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Rachel JohnstonDaniel S. LawrenceBenjamin CarletonHarold MedlockThomas ChristoffKeri RichardsonScott E. Wolfe
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The ability of a police department to act in a fair and just manner is vitally important to creating internal and external trust, which in turn increases the perception of legitimacy by those who work for the department and those the department serves. Law enforcement agencies across the US have faced increased scrutiny from the public in the last several years, with the events of 2020 exacerbating already simmering community relationships.

The City of East Lansing, through a competitive bid process, selected CNA’s Center for Justice Research and Innovation to conduct an assessment of fair and impartial policing in the East Lansing Police Department (ELPD). This report details the findings and recommendations of this assessment of the ELPD. The assessment team used a variety of sources, including policies, training records, administrative data, employee surveys, and interviews with ELPD personnel to assess the department. Throughout this report we identify both strengths and weaknesses of the ELPD’s operations within the following areas:

  1. Organizational Justice and Culture
  2. Community Relations, Interactions, and Perspectives
  3. Training and Technology
  4. Traffic Enforcement
  5. Use of Force and Complaints
  6. Early Intervention System

In this executive summary, we present a summary of the findings of our assessment and a summary of the key recommendations offered to the ELPD and the city. We encourage interested individuals to read the details in the body of this report, where they will find detailed the supporting evidence associated with our 72 findings and 92 recommendations. See Appendix E for the full list of findings and recommendations.

Through review of policy, procedures, and practices, as well as collected and analyzed data, the assessment team discovered the following key findings:

Summary of key findings


  • The manual entry of information into the ELPD use-of-force report creates data inconsistencies.
  • The ELPD does not collect all necessary information important to use-of-force events.
  • The method ELPD uses to record information pertaining to uses of force does not allow for each specific combination of event, involved officer, type of force, sustained injuries, and involved community member to be assessed.
  • Demographic information collected during a traffic stop cannot easily be connected to traffic stop information in the calls-for-service database.

Organizational Justice and Culture

  • Several ELPD policies appear to use boilerplate language that is not sufficiently tailored to ELPD.
  • Several ELPD policies are poorly written.
  • Some ELPD policies include language that serves as an accountability escape clause.
  • Some ELPD processes rely on the discretion of the Chief of Police, which at times may be unnecessary or inappropriate.
  • Morale among ELPD employees is reported to be low.
  • About half of ELPD survey respondents feel that ELPD’s procedure for investigating complaints is not a fair process.

Community Relations, Interactions, and Perspectives

  • ELPD Policy 300-21 (Interacting with People Who Have Mental Illness/EIP) requires significant revision.
  • ELPD Policy 400-11 (Juvenile Matters) predominantly focuses on processes and considerations for juvenile suspects and does not adequately explain processes and considerations for juvenile victims and witnesses.
  • ELPD Policies 100-12 (Media Relations/Officer Involved Critical Incident Information Sharing) and 47-13 (Social Networking/Social Media) do not indicate whether ELPD operates any official social media accounts or what the protocols would be for the operation of such accounts.
  • ELPD Policy 3-20 (Civil Disorders) requires significant revision. The current policy includes outdated practices and is not consistent with best practices.
  • Several ELPD survey respondents noted that they often do not feel supported by community groups and local stakeholders.
  • Trust between community and police could further be strengthened.
  • The community perceives a disconnect between the ELPD and the City Council and Independent Police Oversight Commission.
  • The ELPD staffing may not be adequate for the current requirements and future community initiatives.

Training and Technology

  • Less Lethal and Defensive Tactics are high liability and should be addressed separately in policy.
    The firearms training and assessment policy language is unclear, and it does not specifically state what encompasses the firearms training and assessment program.
  • ELPD Policy 100-21 (Annual In-Service Training) has numerous areas that could use improvement and strengthening.
  • Overall, ELPD Policy 300-22 (Mobile Video Recorder) does provide a framework for the department’s operations but could be improved in areas such that would strengthen clarity for procedures related to transparency and accountability.
  • Overall, many of the policies related to technology are vague and left room for ambiguity and alternative interpretation.
  • Several ELPD survey respondents feel that training could be improved to help officers be prepared for some of the critical situations they face in the field.
  • The East Lansing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion training provided at the City level by Truth & Titus was a missed opportunity for police staff.

Traffic Enforcement

  • ELPD Policy 300-26 ([Traffic] Enforcement Options) is very comprehensive and provides good direction to officers.
  • White drivers accounted for the majority of traffic stops from August 2021 to July 2022, although Black drivers were the second-most stopped individuals. The number of traffic stops declined from August 2021 to July 2022 by similar degrees across each racial group of the driver.
  • The amount of stops by race relative to the population indicates that Black drivers are stopped to a greater extent than White drivers; however, the “veil of darkness” analysis finds that Black drivers are stopped by a statistically nonsignificant magnitude of 1.08 compared to non-Black drivers. Furthermore, the risk of being stopped as a Black driver during the daylight portion of the intertwilight period is similar to stops for Black drivers made during the dark period, and this difference is not statistically different when compared to all other drivers.

Use of Force and Complaints

  • ELPD Policy 100-3 (Complaint Intake and Management) requires significant revision, as the policy does not adequately and clearly describe the complaint intake and management process.
  • ELPD Policy 12-20 (Response to Resistance) positively emphasizes the sanctity of life and the importance of de-escalation, but the policy can go a step further.
  • ELPD Policy 12-20 (Response to Resistance) problematically allows for the use of head stabilization.
  • Eighteen percent of ELPD officers were involved in three or more complaints during the period analyzed.
  • Twenty-two percent of ELPD officers were involved in 7.5 or more use-of-force events per year during the period analyzed.
  • One-quarter of the use-of-force events involved disorderly conduct or a mental health investigation, while arrests that involved offenses against family and children, burglary/home invasion, and obstruction-type events each resulted in a use of force more than 50 percent of the time.
  • The ELPD predominately uses low levels of force in its use-of-force events; 62 percent of the types of uses of force involved either a handcuffing, a control hold or takedown, or other physical contact. However, the other largest type of use of force, which accounted for 24 percent, was a weapon display.
  • Black community members are arrested more frequently than would be predicted based on their proportion of the East Lansing population compared with White community members. Among those arrested, use-of-force levels were slightly elevated for Black community members compared with White community members. However, when controlling for event characteristics and demographics in more rigorous statistical analyses, these differences are not observed.

Early Intervention System

  • The ELPD’s aggregate-threshold approach to its early intervention system (EIS) is overall reasonable given agency characteristics.
  • Despite being considered wellness oriented, the ELPD’s EIS approach has the potential to be considered disciplinary.
  • The ELPD unnecessarily limits the input of officers’ direct supervisors in evaluating and acting upon an EIS alert.
  • The ELPD’s EIS approach can be expanded to include a peer-comparison element.
  • ELPD Policy 200-7 (Early Warning System) should be revised.
  • The training on EIS focuses on the technical process of navigating the Guardian Tracking software.
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  • Pages: 145
  • Document Number: IPD-2022-U-033126
  • Publication Date: 11/17/2022
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