that the new administrator have the skills to communicate with the media. That is key, as Lansing Police, like other police agencies, sometimes gets it wrong. When police agencies get it wrong, it is essential to admit the error and step up with solutions.
Chief Alley did that in Lansing. After the controversial release of a man’s HIV status in a police report, Alley connected with then-Triangle Foundation and did training for police on LGBT issues to make sure the controversial sex sting and the release of the HIV-positive status were not repeated.
Acting Chief Teresa Szymanski has continued that openness to the LGBT community, working with Captain Ray Hall in appointing a liaison for the community. That too was a natural outgrowth of the sex-sting incident last summer, which was welcomed warmly by the Lansing community.
The new chief must also have a finger on the pulse of the community and understand when it is time to raise the concerns. Whether those concerns are about problems in the LGBT community or about safety issues impacting the community, the new chief must be able to swiftly, and deftly, handle those threats.
Under Alley’s leadership, the Lansing Police Department responded to numerous hate crimes, and had no issue calling a hate crime a hate crime. When Lansing’s Old Town, where the city’s gay bars are located, was vandalized with anti-gay graffiti two years ago, Alley and his department were among the first to call the incident what it was — a hate crime and an attack on the entire community.
Bernero has a big job in selecting a new chief. The city is diverse and shifts politically as the legislature develops a new personality each year. The new chief needs to be someone who understands the community, with all its foibles. With the constant protests and marches in the city, any new chief executive of the police agency must be able to take the reins without any delay or need to get up to speed.
We know Bernero is a staunch ally of the LGBT community. His choice to replace Alley, who was also an ally, must reflect that continued commitment. Lansing has become a shining example of how the police and the gay community can work together. Bernero cannot allow that proud tradition to slide backwards, or to be lost.