GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - The presidents of the city's two police officer unions call for no further policy changes in response to an incident where five young black males were held at gunpoint by Grand Rapids police.
That incident happened March 24 when the group of teenagers left the Salvation Army Kroc Center to head home after an evening basketball game. It's around that time when Grand Rapids police were notified about an alleged fight at the center possibly involving at least 50 people.
A witness in the area told police they saw a group of young men leaving the Kroc Center and someone in the group had a gun. A responding officer came across the young teens, reportedly matching the description provided, and ordered them to get face-down on the ground.
It later was determined the group that was stopped was not related to the group of teens that reportedly had a gun.
The parents of the boys demanded an apology Tuesday, April 11, during a city commission meeting and received one from Chief David Rahinsky himself. Parents also pressed for a review of department policies and changes to keep a similar incident from occurring again.
However, a joint statement made by the presidents of the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association and the Grand Rapids Police Command Officers Association says, in effect, the officers performed their job during the incident as trained given the information.
WZZM 13 reached out to the presidents of the organizations for further comment, and they said they want to let the statement speak for itself.
"... when we get a 911 call that says there is a group of people acting suspicious and that there may be weapons involved we respond immediately, prepared to keep innocent citizens from being harmed," the statement reads, in part.
"Our training kicks in and we follow the law and our experience to face down any possibly situation. Sometimes that includes the take down of people, and tragically, it may include drawing and discharging our weapons."
The presidents say racial sensitivity and awareness training has been well-received by officers but admit there are more steps necessary, including "studies to gather factual information about the nature and frequency of police encounters with our Black and Latino/Hispanic residents."
Such a step relates to a recommendation made in 2015 and detailed by Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom, calling on hiring a consultant to study the disparity of arrests of minority residents to determine if treatment is fair.
"We as officers will find ways to expand our relationships in every part of Grand Rapids, especially areas where people disenfranchised and somehow targeted," reads the statement.
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