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More GRPD video of police violence gets reaction from the community, the police union and the Friends of GRCops

April 18, 2019

On Tuesday, the GRPD released dashcam and body camera video footage of two recent incidents that have come under scrutiny by many in Grand Rapids, because of police violence. The 11 minutes of footage can be viewed here, although watching the footage could be triggering, since it shows police violence. 

WOOD TV 8 ran a story on Tuesday as well about this new video footage, footage they received after submitted a Freedom of Information Action request. The GRPD refused to make a statement on camera, so WOOD TV 8 referred to the statement the GRPD posted along with the video on their Facebook page from Tuesday at 10:10am.

As is expected, the GRPD statement justifies their use of violence (which they refer to as force), because people were not compliant. Another interesting note is that the GRPD stated they had 10 hours of footage from the vehicle and body cameras for all the officers and cruisers on scene, yet they only released 11 minutes worth. The police did say this is a compilation of the best angles to provide an overview of the arrests.”  Since the GRPD chose to select what footage they would share with the public, one wonders what the other 9 hours and 49 minutes of footage would have revealed. However, apparently representatives of LINC and the NAACP have all 10 hours of the footage. The public should request that both organizations make the footage available to the community.

The channel 8 story did provide responses from the director of the NAACP and LINC, referring to them as “urban leaders.” Both sources talked primarily about the lack of trust between the community and the police.

However, the Friends of GRCops Facebook page, a page that is run by Ed Kettle, had their own take on the WOOD TV 8 story, with the following comments:

The ridiculous merry go round goes round and round. Jeremy and Clee have been front and center in the battle between police and people of color. They never offer any solutions. They pass it off to “city leaders.” Well, city leaders have taken the police department on a wild ride for three years. There have been study groups, neighborhood meetings, and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on consultants. And where are we today?

Police enforce the laws. The vast majority of people of every background just naturally obey those laws. There are ample stories and evidence of unfortunate encounters between police and people of color. No one at GRPD has ever denied that. Instead, they dug deep, complied with every direction sent to the by this city commission and have made substantial changes in how they encounter people in both good and bad situations. But the bottom line is, if a person is told by a police officer to get out of the car, they should get out of the car. Resisting arrest is against the law. There is no Constitutional protection for resisting. Many people within low income groups fear that the system won’t work for them. Then let’s get to work on that. GR has an excellent Legal Aid organization and an equally excellent roster of court appointed lawyers. If there are flaws in that system let’s fix it. The facts remain the same. Shut up. Don’t resist and ask for an attorney.

The other fact is, the clear majority of the people of Grand Rapids support the police. The videos shown on social media and TV are hard to watch. Harder to understand if you’re not a cop or connected in some way. Even still, they support GRPD. Those are the voices, while mostly unheard, that city hall needs to listen to once in a while.

There is an awful lot to unpack in this statement. First, there have been many clear solutions offered by the community for the past several months. Those solutions/demands are as follows:

1. Support Driver’s Licenses for All in the State of Michigan.

2. Fire  police officers who have committed brutality by beating and kicking Black drivers.  Fire Captain Curt VanderKooi who has a long history of discrimination based on race and is not safe for our neighborhoods.

3. Stop all cooperation with ICE and use no city resources to do the work of ICE.  There should be no police role of “ICE liaison.”

4. Release the code of conduct for officers and the track record of each officer’s misconduct report, including complaints against them.  Release the reports of their investigations so that the public can track their accountability processes. Create an accountability reprimand policy for all officers that stand by during instances of beatings or other harm.

5. Create subpoena powers and investigative powers for our Civilian Appeals Board.

6. Give a vote of No Confidence to Acting Chief Kiddle.

7. Create a program whereby GRPD pays for at minimum 5 years of trauma-related therapy especially for any youth interaction deemed inappropriate regarding harassment, profiling, excessive force etc.

8. Regarding the million dollars over five years that the city has set aside to deal with community police relations: appropriate that to the community to keep our neighborhoods safe.

Second, Kettle makes numerous generalizing statements about what cops do and what most of the public does, which is unsubstantiated. Third, the Friends of GRCops rant says that people should just shut up and obey the commands of the police. Such a statement is condescending and suggests that the GRPD should be trusted, despite their track record of abuse, intimidation and harassment. Fourth, these were not “unfortunate encounters,” rather the result of how policing is done in neighborhoods of color. Lastly, Kettle states that it is a fact that most of the people in the city support the GRPD, but never substantiates this. There has never been any evidence presented to suggest that most people support the GRPD and to suggest that is the case is plain false.

The Friends of GRCops was started by Ed Kettle. On Kettle’s website he states, “I am presently working with the Grand Rapids Police Officers Association to build their community and political profile. I formed Friends of GRCops, essentially a social media effort, to help solidify public support for our police officers and to create opportunities for public dialogue.”

The Grand Rapids Police Officers Association reposted Kettle’s comments from the Friends of GRCops page, since Kettle has them as a client. The community and the news media need to pay more attention to these two groups, since they are the ones who have been most vocally opposed to any kind of public scrutiny of GRPD actions against communities of color.

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