Former Police Chief Daryl Green regrets becoming a cop. If he could do it all over, he said he would have never joined the Lansing Police Department at all — especially after watching political tensions boil over locally last summer after George Floyd’s murder. The job is just too different.
“It’s a new era of policing. Post-George Floyd is totally different. It’s a whole different world,” Green said in a recent interview on the 1320 WILS “Morning Wake-up,” with Dave Akerly. “Then you throw in the politics and defund the police narratives — which I totally do not agree with.”
He told Akerly: “I absolutely would not join the Police Department from what I know now. Why would a police officer come into this profession if every day you’re hearing about defunding them? Why would you go into a profession like that if you’re a grown adult? You wouldn’t.”
Green, 53, announced his retirement on June 9 after fewer than two years as chief. He accepted an offer as chief of staff for Michigan State University Police Chief Marlon Lynch.
His parting words are now a task for Mayor Andy Schor, who could have fewer than six months to find a replacement before the selection could be handed over next year to one of his five challengers — most of whom said they would rather Schor tap the brakes on the hiring process.
Schor declined to answer several questions this week about his hiring plans, except to note that a “thorough and aggressive” nationwide search will be conducted without any estimated timeline. He also wouldn’t elaborate on how local residents would be involved in the process.
The search, however, may prove to be challenging during a tense election year centered on racial justice, social equity and public safety reforms. Green’s recent remarks have been echoed in statistics that bear out in Lansing and other police agencies across the country: It’s a growing challenge to recruit and retain qualified cops (including chiefs) just about everywhere in the U.S.
In June, a survey of nearly 200 departments by the Police Executive Research Forum showed a 45% increase in the retirement rate and a nearly 20% increase in police resignations so far this year, according to NPR reporting. Green’s departure marks 20 positions vacant at LPD.
The Wall Street Journal also reported that at least 18 chiefs from 69 cities that saw protests last summer had resigned, retired, been pushed out or fired between May and October last year.
“For me, it just became a challenge. I just buckled down and put my head down,” Green said.
Green first pondered retirement last summer, according to text messages obtained by City Pulse. In the year that followed, he said he was “beat up” for failing to retain and recruit officers — problems that Green also blamed on widespread demands for police reforms in Lansing. By last month, he was ready to leave the “politically charged” city for greener pastures at MSU.
Schor’s plans to cast a nationwide net is a first for his administration. When former Chief Mike Yankowski announced his retirement on July 9, 2019, Schor then said he opted against hiring a costly search firm and appointed Green to the position exactly two weeks later.
While Schor won’t elaborate on his process, it’s clear that his perspective has changed. The national search — if a firm is hired to assist the city — could also come at a significant cost.
Officials at Public Sector Search & Consulting have helped 35 municipalities pick police chiefs in the last four years, including an attempt to recruit Yankowski to the chief job in Grand Rapids. CEO Gary Peterson said those can cost an estimated $40,000 to $60,000 and take about 90-120 days.
Peterson said those searches have included an increased emphasis on public safety reforms — including efforts to curb discrimination — in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. And while staffing issues have plagued police agencies for years, there’s no measurable shortage of talented candidates who are interested in guiding police departments toward the future, he said.
“Are there people out there looking for these jobs? Yes. Absolutely. Are there people still waiting for the pendulum to swing? Yes, but they’re not getting the jobs. These issues are here to stay. In some cases, it’s actually bringing in the very best candidates to address them,” he added.
The mayor’s appointment of the police chief also requires the approval of the city’s Police Board of Commissioners. Its chairwoman, Patty Farhat, as well as City Council President Peter Spadafore said they haven’t received details from the Mayor’s Office on the hiring plans but both expect Schor to search far and wide for a qualified replacement to take the helm.
“It should be a nationwide search, but it shouldn’t exclude local candidates,” Spadafore said.
Spadafore said expanding the search nationwide could allow for Schor to hire outside expertise that simply doesn’t exist within the Police Department, but he also worries it could ruffle internal feathers from high-ranking captains that may be waiting in the seniority line behind Green.
He added: “Either way, I think it will be a challenge to fill this position. Whether they’re leaving a job or staying put, it’s a big ask to have someone step away from their current job and start something new in a climate like this — especially with these record rates of gun violence.”
Regardless of how the hiring process plays out, Lansing’s next police chief will have a full plate, including a responsibility to find ways to reduce the rising number of shootings and homicides in Lansing. As of this week, more than 50 shootings and at least 15 homicides have been tallied in 2021 — putting the city on pace to double last year’s decades-long annual high of 21 homicides.
As Green was coming on as chief, LPD was launching an internal investigation after eyewitness videos showed a white officer repeatedly striking a Black teenager on Dakin Street. That officer received a 30-hour suspension, which was quietly reversed last year without any announcement.
Alleged racial discrimination among police officers has been a focal issue in Lansing since.
Last April, 54-year-old Anthony Hulon was killed by officers in a jail cell beneath City Hall. The details of his death went on to remain largely undiscovered until a lawsuit was filed in October. Green stayed mostly silent on his death, refusing interviews on the topic until his last day.
And while some public safety reforms have been enacted since, they haven’t had much impact.
Last July, Green prohibited officers from initiating traffic stops for defective equipment, which he said disproportionately impacted people of color. In the six months that followed, Black drivers still accounted for about 35% of traffic stops despite making up 22% of the city’s population.
Another “reform” included prohibiting officers from busting down doors without knocking when performing search warrants. Only three of those were conducted between 2015 and 2020.
“The next leader of our Police Department has to protect public trust and operate from a place of integrity,” said mayoral challenger and activist Farhan Sheikh-Omar. “They have to be honest, transparent and, most importantly, accept accountability for their actions. Lansing needs a leader who will be tasked with restoring faith both inside the department and among residents.”
Sheikh-Omar said he wants local cops to have “first crack” at the job opening. Mayoral candidate Melissa Huber said she supports the concept of a nationwide search. Another mayor candidate, Larry Hutchinson Jr., said he wants local voters to decide who becomes the next police chief along with the rest of his cabinet.
All three would also rather Schor delay picking a permanent replacement until after the results of the November election are tallied. If he doesn’t, Hutchinson and Sheikh-Omar said they’d fire the next chief in January. City Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar said she backs a national search. Councilwoman Patricia Spitzley did not return calls. Both women are running for mayor in the Aug. 3 primary election.
Added Huber: “I would not purposefully or revengefully seek to fire any cabinet member just because of who hired them. However, strong ties or alliances to past policies and practices that I view as unethical would certainly be a reason to replace an existing cabinet member.”
Ingham County Prosecuting Attorney Carol Siemon also supports a nationwide search, but she doesn’t expect any city can adequately accomplish that task within the next six months.
“It makes sense to cast the net widely and make it a nationwide search,” she said. “This is a very fraught time in policing locally and nationally. There likely will be no ‘perfect’ candidate who can bring to the position local policing experience; buy-in from the officers, government officials and the community; leadership experience; a diplomatic personality to work with very diverse interests; a large body of academic and research-based knowledge to expand what Lansing can aspire to do; and a willingness to stick it out for a while to provide stable, consistent leadership.”