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Group calls for defunding the GRPD, plans virtual panel discussion

"Defund the GRPD" group wants to lower the funds allocated to the department, shift that money to community-driven groups.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — On Monday, the group called "Defund the GRPD" announced a virtual panel discussion with community leaders for Thursday, Feb. 25. 

During a virtual press call Monday, leaders explained their goal is to reallocate money budgeted for the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) to community-driven groups. 

"We challenge you to be a part of creating a world where communities are fully funded," said group volunteer Danah, who did not give their last name. "Where neighbors take care of each other, where we practice community accountability that prioritizes safety, healing and empowerment."

In September of last year, Grand Rapids Police presented a plan to transform policing over three years and address the role of policing in systemic racism. Among the changes included focusing on a neighborhood policing model, implicit bias training, and partnerships with healthcare specialists for certain calls. 

RELATED: GRPD releases final draft of three-year strategic plan

One of the long-term goals for Defund the GRPD group is changing a city charter that states GRPD must have at least 32% of the city's budget. In September, the city said the police department currently accounts for 37.4% of the budget. The group said both numbers are too high. 

"We cannot continue to live in a world where we use police and prisons as a way to solve our most pressing social problems," said Danah. "We cannot continue to live in a world where the police have the biggest budget of our city, when people of color are disproportionately dying of COVID-19. When education for students of color is continually underfunded, and folks are struggling just to get by."

The panel discussion is Thursday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. on Facebook. It is billed as a community conversation with local activists and leaders on community accountability. The group told 13 ON YOUR SIDE that the GRPD was not invited to be part of the conversation, however, the livestream is available for everyone to see. 

"It is important for marginalized communities to have a safe space for this conversation, and many folks do not feel safe with police around," said a group representative.

"Defund GRPD" launched an online award for "2020 Worst of Grand Rapids," calling out people and businesses for what it called injustices.

"Oftentimes, to hold people accountable, people use police and prisons," said Danah, "And we know that's not safe for marginalized community. So, we really launched the Worst Awards to have that conversation of how do we give communities power? How do we hold these harmful businesses, nonprofits, public officials accountable for the harm they're perpetuating, because we know that the police in prisons are not holding people accountable for that."

RELATED VIDEO: GRPD releases final draft of three-year strategic plan

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