Skip to content

We need a campaign to Defund the GRPD

June 2, 2020

The actions on the part of the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD), and city officials in the past few days, have made it clear that the GRPD does NOT have the interests of many in this community, especially black, brown, indigenous and immigrant communities.

This has been the case for a long time, especially for the most marginalized communities. Therefore, it seems like this is a perfect time to talk about and act on the idea of defunding the GRPD. It is also what communities across the country have been calling for and is specifically part of the Black Lives Matter Vision

In the chart above, which is from the 2019 Grand Rapids City Budget (2020 is still being decided upon), you can see that the GRPD receives the largest amount of funding of all departments in the City – $53,727,579. The total expenses for 2019 are $142,683,745, thus reflecting that the GRPD uses over a third of the City’s budget.  

Considering how much taxpayer money is consumed by the GRPD, it is important that we then recognize what they are doing, particularly as it relates to what they do in black and brown neighborhoods. The GRPD spends more time “patrolling” in black and brown neighborhoods, and with the constant and intense presence, it not only results in creating a greater climate of terror, it results in a high rate of harassment, intimidation and arrests amongst black and brown residents. Below is a short and partial list of incidents that have been documented in recent years. However, it is important to note that this kind of repression happens all the time, even if it doesn’t receive media attention or isn’t reported.

Since the GRPD consumes over a third of the City’s budget and because they have repeatedly demonstrated that they will use violent tactics to repress people, why not create a movement to Defund the Police? Here is a proposal.

One option would be to cut the GRPD’s funding by one-third over the next three years, thus fading out what is now the GRPD. If we use the 2019 amount of the GRPD’s budget, which is $53,727,579, one-third of that would be $17,909,193. This would do two things. First, defunding the GRPD would send a strong message to people that the City is finally taking their concerns seriously, plus it would likely result in a reduction of the harm they would be doing, since the GRPD would have less taxpayer money. Second, the City should then re-invest the money that is being defunded from the GRPD, by proving it to communities that are experiencing poverty (especially black and brown communities), who would then decide how they want to money to be used. Funding could go to housing, creating community gardens, or more specifically to community-based safety projects, which would reduce crime and thus the need for cops.

Imagine what roughly $18 million could be used for, each year for three year period that the City would defund the GRPD. After the three year period of phasing out the GRPD, then residents could demand that there be ongoing funding for neighborhoods and communities disproportionately impacted by police intimidation, police harassment, police surveillance and police violence. The people of Grand Rapids would then not only have a say in how tax dollars are being spent, but be able to benefit from the funding of radically imagined ideas and projects that would enrich the lives of people who most desperately need it.

%d bloggers like this: