LINC UP, NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch and Micah Center: Police incident with youth must lead to change
April 06, 2017
Current Practices “Instill Fear, Harm Residents”
On Friday, March 24th, Grand Rapids Police detained 5 innocent and unarmed children at gunpoint. Having viewed the body camera footage with the Grand Rapids Police Department, LINC, NAACP and the Micah Center feel the actions of the police officers involved demonstrate a practice of policing that perpetuates mistrust, instills fear and causes harm to residents that are supposed to be protected and served. Collectively, we are calling for a change in Grand Rapids policing practices to ensure that no other children will unnecessarily go through the traumatic experience that these children did, and that our community as a whole is not subjected to this type of racism. We call on the police to work with the parents to ensure that the issues that are raised about this particular incident are addressed to the families’ satisfaction.
In 2015 the community pushed the city to adopt a 12-point plan to begin improving community and police relations. One key component of the plan was to ensure body cameras were used by every police officer. These cameras have revealed the work of GR police officers in action. Although the tactical use of force deployed by officers was consistent with training and aligned with the policies of the department, it also reveals that such training and policies are not consistent with what the community is stating are acceptable policing practices. In essence, the historically strained relations between community and law enforcement are being perpetuated, and further action is needed to prevent a continuing decline in such relations.
We encourage all community members to attend the April 11 city commission meeting to support these 5 young boys and their families as they seek to get answers from GRPD and to express any other concerns for policing practices in Grand Rapids, particularly as they relate to interaction with the youth of our community.
We also ask the police department to update the community on the implementation of the 12-point plan and other efforts to improve relationships with the community. Specifically, the plan called for the adjustments to the structure of the police department to increase community interactions. We are asking the GRPD to outline how they have implemented those changes and how they are tracking the success of their community relations building efforts. The plan also called for the implementation of implicit bias testing; we are asking GRPD to update the community on the results of such testing, how they are tracking the results of the training and future plans to ensure its effectiveness.
Having viewed the body camera videos, it is the belief of LINC UP, the NAACP and Micah Center that this incident is an example of the systemic problems that contribute to racial disparities in Grand Rapids. The problems do not stem from any moral flaws of the officers involved but from systemic processes that perpetuate mistrust and fear between communities of color and institutions within Grand Rapids. As such we encourage all people to pay attention to this incident, learn from it and above all, change how we are acting to ensure that we can break that cycle of mistrust.
LINC UP, NAACP Greater Grand Rapids Branch, and the Micah Center