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The Local News Media continues to be a Press Agent for the GRPD

September 23, 2020

It is pretty astonishing how the local news continues to serve as Press Agent, a PR front and a stenographer for the GRPD, all at the same time.

This is nothing new. The dominant news sources in West Michigan have always internalized the values of the systems of power and oppression. Therefore, the local news agencies truly believe that the police function to protect and serve all residents in Grand Rapids.

However, the way in which the news media has served as a press agent for the GRPD has been amplified since the May 30th uprising. The news media has not mentioned anything about Defunding the GRPD for over a month, despite the fact that people continue to organize around this issue. In fact, they have been working with the GRPD to attack those speaking out against it. In addition, the dominant news sources in this area are not even talking about broader community concerns over police abuse, particularly within the Black community.

Instead, the dominant story from the local news media has centered around community violence and how busy the GRPD has been to try to stop it. The most recent example of how this plays out can be seen with the most recent Media Advisory from the GRPD, which reads:

The Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) is announcing outcomes from its additional enforcement and engagement efforts over the weekend. 

The department deployed an additional 110 officers over Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 4 p.m. and 3 a.m.  These officers included patrol personnel, Special Response Team, Vice Unit and members of the Detective Unit.

The goals of this effort were to address the recent increase in gun violence, engage community members and increase trust through partnerships and positive interactions with residents. 

“By all accounts, we can label this a significant success,” Police Chief Eric Payne said.  “My officers worked very hard to address the violence and engage residents in a positive way.”

Over the three evenings, the GRPD fielded the following results:

• 155 positive non-enforcement interactions with residents.

• 40 traffic stops and 13 field interviews

• 18 misdemeanor arrests and 16 felony arrests

• 31 hours on bike patrol and 38 hours on foot patrol

• 10 illegal firearms taken off of the streets

These officers strategically addressed violent crime utilizing intelligence and information provided by crime analysts. They also prioritized non-enforcement interactions with residents.

“This is the policing Grand Rapids can expect as we move forward and implement our new strategic plan,” Payne said. “Through these efforts, we are committed to making sure everyone in Grand Rapids is safe and feels safe at all times.”

This Media Advisory from the GRPD was posted on their FB page on Monday, September 21st. If one looks at the four dominant news sources in Grand Rapids, one can see how each of these news agencies essentially took the GRPD Media Advisory as truth without question. Here are the four news stories that essentially mimic what the GRPD Media Advisory presents:

MLive

WOOD TV 8

WZZM 13

WXMI 17

Each of the four news agencies don’t verify the claims of the GRPD, nor do they question the effectiveness of deploying more cops over the weekend. The dominant news sources don’t question the fact that this deployment was primarily in Black and latinx neighborhoods, plus they provide no evidence or additional sources that would question whether or not the GRPD is even able to prevent violence from occurring in the city. Lastly, besides not questioning the GRPD’s claims, the dominant news media in Grand Rapids bought into the notion that the police were building trust in the community, which apparently is true since cops were photographed in a foot race with kids.

In contrast, there are plenty of examples of people pushing back against the GRPD’s claims of building trust in the community. Longtime community advocate, JD Chapman Jr., who has been advocating for the City to adopt the Cure Violence program, had this to say in an FB post after seeing the GRPD weekend deployment:

It’s amazing to me that GRPD Chief Payne boasts about deploying more bodies to the community to clamp down on the recent uptick in violence. This method equates to more of the same all the way back to the Hegarty administration, what better results can this possibly have? This after a $100k study revealed that deploying more bodies does not create a safer or more trusting community.

Another community-based resource, which the group Together We Are Safe, has been distributing, is a document called Before Calling the Police, Ask Yourself. This document provides people with other resources in the community, resources that can actually make a difference. Calling the police generally doesn’t result in violence prevention, and in fact, it often results in violence escalation.

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