Grand Rapids: City leaders discuss findings from talk back sessions

GR Talk Back analysis

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - These meetings from June 12 until the 30, were to focus on the big picture issues that people within the community are experiencing. So, today, after analyzing the feedback, city leaders compiled the issues into six major themes.

Communication and Community Engagement, Policies and Procedures Review, Arrest Disparity Study, Police officer training and hiring and body cameras.

"The underlying foundation of all of these things, is really the historical relationship, the historical context regarding police and community relations in particular relations with communities of color," City Commissioner Joe Jones said.

It's a 'listen only' approach.

"We can be better, everybody has a chance to be better," Jones said.

Which is why Chief of Police David Rahinsky was a part of the conversation.

"It was certainly enlightening to us to hear what the community knew and what they wanted to know so it really enforced I think within the police department and within the city just how transparent we need to be in terms of sharing information," Rahinsky said.

Remaining transparent and being held accountable are what Rahinsky said is crucial to the police department.

"I definitely want them to understand what we're doing and why we're doing it and then to understand what repercussions ultimately arrive if we don't do what we promised to do. So transparency has been great but we've made commitments and we intend to live up to them," Rahinsky said.

Jones wants to make one thing clear.

"We're talking about something that has a significant amount of baggage to say the least, to think that we have a magic bullet no pun intended, not the case," Jones said.

A common solution was to organize talk back sessions with communities of color to accurately represent the racial demographics of the city.

"Anytime you're involving humanity in anything, it's going to be messy and so there's a need for us to be very proactive and say no we want to promote the importance of civil discourse, we want to promote the importance of everyone operating with a greater sense of empathy, that's critically important. So no, this is a work in progress," Jones said.

If you have questions you'd like answered, you can visit the city's website. Jones said by August 20, the city will post the responses to those questions on the site.

Leaders are also planning a series of meetings to hear from citizens. You can read the full report here.

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