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City rolls out upcoming changes to Grand Rapids policing

The changes come in the wake of calls for police reform both nationally and locally.

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — The city of Grand Rapids has announced changes coming to the police department in the wake of both national and local calls for reform.

Absent from the new policies is the defunding or reallocating of funding to police, which is what many have asked for both at protests and during recent town halls. The city's charter requires that 32% of the city's general operating fund goes toward the police department, which can be changed through the charter revision process. 

City Manager Mark Washington said that funds have already been shifted within the department through things like the creation of the Office of Oversight and Public Accountability.

RELATED: When protesters cry 'defund the police,' what does it mean?

“Any deliberations or considerations around funding would require much more than my consideration over a one-week period,” Washington said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.

RELATED: Group calls for defunding of GRPD, wants investment in community

However, some of the policies have come in direct response to concerns voiced by community members, and the announcement of reform comes after consistent protests in Grand Rapids during the last week.

The protests began following the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis officer pinned his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes. But in addition to showing solidarity with Floyd and other victims, Grand Rapids protesters have called for an end to systemic racism and police brutality at the local level. 

The 2 p.m. press conference on June 10, which was announced shortly before noon Wednesday, fell at the same time Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Payne had planned to meet with protesters from the groups Family Over Everything and Justice for Black Lives.

RELATED: Protesters start a movement on downtown Grand Rapids corner

Instead, the members of the two groups met with the two deputy chiefs and watched a live stream of the press conference before leaving out of frustration.

“You have these meetings planned, but you’re not following through,” said Trevin Gibson, an organizer with Justice for Black Lives. “The city needs to know we are very, very disappointed our voices could not be heard."

Gibson said many of the topics brought up during the press conference were things that they had hoped to address with Payne. During the press conference, Payne indicated he had a group waiting to meet with him.

The groups plan to reschedule the meeting, Gibson said. 

The press conference, where Washington, Payne and Office of Oversight and Public Accountability Director Brandon Davis announced the coming changes, happened just hours before a virtual town hall on policing. 

Watch the town hall here.
Watch the press conference here. 

Digital Town Hall on Policing - June 10, 2020

The City of Grand Rapids invites the community to join City leaders to hear plans for improving policing and discuss earlier suggestions from residents and other stakeholders 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 10. More details here: https://www.grandrapidsmi.gov/Our-City/News-Media/Digital-Town-Hall-on-Policing-in-Grand-Rapids-set-for-June-10 Escucha en español aquí: https://youtu.be/R3t9Gq59lnM

Posted by Office of Oversight and Public Accountability - Grand Rapids on Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Washington has directed changes and improvements to department policies to occur within the next 60 days. Some of the directives come directly from the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, which is a list of eight police reform ideas from Campaign Zero. The list includes policies like requiring officers to deescalate, banning choke holds and requiring officers to intervene and stop excessive use of force. However according to a statement on its website, the 8 Can’t Wait campaign is now pushing for the overall abolition and defunding of police.

Also included in the coming changes to GRPD, all uniformed officers must have names on their uniforms while in public.

Washington also outlined a list of topics and changes that required more time and consideration, which are detailed in this memo to city commissioners. 

Here is full list of the changes proposed by city leaders:

  • Improve the use of force policy by explicitly banning chokeholds
  • Improve GRPD policy requiring officers to deescalate situations, where possible, by communicating with subjects, maintaining distance and otherwise eliminating the need to use force
  • Require officers to give a verbal warning in all situations whenever possible before using deadly force
  • Require officers to exhaust all other reasonable alternatives, including non-force and less-lethal force options, before resorting to deadly force
  • Improve GRPD policy by requiring officers to intervene and stop excessive force use by other officers and report these incidents immediately to a supervisor
  • Update the policy on banning officers from shooting at moving vehicles – GRPD previously banned this practice
  • Make sure all uniformed officers have names on all uniforms while in public, including events involving civil unrest
  • Ensure OPA reviews and releases a comprehensive report regarding the status of all prior community-police relations studies, recommendations and commitments. This report will be released within the next 30 days.
  • Continue to make structural changes to GRPD to address recommendations made in the deployment study, 2017 traffic stop study and 21st Century Policing report
  • Place more civilian employees in public information and senior administrative roles
  • Identify funding to expand OPA
  • Establish a community police advisory council to provide ongoing support and advice to the police chief on plans, strategies and policies
  • Increase and enhance training offered by the Office of Equity and Engagement (OEE) and OPA related to equity, justice, implicit bias and other related topics for all City staff, including police
  • Work with the City’s Economic Development Department, Our Community's Children, OEE and OPA to work with the business community to increase summer job opportunities for youth
  • Collaborate with the community to support programming that provides information, awareness and resources to be an ally to address systemic and institutional racism
  • Improve resident engagement by creating more opportunities to represent groups to promote safety and accountability and prevent crime
  • OEE will host an event in partnership with OPA led by subject matter experts regarding processing and healing from trauma and vicarious trauma related to racism and use of force
  • Create pathways for ongoing input and support from the community for the plan, strategies and tactics of GRPD
  • Continue to complete the OPA’s strategic plan and implement additional strategies to increase restorative justice programming, elevating community voice and public safety engagement
  • Ensure the GRPD works with OPA, the City’s Human Resources Department, Grand Rapids Public Schools, colleges, community organizations and labor groups to increase efforts in recruiting more diverse candidates

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