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Public Support for the GRPD goes beyond the Conservative/Liberal binary

March 1, 2018

A few days ago, the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association posted on their Facebook page the image below, with this message that accompanied the picture:

Thanks to the Brann family for proudly displaying these banners. Their support of law enforcement is second to none and means so much to those that serve and protect.

The Brann Family, which owns Brann’s Steakhouse, hung these banners at one of their restaurant locations, as a show of support for the Grand Rapids Police Department.

Several local organizations and some individuals posted this image and expressed anger and disgust that the Brann family would proudly display such support for the GRPD. This is completely understandable, considering some of the recent actions of the GRPD, specifically as it relates to their treatment of Black youth, last Spring and this past December, specifically the case of 11 year old Honestie Hodges

The public support provided by Tommy Brann, owner of Brann’s Steakhouse, is also a State Representative. Rep. Brann serves on the State Police subcommittee and last October, voted in favor of the “Blue Lives Matter” legislation, which would make it an even larger crime to target police officers with violence.

In looking at the last few months of the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association Facebook page, it is clear that they not only don’t do well with criticism of their actions, they and their supporters provide all kinds of justifications for pulling guns on Black youth. 

The president of the GRPD union, also made it clear that what the officers involved in the detention of Honestie Hodges did, was completely by the book and just following procedure. Here is a quote from the President of the GRPD union Andy Bingel, as reported by Fox 17, in response to Chief Rahinsky’s comments after viewing the video of the arrest of Honestie Hodges:

“We just need to remember that we’ve got a job to do, and we can’t let this distraction take away from serving the citizens. I don’t expect people outside of law enforcement to understand everything we do. As hard as they might try to understand, they’re not going to, and I think we need to realize that.”

Apparently, Andy Bingel thinks that the public just doesn’t get it and they never will.

In many ways it is easy to find the Brann family’s support of the GRPD disconcerting. However, Brann is not the only one who provides support to the GRPD. Tommy Brann is a Republican State Representative, so many might conclude, “of course he supports the cops.” The reality is that most politicians support the police, regardless of what side of the political aisle they stand on.

In Grand Rapids for instance, Grand Rapids Mayor Bliss, according to Kent County Clerk Campaign Finance records, received $3,000 from the Grand Rapids Police Officers Labor Council PAC, during her 2015 run for mayor.

In the 2017 election for City Commission, Kurt Reppart, who is now one of the 1st Ward City Commissioners, received $1,500 from the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association PAC. In 2016, 1st Ward City Commissioner Jon O’Connor received $1,000 from the Grand Rapids Police Officers Labor Council PAC.

In 2016, Third Ward City Commissioner David Allen, received $1,000 from the Grand Rapids Police Labor Union PAC.

Now, just because these elected officials received funding from the police union or the police association, doesn’t necessarily mean that they are uncritical of the police. However, this writer is unaware of any serious proposals from the Mayor or City Commissioners to hold the police accountable.

This support for the GRPD goes deeper than elected officials, since many people have expressed support for the police, even lots of people who identify as liberal or progressive. These supporters might not be thrilled with the recent high profile cases of cops targeting Black youth, but the general policy of targeting black and brown neighborhoods is ok with lots of people who identify as liberals.

Alex Vitale, in his important book, The End of Policing, states: Well-trained police following proper procedure are still going to be arresting people for mostly low-level offenses, and the burden will continue to fall primarily on communities of color because that is how the system is designed to operate – not because of the biases or misunderstandings of officers.

It is by design, but many of us accept the dominant narrative that most cops are really about protecting and serving the public. This narrative must be questioned and dismantled.

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