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Radio transmissions raises questions about Lansing police during protest

MahurinPointing_Thumb1_1139.jpg
MahurinPointing_Thumb1_1139.jpg

LANSING — The release of radio transmissions between the Lansing police officers and the dispatch center on March 16 are raising questions about why Lansing Police Chief Teresa Szymanski ordered officers to leave the Capitol during a protest that resulted in more than a dozen arrests.

Szymanski has defended her decision, claiming that she determined, after consulting with Michigan State Police, the mayor and officers on scene that MSP did not require assistance in arrests.

However, the radio transmissions show that officers were dispatched to the Capitol in order to transport protesters who had already been arrested for being in the building after it was closed.

Dispatcher: Adam Seven?

Adam Seven: Seven.

Dispatcher: Can you go to the Capitol, west door, lower level for a back seat (code for transporting someone who’s been arrested)?

Capt. Gary Nix of the MSP says that the Lansing officers informed him that based on a new policy, they would not accept the prisoners.

“They have developed a policy on who they will lodge and who they won’t lodge from the state capitol,” Nix said. “I wasn’t aware of that prior.” Neither, apparently, was the dispatcher or the officers who responded to the call specifically for the purpose of transporting those prisoners.

Lansing Police officials, including Public Information Officer Lt. Noel Garcia and Chief Teresa Szymanski, neglected to answer numerous email inquiries about this incident and the radio traffic. Randy Hannan, spokesperson for Mayor Virg Bernero, and City Attorney Brigham Smith also neglected to answer numerous inquiries about the incident and the surprise policy on lodging prisoners in the city jail.

Regardless of the official silence, Szymansi came under withering criticism in the days following the incident. WLNS, the CBS affiliate in Lansing, ran a story where Michigan State Police officials called the withdrawal “political,” and said MSP would have preferred to have had assistance from LPD.

Szymanski did tell WLNS she ordered the withdrawal too early.

“In hindsight it’s easy to go back and look and see if your decisions were sound, in hindsight I pulled them out a little bit too early and I regret doing that,” Szymanski told the television station.

But Szymanski released a formal statement on March 18 which displayed none of that regret:

“Wednesday, I made a decision based on my consultation with my field command, Michigan State Police and Mayor Virg Bernero to release LPD Officers from the State Capitol. This was a Michigan State Police operation that required no assistance with arrests. In times of budgetary restraint it is my job to make the difficult decisions on how to deploy the city’s police resources.

I am responsible for the public safety of the residents and business owners of the City of Lansing. My decisions are based upon what is in the best interest of the community.

I recognize that the Michigan State Police is responsible for the protection of the State Capitol and when they need our assistance we will respond. We value our positive working relationship with the Michigan State Police and are committed to maintaining it.

There will be no further comment regarding this matter.”

But the radio transmissions and video of the situation directly contradict Szymanski’s statement that there was no need for assistance. While the Lansing officers were in the Capitol building preparing to transport those who had been arrested, protesters blocked the LPD cruisers by rolling garbage dumpsters in front of their cars and the situation was highly volatile. Just prior to being ordered to leave, in fact, the Lansing officers were calling for backup.

Officer: Start a couple more units our way, our cover has been blown.

[snip]

Officer: We are going to need more units down this way.

Dispatcher: OK. Do you need them priority of just to clear the area?

Officer: We’ve got ‘em blocking our cars with the dumpster so probably two or three more.

“I think the officers feel that it was strange and odd to get that type of order when there was obviously state troopers there who appeared to be needing our assistance,” Det. Brad St. Aubin of the Lansing Police told WLNS after the event. St. Aubin represents non-command officers for the Fraternal Order of Police.

Meanwhile, Bernero told WLNS in that same news story including St. Aubin, that he may have influenced the decision to withdraw officers.

“If you think I’m trying to not arrest people for exercising their free speech, you’re absolutely right,” said Bernero.

Earlier in the day, Bernero addressed the mostly union protesters and told them they were not going to be bothered by the police.

“I want to assure you, you can stay as long as you like. The police won’t bother you,” Bernero told the crowd. “You see this building belongs to you all.”

As a result of LPD’s withdrawal and refusal to lodge the Capitol protesters, the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department had to send a van to transport the arrestees to the Ingham County Jail. While loading those who had been arrested, protesters surrounded the van and rocked it, resulting in two more arrests and the deployment of pepper spray.

This is video of a protester blocking LPD cars with a dumpster:

And this is just moments later, showing the protesters surrounding the scene as the LPD prepared to bring out the protesters who had been arrested for refusing to leave the capitol:

This is part one of the LPD radio traffic that was released to the Michigan Messenger through a FOIA request:

And part two:

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