Lansing Police Department’s Mentoring Program

After more than ten years, Lansing is still trying to better its police department with the Lansing Police Department Mentor Program.
This program, implemented in 1997, strives to increase retention and share important knowledge between senior and junior officers. Its goal is to also help junior officers become the best they can be to serve their community effectively.
“One of the purposes of this program is helping new officers feel comfortable and get settled in the community,” said Lt. Lisa Phillips. She said that, the mentor program helps new officers learn the problems of their community so that they can better serve the residents.
Phillips replaced Julie Williams who was the mastermind behind this program. Phillips now handles the pairing of senior officers with junior officers, commonly referred to as protégés.
Phillips said she pairs officers together based on how much they have in common. She looks at applications and the different interests of officers and pairs those with common interests together.
“It’s easier when the officers enjoy the same things,” said Phillips.
Officer Drew Macon came to the LPD almost five years ago, and has been both a mentor and a protégé. He said that he enjoyed being a protégé and that he is still very close with his former mentor.
When a mentor is assigned a protégé, it is up to the mentor to make the first contact and the protégé has to follow up.
“When a protégé is new to the department, whatever questions he may have, where to work, live, or whatever, he has the cell phone number and pager number of his mentor,” said Macon. “Once the invitation has been extended by the mentor, it’s up to the protégé to get the ball running”.
In all of the description of this program it might seem that the focus is more on the police officers and not on the community. That is what one Lansing citizen, Elizabeth Kirby, feels.
“They have a poor system. Look at all these killings going on and people getting murdered,” said Kirby. She said that she doesn’t think the program is working because of all the horrible things that are still happening in the city.
Kirby also said that she sees officers sitting in the gas station parking lots all day clocking people and looking for drug dealers. She said she feels they have no interests in the well-being of the community.
Phillips said that police officers do have specific spots that they sit in, particularly in bad neighborhoods. “I think we probably had an upset citizen and I don’t think that that is the common belief of the city of Lansing. As a matter of fact, I know it isn’t,” Phillips said.
She also said that this citizen was probably someone who has been in trouble before or knows someone who has been in trouble with the officers who sit at these spots.
Despite Kirby’s feelings about this program, it has been recognized as one of the nation’s best practices by the U.S. Department of Justice Policy Link initiative. It was also recognized as a 2000 IACP, or International Association of Chiefs of Police, Webber Seavey finalist.
A Webber Seavey Award is presented annually to departments who continually improve services to the community and develop creative ways to promote excellence in law enforcement.
This program is 100 percent volunteer and officers have been reassigned if they find they either don’t have the time or do not particularly enjoy it.
“I wouldn’t say there’s ever been a conflict, some officers don’t have the time so they were reassigned,” said Phillips. “No one is paid, so their heart has to be in it.”
Macon reiterates the importance of wanting to help, and having your heart be in it. “If someone’s done for me, I want to make sure I return the favor. People just have to be willing to accept it. I would be a mentor all over again,” said Macon.
Protégés have no choice in the matter. Every incoming officer has to be paired with a mentor, to help show them the ropes. All mentors have gone through training so that they can be assigned a protégé before the officer arrives to the department.
Lansing citizen Sarah Andrews said she thinks the program is a good idea and that the LPD have seemed to be an effective police department.
“I’ve never had a problem with them. They’ve always been there when I’ve needed them,” said Andrews.
The Lansing Police Department will continue the Mentoring Program with every new officer that comes into the department, reiterating that they want officers trained and ready to serve it’s residents to the best of their ability.

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