The last two candidates to be Lansing’s next 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 Acting Chief Ellery Sosebee and Captain Jason Matson of the Bakersfield Police Department in Bakersfield, California.
The two finalists went from an original group of 18 contestants. Deputy Chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners DeYeya Jones said last week that the board initially restricted the field to six candidates, including a woman, two black men, a biracial man and two white men. After another round of interviews, the group was reduced to three, then to Sosebee and Matson. Officials did not specify who the other candidates were.
The research began about five months ago, after former Chief Daryl Green stepped down to take a position as Chief of Staff to Michigan State University Police Chief Marlon Lynch.
On Tuesday, Sosebee and Matson gathered online to answer questions about gun violence, police recruiting, officer mental health and more. The forum was moderated by Gary Peterson, President, CEO and Senior Recruiter of Public Sector Search & Consulting, the national company that conducted the research.
The forum started with the presentation of the candidates.
Sosebee, a graduate of Lansing Community College’s MSU and Mid-Michigan Police Academy, has worked for the Lansing Police Department since 2002. Prior to being promoted to acting chief, he was the captain of the Patrol Division.
Matson has worked for the Bakersfield Police Department since 2002, starting as a patrol officer. He is a two-time graduate from California State University, Bakersfield, where he now teaches in the School of Business and Public Administration.
Mayor Andy Schor will interview both candidates before recommending a hire to the Council of Police Commissioners.
Here’s what the two finalists were interviewed about.
Police recruiting service
Peterson’s first question to the finalists was whether they thought the police recruiting issues were related to concerns about systemic racism.
The two men admitted that the Lansing Police Force did not reflect the demographics of the city.
In 2020, around 75% of Lansing’s officers were white. Meanwhile, about 54% of Lansing residents are white, according to 2019 census data.
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âThe only way to have real, solid retention is to make the agency a reflection of the community,â Matson said. âCompared to other agencies in America, (Lansing) is (actually) doing wellâ¦ but there is still room for improvement. “
Sosebee said the number of applicants for open officer positions has recently declined. He also suggested that recruiting the best possible people to become cops would help alleviate systemic racism.
âOnce we have the best human beings possible, the thinking of systemic racism will cease,â Sosebee said. âIt’s nowhere in the near future. I am realistic. But there is a way, an avenue to get there and it is through education.
Gun violence among young people
Peterson also asked the men how they would react to the rise in gun violence among young people at Lansing.
Sosebee attributed the increase in violence to several factors, including cancellations of schools and activities due to the pandemic and an increase in gun purchases. He said it is imperative to identify the root causes of violence and âopen lines of communicationâ with the community in order to educate young people on the consequences of their actions.
âThey have no idea of ââthe consequences,â Sosebee said. âWhat they’re doing now, they don’t care what happens tomorrow. They don’t care what happens to grandma – what mommy, grandma and daddy, brothers, sisters and cousins Have to face if they pull the trigger now.That’s too convenient.
Matson also stressed the importance of “addressing the root cause” of gun violence.
âThe root cause is the breaking of the cyclical pattern of generational violenceâ¦ higher unemployment levels, lower education rates, lower school attendance and things of that nature,â Matson said.
Matson also blamed “a lack of parental support” for instilling a “lack of accountability.”
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Both candidates said they were open to hiring more mental health clinicians and social workers to answer wellness calls.
âWhy put our officers in this position? Matson said. “Why put our community in this position if there are better resources and better trained people to be able to deal with this, where an officer never needs to be there?”
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Well-being of agents
Both candidates also supported strengthening resources to support police mental health.
âOur officers, any officer, see everyday things that some people cannot understand,â Sosebee said. âYou can’t be the tough, tough cops of old and say ‘I’m fine. Understood.’ It is simply no longer acceptable and we have to understand that.
Currently, Sosebee has said that LPD employees must undergo an annual mental health assessment.
Matson said the Bakersfield Police Department has allocated significant funds for officer welfare, including mental health, physical health and financial counseling.
âYou have to have a very strong program if you want to have a real meaningful officer who is going to be there and be mentally and physically well so that you don’t overreact or under-respond to situations they may find themselves in,â he said. he declared. noted.
Contact reporter Jared Weber at 517-582-3937 or [email protected]