Skip to content

Grand Rapids City leaders say they want violence reduction, but only if it fits within a model they have predetermined won’t challenge systems of power

December 15, 2020

Yesterday, MLive posted a story about the City of Grand Rapids, which is taking applications from organizations in the city that would facilitate a violence reduction program. 

The City of Grand Rapids is seeking to find a local agency, which would receive $225,000 in public money over the next three years to implement a violence reduction program in Grand Rapids. However, there is a catch to the funding, which is included in the City’s post about this opportunity:

“The successful agency will partner with the City by coordinating and implementing a program based on Cure ViolenceOperation Cease FireAdvance PeaceNOLA For Life models or a model with similar methods and outcomes.”

A local agency will have to operate any kind of violence reduction program, so long as it fits within the framework that the City has approve, a framework which is rather narrow when in comes to ealing with violence reduction.

The story from MLive post yesterday is primarily lifted from the City’s Media Release, which was also posted on Monday, December 14th. We certainly have seen a great deal of this kind of lazy journalism over the years, particularly over the issue of policing and violence in the community, but why exactly is this a problem for news consumers?

There are several reasons why it is problematic for MLive, or any other local news agency, to be so cooperative with the city. In general, it is problematic for news agencies to not question government actions, since it does a disservice to the public ‘s right to get news that provides critical analysis of local government policies. The primary function of local news agencies should be to monitor, expose and investigate centers of power, both political and economic power. What follows are a few reasons why it is problematic for local news sources to not question the City of Grand Rapids call to hire a local agency to partner with them on a violence reduction program:

  • We already pointed out the first major problem above, since the City will only partner with agencies that follow certain types of violence reduction models. What would it look like for a local news agency to investigate the violence reduction models the City of Grand Rapids finds acceptable? In looking at the four models that the City finds acceptable, there are several things that become clear – the 4 violence reduction programs do not address root causes of violence, the police are not seen as part of the problem and structural violence is not addressed by any of the four models that the City of Grand Rapids finds acceptable.
  • As we noted in an article from last month, the issue of seeing violence as structural is absolutely necessary if we are serious about ending violence in this community. The GRPD responds to street violence, but never to the violence that is embedded with the very fabric of our community and its institutions. 
  • The City’s Request for Proposals (RFPs) even acknowledges that there is structural and historic violence, as stated in first paragraph of the section headline Project Scope on page 4 of the RFP. “Many of Grand Rapids’ most economically disenfranchised residents are residents of neighborhoods that continue to suffer the direct effects of repeated trauma and the indirect effects of unhealed past traumas and continue to experience a disproportionate burden of violence and its corollary effects.” Despite this acknowledgement, the City of Grand Rapids, through the violence reduction models they find acceptable, will continue to perpetuate false solutions to structural violence.
  • Lastly, the failure of local news groups to investigate and critique the City’s call for a narrowly defined violence reduction program, doesn’t encourage or even expose the public to other violence reduction possibilities. Other possibilities and ideas are readily available, such as those found in Zach Morris’s book, We Keep Us Safe: Building Secure, Just and Inclusive Communities or his forthcoming book, Defund Fear: Safety Without Policing, Prisons, and Punishment. In June, right after the rebellion that took place in Grand Rapids, we posted an article that explored other imaginative possibilities

The City of Grand Rapids acknowledges, in its own violence reduction RFP, that the Black community has been disproportionately impacted by violence. Therefore, it seems not only relevant, but urgent that the City of Grand Rapids learns from what Black people have been demanding about ending violence in their own communities. The document put out by the Movement for Black Lives, entitled, A Vision for Black Lives, should be one of the ways in which the City of Grand Rapids should view violence reduction. Now, I don’t expect City officials to embrace this vision, let alone even read it, but it is a vision that the rest of us can read and embrace, if we want to force the City to take Black lives seriously. 

%d bloggers like this: