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GRPD’s Youth Interaction Policy provides no real evidence that they will not continue to hold youth at gunpoint in the future

April 2, 2018

Just over a week ago, we posted an article in response an MLive story, about the 1 year anniversary of when Grand Rapids police officers held 5 black youth at gunpoint. 

The article cites Police Chief Rahinsky as saying that the police responded appropriately in this instance, that he would love to have more officers hired and that the GRPD needs to spend more time with youth, doing things like playing basketball.

In that same MLive story, written on March 22nd, the police department announced that they would be releasing a “youth police” document, in response to several high profile cases involving the GRPD holding black youth at gunpoint. You can read the 2 page document at this link

The Youth Interactions Policy is rather vague. It also frames the issue primarily around youth who are suspects. This notion that youth are suspects is exactly what people were so upset by in the community, both in the case of the 5 black youth held at gunpoint a year ago and the 11 year old Black girl held at gunpoint and handcuffed last December. In both of these cases, the youth were not suspects, they just happened to either fit the profile of other suspects or they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

However, most of the 2-page document deals with youth suspects. Under the section General Procedures, there are 5 points made. Only the 5th point talks about what to do if the youth in question is not a suspect and what to do with them. At this point the document includes 3 ways in which Grand Rapids Police Officers are supposed to deal with youth that are no longer determined to be suspects.

Even these operational procedures, which are to be applied if the youth in question is no longer a suspect, uses language that still views the youth and or the parents as problematic. How many families from communities of color have had difficult and unpleasant experiences with Child Protective Services? If the youth are not suspects, why should an officer be assigned to them?

According to a story on WXMI 17, the cost of the updated training curriculum that is specific to youth interaction, is costing the City of Grand Rapids $9,995. 

The Youth Interaction Document doesn’t seem like it will prevent the GRPD from holding youth in Grand Rapids at gunpoint. In fact, the document provides little evidence that the GRPD will be making much of an effort to NOT further traumatize youth, particularly youth of color.

This document was crafted with input from a Task Force, made up of members of the GRPD and community members, listed here at this link from the City.  However, despite some public input, the Youth Interaction Policy provides no real guarantees that the police will attempt to minimize any future harm directed at Grand Rapids youth, and more importantly, it does not address more root causes or systemic issues related to why youth would be considered suspects to begin with.

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