Jeff Murphy Named EL Police Chief

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016, 4:05 pm
Alice Dreger

Photo: Jeff Murphy today in front of historical ELPD photos at the department.

Jeff Murphy, who has been serving for the last six months as interim Chief of Police for the East Lansing Police Department (ELPD), has been officially named as ELPD’s new Chief of Police according to an announcement today from City Manager George Lahanas.

Lahanas said in his announcement, “Chief Murphy has risen through the ranks over his 29 years with the department by working hard and proving himself to be a dedicated and highly-skilled professional.” Lahanas added, “We have the utmost confidence in his leadership abilities and look forward to his continued achievements as the new chief of the East Lansing Police Department.”

Mayor Mark Meadows told me today, “I think [Murphy] is the right person for the job and this is the right time for the appointment to be made.”

I sat down this afternoon with Murphy in his office to ask about his philosophy of policing, plans for new initiatives, and budgetary concerns.

Murphy told me that “we are fortunate to work in a community where we are not overrun with crime. This means we are able to send officers who work patrols to local meetings so that they can get a different view of what the community needs, wants, and will accept, because some of that is different from what a police officer on patrol might assume.”

Does ELPD have adequate staffing? Murphy told me that “every police chief would say we could do more things with more people, but we are able to respond to a majority of calls [in East Lansing] in a very short time period.” He feels there is adequate staffing to not only respond to safety calls—the “number one priority”—but to build the community relations that are the basis for community policing.

He says that sending officers to ice cream socials, festivals, and the like “is not so much about being at the event” as an officer on duty for safety, “but about having the officer get to know the community and letting the community get to know them. This builds trust and a commitment to each other.” Driving around in a police car, he said, does not help you understand all of a community’s needs.

Murphy noted that there are police departments, including in our region of Michigan, where officers have “to go from call to call to call.” He said when officers have to do nothing but run from one crime scene to another, they can become cynical because they only deal with problems. He is glad his officers have time “to see the better side of people” and to get to know community members at low-stress events.

Asked what challenges the department faces, Murphy named changing cultural expectations with regard to transparency. Today, policing is “expected to be very transparent, which hasn’t always been the case.” He said that transparency means more explaining of police activity and that transparency is “a never-ending task if you want to do it right.” (See our earlier report on the implementation of body cameras by ELPD.)

In terms of new initiatives since he was named as the interim Chief, Murphy talked excitedly about the development of a system for having a “major case investigative team” working collaboratively between one or more police departments. For example, ELPD has partnered with MSU Police on a recent sexual assault case. This collaborative work on major cases may also be used for series of home invasions, shootings, and homicides.

Murphy says ELPD’s Detective Bureau “goes at these [big] cases full bore” but that it can be challenging to then also deal with the “small” cases, like bike thefts. He said the major case collaboration approach allows ELPD to keep attention focused on all open investigative cases even when there is a big, active case that needs a lot of immediate attention.

I asked Murphy how his officers are viewing the current discussions of budgetary pressures in East Lansing. He said that East Lansing has treated its officers well and that police officers recognize that they are unusual nowadays, in American society, by virtue of being given pensions. He said contract negotiations can always be times of stress but that officers of ELPD feel well supported by the people of the city.

The official swearing-in ceremony for Murphy will take place this Thursday, January 14 at 2:30 p.m. at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road. The event is open to the public.


[This article was updated after publication with new information about the swearing-in ceremony.]


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