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City Resolution to accept $500,000 from the county for crime prevention defeated, GRPD plans to move forward with pursuing ShotSpotter

November 17, 2020

At this morning’s Grand Rapids City Commission’s Committee of the Whole meeting, there was a resolution to accept $500,000 from Kent County to be used for crime prevention. 

The vote was split, with Mayor Bliss, Commissioners Jones and Moody voting for and Commissioners Ysasi, Lenear and Reppart voting against. Commissioner O’Conner was absent, so the resolution was defeated.

There was a lengthy conversation centered around the resolution, with questions about why there was ShotSpootter information included, along with how the money would be used and how quickly it the CARES Act funds would need to be used.

The City Attorney and City Manager both chimed in on these questions in order to clarify a few points. City Manager Mark Washington stated that the $500,000 could only be used for crime prevention within the GRPD. Washington claimed that the money would likely be used for GRPD payroll, to cover additional costs for officers who have been responding to gun violence in recent months. The City Manager also said they might be able to us the money for the GRPD’s gun buy back program, but the County could reserve the right to reject the proposal to use it for such a program.

On the matter of ShotSpotter, there was lots of confusion and frustration being expressed by several commissioners. Commissioner Reppart and Ysasi both asked why ShotSpotter was included in the resolution, especially if the $500,000 could not be used for this technology. The Mayor acknowledged that it was confusing, but kept saying the resolution language was clear.

Commissioners Ysasi and Reppart both made it clear that all communications they have received about ShotSpotter have been in opposition to the technology, while Commissioner Lenear said that most of the messages she has received were also in opposition, except for some residents in the 3rd Ward who want something to be done about the gun violence, but that they were not naming ShotSpotter as the solution specifically.

In many ways, this is a victory for the public that has been expressing opposition to ShotSpotter and funding for the GRPD. The City of Grand Rapids just lost out on half a million dollars, but they made it clear that that money would likely have been used for GRPD payroll.

There was a memo attached to the resolution on the $500,000, a memo from the GRPD. Here is some of what Chief Payne says in the memo:

Going forward, GRPD will attempt to negotiate a pilot program with ShotSpotter and one or more willing neighborhood in order to evaluate the value of this technology in reducing gun crime. This also will allow GRPD to further engage with residents about where this technology may be deployed and to inform them and receive their feedback on this technology. GRPD will return to the City Commission after negotiation with ShotSpotter and additional engagement with the community to seek approval of a pilot per the City’s surveillance policy. After evaluation of the technology through the pilot, future funding possibilities will be explored.” 

This memo makes it clear that they still want to get ShotSpotter technology, but now they will have to find funding internally. You can read the resolution language and the GRPD memo, by going to this link.

To stay informed and involved in ongoing efforts to defund the GRPD and oppose ShotSpotter technology, follow the Defund the GRPD page on Facebook.

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