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Kent County Commission collaborates with Grand Rapids City Commission to redirect CARES ACT funds to the GRPD, while thousands of families in the area are fighting to stay alive

October 14, 2020

There has been plenty of examples of how COVID Relief funds coming from the federal government have gone to bailout the fossil fuel industry and other corporations, while millions of people are unable to pay their rent or provide food to their children.

In Kent County, there was also a significant outcry from the community, when the Kent County Commission gave the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce the power to determine which businesses get CARES Act funding, instead of allowing real community input on how those relief funds could best be used.

Now the Kent County COVID Relief Subcommittee has decided to re-direct CARES Act funding to the Grand Rapids Police Department, in a variety of ways. At their October 8th meeting, the COVID Relief Subcommittee agreed to provide funds for “public safety” expenses incurred in May and June of this year. What this means is that Kent County is providing funds to the GRPD and other area police departments to cover costs due to the uprising on May 30th and the immediate aftermath of massive police presence in downtown Grand Rapids.

In addition, the Kent County COVID Relief Subcommittee has allocated $500,000 to the City of Grand Rapids to cover costs to pay for gun detection technology, which will likely result in the the GRPD having a contract with ShotSpotter. 

The members of the COVID Relief Subcommittee, which is made up of Republican and Democrats from the Kent County Commission, voted unanimously to approve these allocations.

The push to get the gun detection technology was primarily being pushed by Commission Womack (D), who is the the county commissioner that represents the southeast part of Grand Rapids. You can listen to what he has to say beginning around the 28 minutes mark in the video from October 8.

The Kent County Commission will be further discussing all of this at their next meeting on Thursday, October 22nd.

Then on Tuesday, October 13, the Grand Rapids City Commission discussed this matter, particularly during the Committee of the Whole meeting in the morning. You can see in this first slide, that the issue of the “costs incurred” to public safety are listed, with little honest discussion. Let’s face it, there was an uprising on May 30th, where the GRPD and other area cops used force to repress any public resistance, firing weapons into the crowd, which resulted in cops cars getting destroyed. Then in early June, the City imposed a curfew for tow days, brought in the Michigan National Guard and threatened to use violence for ongoing protests against police brutality.

The information on the gun detection technology was discussed during the GR City Commission meeting of the whole, with initial information being presented by Officer David Kiddle, who made it clear that the were looking at purchasing ShotSpotter. His presentation begins at 1:02:00 in the video at this link and in the screenshot below.

Officer Kiddle provides a brief overview of what the ShotSpotter technology will do and how there is an “urgency” to get this technology to address the rise in gun-related violence in Grand Rapids. Kiddle did not acknowledge that ShotSpotter doesn’t prevent gun violence, it only allows the cops to respond more rapidly to where gun shots are fired. Another major omission was how the ShotSpotter technology uses audio and video technology, which also means it provides addition police surveillance of the public, which is highly problematic, as the Electronic Frontier Foundation points out on their site.

At this point, nothing has been decided, so there is time for the public to weigh in on this matter at upcoming Kent County and Grand Rapids Commission meetings. We have the opportunity to reject more funding for cops and push for any CARES Act funding to go directly to individuals and families that are faced with possible evictions, health care needs and food insecurity matters, just to name a few. ShotSpotter does not prevent violence, but it does give the police more weapons to monitor the public, which is just the opposite of what so many are demanding around police accountability, and more directly through national and local calls to Defund the Police.

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