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Setting the parameters for input by controlling the narrative: The GRPD Strategic Plan Survey

August 12, 2020

On Tuesday, the Grand Rapids Police Chief presented a draft of the new GRPD Strategic Plan. MLive reported on this dynamic, with the headline, Grand Rapids leaders praise police department’s strategic plan

The article offers no insight into the GRPD’s Strategic Plan, something we did a few days ago

What the article does do is to provide simplistic quotes from a few City Commissioners, without any real assessment of what they really think about the GRPD Strategic Plan and how it differs from previous plans, if at all.

The MLive story also provides a link for to the City’s website, where people can take a survey, by going to this link https://www.grandrapidsmi.gov/Government/Departments/Police-Department/Police-Strategic-Plan-Feedback-Form.

The survey begins with these words:

The Grand Rapids Police Department is here to serve you. We’re committed to ensuring all people feel safe and are safe at all times throughout our community. Through compassion, empathy and courage, we are driven to meet the public safety needs of our community. Our vision is to become the safest mid-sized city and most trusted police department in the United States. 

We can’t do this without your support. Please take a moment to review our draft strategic plan and provide feedback. Your input is a valued part of this process. The questions on the following page are meant to provide guidance as you review the plan. We look forward to hearing from you.

How could anyone who actually pays attention believe any of what the GRPD is saying in this introduction to the survey? All the warm fuzzies in the world can’t undo the tremendous harm that the GRPD has done to individuals and families in this community, particularly the Black community.

In addition, the survey is carefully crafted to do two things. First, the survey wants you to respond to very specific and limiting questions, which means they want to control the parameters of what can be discussed. Secondly, the GRPD survey wants to dictate the narrative, by using language that is designed to elicit certain responses without allowing people to fully articulate their experiences of the GRPD.

I took the survey and what follows are the questions that are asked, along with my responses.

GRPD – The three main goals of the Grand Rapids Police Department’s strategic plan are Safety, Innovation and Engagement. How are these goals important to you?

These goals are not important to me, as they are just another version of the way that the GRPD does policing in this community, which has done tremendous harm to black and latinx communities. Does the Chief mean that Black people who feel the fear and dangers of White Supremacy and White Supremacist institutions will be safe? Does the Chief mean that those who identify as Queer or Trans should feel safe and never have to worry about homophobia and transphobia, or the spiritual violence that permeates Grand Rapids? Does the Chief mean that undocumented immigrants will feel safe with the GRPD’s Strategic Plan, never having to worry about ICE agents coming to kidnap them? Does the Chief mean that families who are facing eviction from rental properties, since they can’t afford the outrageous costs of housing, since they work in low wage jobs?

GRPD – What do you think the Grand Rapids Police Department needs to do better to effectively communicate and engage with you?

This is the wrong question to be asking. The GRPD should be under community control. If they want to communicate more effectively, then there needs to be complete transparency, which would happen under community control. According to the Movement for Black Lives, “Direct democratic community control of local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, ensuring that communities most harmed by destructive policing have the power to hire and fire officers, determine disciplinary action, control budgets and policies, and subpoena relevant agency information.” 

GRPD – After reviewing the strategic plan, what are your top three observations or suggestions?

1. The GRPD Strategic Plan does not address any systemic problems associated with policing in Grand Rapids.

2. It further legitimizes the function of the GRPD, since the public has NO say in the Strategic Plan, and

3. It doesn’t address Defunding the GRPD, which over 6,000 people have demanded in the past 8 weeks alone.

GRPD – Are there other action items you want to see included in the plan?

A plan to Defund the GRPD, have real community control over the GRPD budget and to re-direct existing funding for the GRPD to the Black community, where they would have control over the re-directed funding.

GRPD – We’ve also launched the Police Metric Dashboard. This provides up-to-date progress on various police metrics related to:

Accountability

Budget

Community Engagement

Crime Statistics

Criminal Charge Statistics

Staffing

Check out the dashboard here.

What additional information do you want included in this dashboard?

A complete list of all weapons that the GRPD is in possession of, a list of private companies they purchase from and complete transparency on what military weaponry the GRPD is using from US military surplus.

I don’t expect that the Chief of Police will take seriously my comments, based on how he has dealt with the public to this point, especially those that have challenged him on how the GRPD functions in this community.

However, if you want to take the survey, you have until August 25th to do so. 

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