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City data on the GRPD and Trust is not reflective of the lived experience on communities of color in Grand Rapids

December 19, 2019

On Tuesday, the City of Grand Rapids posted information about their new resource to gauge public trust of the GRPD. 

The data that the City is collecting is being done through a new digital polling tool, from the company called Elucd. Elucd features a quote from former GRPD Chief Rahinsky, who says that the way law enforcement is being judged is changing.

Currently, the GRPD scores 68 out of 100 in terms of public trust.

There is no breakdown of this score, so we have no idea who is saying they trust or don’t trust the GRPD or even how many people have actually taken part in the polling. According to the research done by Alex Vitale, author of the book, The End of Policing, public trust of local law enforcement is at an all-time low in the US. This lack of trust stems from the fact that corruption in law enforcement is high, police brutality is high and the lived experience of communities of color and poor working class white people says that the police serve power & privilege.

The City’s post from Tuesday, also quotes the CEO of Elucd, Michael Simon:

“The Grand Rapids Police Department is a national leader in its commitment to fostering greater transparency as it works to build trust with the residents it serves. By leveraging 21st century technology, Grand Rapids leaders are prioritizing hearing from everyone in their city as they improve both safety and quality of life in every neighborhood.”

To suggest that the GRPD makes transparency a priority or improving the safety and quality of life in every neighborhood is simply a joke. Recent history would suggest otherwise, with numerous reports of police abuse in black and latinx neighborhoods, which have led to numerous protests and press conferences denouncing the GRPD.

It is instructive that the city posted this new information about public trust and the GRPD, especially in light of the headlines from yesterday. In one story, the City is looking to purchase the ShotSpotter system and drones. According to an article on MLive, the GRPD wants to role out a pilot program with these new proposed technology solutions, which suggests to this writer that it is already a done deal. Technology does not reduce crime and there are plenty of other community-based solution to reducing violence and crime that do not rely heavily on police, rather they rely on what the Movement for Black Lives calls Community Control.

In other news, it was announced on Wednesday that, Grand Rapids will pay $225,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan as part of a settlement that will end the legal battle over the police department’s former trespassing policy. MLive reported that this agreement to pay $225,000, stems from a case in 2013.  If you add that to the recent announcement that the City of Grand Rapids will pay out $190,000 in a settlement over racial bias, where the GRPD called ICE on a former US Marine. 

These news stories, along with numerous reported incidents of police violence against black and latinx residents, in no way suggests that there is a high level of trust between the community and the GRPD.

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